If you want something done, ask a busy person. Sharon Cantrell is one of those people.
The longtime Kentlands resident, who has a degree in finance, insurance and business law from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, works full-time as senior vice president and relationship manager at Revere Bank in Rockville. As a volunteer, she serves on the finance committee of VisArts, the Rockville arts center, and on the Kentlands Community Foundation’s board and as program liaison to the Kentlands/Lakelands 5K Run/Walk.
“There are so many ways to serve in the community; it’s incredibly important to give back,” Cantrell said. “I’m usually pretty busy all the time, but I like to feel engaged and purposeful—that’s what gives life meaning, so it’s worth it!”
In both work and public service spheres, Cantrell has “found that non-profit finance really feeds my soul, and that I can make a difference. I’ve been interested in community development, community reinvestment and small business finance. … Providing access to capital for those who want to help my community grow and prosper drives me.”
How does she determine which volunteer paths to follow? “I wish it were strategic … but I’m usually recruited, asked to take on a role, and if I feel called to do it and the time is right, I will usually find a way to make it work,” she said.
As such, effective Nov. 18, Cantrell took on still another public service role—as alternate commissioner for the City of Gaithersburg’s Planning Commission. Until March 2021, she said, “I will be acting as a ‘full commissioner’ and voting on issues when a full-time commissioner is absent during the regular planning session/meeting.” She is “filling the term of the prior alternate who is stepping into the unfilled term of a prior commissioner.”
Cantrell applied for the position because she felt her “business, leadership and commercial real estate experience as well as my passion for my community” would “complement the existing team.” As part of that team, her focus will be “on land use planning, acting as a formal advisor to the Mayor and City Council for initial zoning and revisions to the zoning map and ordinances,” she said, adding that “(These are) primarily long-term comprehensive zoning issues.”
Her “passion and love of community,” Cantrell explained, come “from the vision of James Rouse when he created Columbia, Maryland, my hometown. He dreamed big and inspired us early pioneers with a vision of community that was inclusive, affordable, safe and engaged. I’ve been attracted to communities like Kentlands because of my early years in Columbia, and I want to share my experiences with the Planning Commission as we take on important large-scale redevelopment projects.
“Lakeforest Mall redevelopment is a priority,” Cantrell said. “I’m especially excited about the prospect of a newly imagined Lakeforest Mall because indoor shopping malls are antiquated and out of touch. There are many possible solutions, and I’m certain that any changes to the existing plan will engage the citizenry in the entire city. It would be nice to have a Gaithersburg Town Center that provides something for everyone.”
Closer to home, Cantrell supports residential units for downtown Kentlands.
“We are a New Urbanist walking community after all, and what better place to put condos than near Market Square,” she said. “I’m also in favor of keeping the Post Office and other existing Kentlands businesses if at all possible. They have been loyal to our community for so long, it would be a shame for them to leave.”
On the other side of town, the Saul Centers’ Kentlands Square shopping center, she noted, “it will be interesting to see how things progress given the competing interests and all the recent changes. Now that the CCT’s (Corridor Cities Transitway) funding has disappeared (the Maryland Department of Transportation removed the project from its list of priorities in September) and the residential redevelopment next to the Colonnade is no longer moving forward, perhaps other more long-lasting plans will come to fruition.”
As for the CCT’s demise, she observed, “Other forms of transit—electric cars, light rail, expanding the American Legion Bridge—are becoming more viable by the day. Solving for the big picture right now is most important. Traffic in the county is awful, but encouraging people to use public transportation— i.e., buses that take longer than driving to get to the same spot—is extremely difficult if there are alternate ways to travel.”
Beyond professional successes and community involvement, Cantrell considers “parenting with my husband” her greatest accomplishment “hands down.” Annelise, 22, is working on a master’s in public administration at the University of Georgia, where she is a graduate assistant at the university’s Office of Industry Collaborations. Alex, 24, who holds a degree in human biology and society from UCLA and served as battalion commander of the Midshipmen in the Navy’s ROTC, works for a government contractor at the Navy Yard. “They are both amazing people and I’m so very proud of them both for their commitment to service,” Cantrell said.