GREENBELT, Md. – For Beatrice Tignor, even a trip to the grocery store is an opportunity to help her community.
“When I’m in the store, sometimes I will walk up to people I see throwing out their receipts and say, `Give me those pink slips, our kids need new computers,’ ” said the former state senator who ran unsuccessfully last year for Prince George’s county executive.
She turns them in to Giant grocery stores as part of a program that helps county schools get new computers.
Tignor, 52, who lost to Democrat Wayne Curry in the 1994 primary race, said politics isn’t the only way to bring about positive change. “If I believe that I can make a difference in Prince George’s County, then I would be foolish to go off and be quiet,” she said.
The election loss, she said, was disappointing. “But I’m the kind of person that just moves on and lets things go,” said the Mitchellville resident.
Will efforts to improve her community involve another run for political office?
“I honestly don’t know yet,” Tignor said. “I’m going to keep my options open.”
For now, she has settled into her new job, working for Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan as director of the office for procurement in Montgomery County.
“Just to work with someone who can make decisions is exciting,” she said. “He believes in something and his leadership style is contagious.”
Tignor’s office buys all of the equipment, supplies and services for the county. “But the trick is that we have regulations we must follow. We can’t just spend $5,000 here and $5,000 there,” she said.
She said she has not forgotten about where she has lived her entire life. “I am not going to abandon Prince George’s County,” she said.
Tignor was born in Brandywine. After graduating from Douglass High School, she went on to Bowie State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education and English.
She taught in the county’s public schools, then earned a Ph.D. from George Washington University in educational research and statistics. This led her into teaching English at Prince George’s Community College, as well as at George Washington and Bowie State.
Tignor married in 1962, but her husband, Kenneth, was killed in a car accident a few years later.
“I think that kind of adversity has always made me stronger,” Tignor said. “I know I can’t control another person’s destiny.
“I get a lot of strength from being down and surviving,” she said.
Her 28-year-old daughter, Patricia, lives in Upper Marlboro, where she works as a consultant.
Tignor has won countless public service awards but said the most rewarding part of her career has come from her legislative actions.
“Being able to bring money to Prince George’s County for education and public safety and working on scholarship bills in the legislature – those have been the highpoints of my career,” she said.
Her political career began in 1982 when she worked for Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn, who was then campaigning to be a state senator.
“I started out at the bottom, just licking stamps and mailing literature,” Tignor said.
Wynn remembers Tignor from the day she walked into his campaign office, and says that her personality hasn’t changed a bit.
“Bea is a person of tremendous energy,” Wynn said. “On many occasions I would leave the campaign office exhausted at the end of the day, and she would still be there working. She’s the hardest-working person I know.”
Tignor ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1990 because she felt she could do more for her community.
“You don’t have to be an elected official to help people, but as an elected official you get the opportunity to get things done,” she said.
Once elected, Tignor had to learn the practical side of politics.
“When you first get involved in government, people go in with theories of how government works, but it’s really not the same as you learn in textbooks,” Tignor said. “You have to learn how to implement those theories.”
She was appointed to the state Senate by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in 1993 to replace Wynn, who had moved on to Congress.
While in the Senate, she was named Legislator of the Year by the Maryland Alliance for the Mentally Ill and Senator of the Year by the Association for Retarded Citizens for her leadership on issues involving the disabled.
Mary Funk, deputy executive director of the Association for Retarded Citizens of Prince George’s County, said Tignor continues to help their organization.
“Bea has always been a good advocate for the rights of people in the community,” Funk said. “She understands the issues, and that’s an important first step.”
Tignor said she ran for county executive because she thought she was the best suited to serve the people of Prince George’s County. She placed second in a four-way primary race, finishing with 36 percent of the vote, behind Curry’s 42 percent. She does not let the defeat get her down. “I would encourage people not to let a loss turn your life around,” Tignor said. “You’ve just got to stay strong, get up and help people.” -30-