Reid Novotny was sworn in as the new delegate representing parts of Howard and Carroll counties in District 9A on Wednesday, the opening day of the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.
Novotny was one of two legislative appointments Gov. Larry Hogan made Wednesday morning, just in time for the start of the 442nd General Assembly. Del. Michael A. Jackson was also sworn in to the Maryland Senate, representing District 27 in Southern Maryland.
In the moments leading up to Novotny’s swearing-in, his 9-year-old daughter, Vienna, was fixed behind a laptop screen, attending virtual school in Howard County. Vienna turned her laptop camera, showing her teachers and classmates the State House walls that surrounded her as class began. The ability to go to school and be present for the swearing-in just moments apart is one Novtony recognizes as only possible in the world of the coronavirus pandemic.
At 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, Novotny went down to the House chamber for Speaker Adrienne A. Jones to swear him in. With his wife, Lauren, and Vienna by his side, Novotny raised his right hand and placed his left on a family Bible — given to the couple when they first got married 15 years ago — becoming an elected official for the first time.
“It is awe-inspiring in that sense that so many people have come before and sat in the same chamber and done the work of the people of Maryland. The burden is heavy on my shoulders,” said Novotny, 42.
Novotny, a Republican, called Wednesday “just like any other new person’s first day on the job.” He arrived early, he said, to try and find his parking space. He also got to see his desk for the first time and received his committee assignment: the Appropriations Committee.
Slightly less routine was hearing his name called during the roll call. “Hearing Del. Novotny for the first time was very special,” he said.
Inside the State House, there was a stark lack of familiarity from previous visits, Novotny said.
“It’s very surreal to see the plexiglass up, along with the social distancing. There are two layers of protection,” he said.
The “auxiliary chamber,” an office building down the street where Novotny will be with half the state delegation, looks like a well-laid-out conference room, he said. “The House has done a great job of trying to take care of its members,” he said.
In order to help with social distancing, the House of Delegates will split between the main chamber in the State House and the auxiliary chamber, which has been outfitted with desks and connected by video to the main chamber.
“The biggest thing that is different for all of us is the lack of people,” Novotny said. “There’s almost zero people in the House and the Senate walking the halls [or] mingling, and we lose something by not having that socialization. It’s very vital, [and] it’s not the same connection over Zoom or any collaboration tool.”
Novotny’s path to the Maryland House of Delegates follows a swift appointment and approval process after former Del. Warren Miller announced his resignation in late November to refocus on his professional career. Miller, a Republican, served in the House from the time then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich appointed him in 2003 until his resignation took effect Dec. 30.
Novotny was selected by the Republican central committees of Howard and Carroll counties to fill the District 9A vacancy last week, and his name was sent to Hogan on Friday for approval.
Novotny, a Glenelg resident, is a Maryland National Guard Joint Staff lead for IT and cyber and ran in the 2018 state Senate race to represent District 9. He lost in the Republican primary to Gail Bates.
According to the Republican Central Committee of Howard, Novotny has served as a member of the committee since 2019. He also is a member of the Technology Committee for the Maryland Republican Party and a member of the state party’s nominating committee.
On Thursday, the Maryland General Assembly is set to start virtual committee meetings, where Novotny said he’s focused on opening up schools and businesses safely.
“If it’s not a bill I put forward myself, I look forward to contributing to my colleagues’ efforts as we work through this process,” Novotny said. “This [process was] all very fast. Now the time begins to represent the people of 9A.”