Upholding An Eastport Tradition

1961, 1981, 2001... What do these three years have in common? Those are the years that Ward 8 elected three of the youngest aldermen to serve on the Annapolis City Council. In 1961, it was Roger "Pip" Moyer, who was elected at the ripe old age of 25, and then it was Brad Davidson in 1981, the youngest alderman on record at 24. Finally in 2001, Eastport citizens elected Josh Cohen, who was 28 when elected to serve as alderman.

"Eastport likes to elect young ones every 20 years," says Cohen. "It must be something in the water." But Cohen doesn't believe his youth makes a difference in how he does his job on the council. Although on a personal level he says he might be able to relate to young families, as a public official he strives to be plugged into a variety of issues facing the entire spectrum of Annapolis citizens. "It is liberating, though, to be so young and new on the council. I have no problem asking questions."

Cohen, a native Annapolitan, grew up in Murray Hill just past the old hospital site in a house where his parents still live. The baby of the family, Cohen has an older brother and an older sister. "It was a great neighborhood to be a kid in. We loved playing in the street-end parks, crabbing, and just having fun playing with our friends." Cohen has vivid memories of riding on his dad's shoulders to go see the fireworks at the Naval Academy and watching the Blue Angels each year. "Annapolis was an amazing place to grow up."

Early on, Cohen had dreams of being a carpenter because he loved the feeling of accomplishment he got when he created things with his own hands. "I think my fiancée might find that one hard to believe now," he says. Then as he got older, his aspirations turned to music---specifically, jazz. "Jazz first grabbed my interest in high school when my brother came back from New Orleans with a Preservation Hall Jazz Band CD. I loved how the band communicated with their instruments and without lyrics," says Cohen. "My favorite jazz is the 'cool jazz' of the 1950s and 1960s, like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk."

Cohen so loved music that while he attended St. John's College in Santa Fe, he played the saxophone in a swing band dubbed the Swinging Recluses. "We played gigs around campus," he says. "The thing I miss most in my life is playing music, but I'm so rusty right now I'd need a can of WD-40 to play."

Who would have thought with such childhood ambitions that it would be politics that would later be his passion? His fascination with local politics began during President Clinton's first presidential campaign. "That was the first national campaign I had ever followed," he says. "I got very interested in it all and wanted to learn more, so I got involved in my community." At that point, Cohen had transferred to Towson University to study jazz and was living at home. He started going to Ward 1 resident meetings, and a year later was elected to the board. "I loved working with local issues. It was so satisfying." This new obsession also led to a change in his major, from music to economics, and to another transfer to the University of Maryland, where he graduated in 1995.

After college, Cohen watched lots of his friends head out into the world. But to him, Annapolis was and always will be home. "After going away to Santa Fe, I distinctly remember coming home, walking downtown on the same route I had been taking forever and feeling like this is it. This is where I belong," says Cohen. He cherished the familiarity of it all. "I've known the neighborhoods and streets for years. I'm comfortable with it and that's important to me."

When it was time to head out on his own, Cohen decided on Eastport, where he found an apartment. "I love Eastport because it has a pulse. It has a funky vitality to it," he says. Now he and his fiancée, Lesley Donoho, whom he met a few years back through mutual friends, own a home in the community. That's where you'll often find the couple relaxing in the backyard with Zeus, an 11-year-old malamute that originally belonged to Donoho, and Jewel, a 3-year-old greyhound that the couple rescued together. Cohen and Donoho will be tying the knot this fall.

As soon as he settled in Eastport, Cohen began attending civic association meetings and once again was elected to the board. Over the next few years, he also served as chairman of GreenScape, on the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee and as the premier of the Maritime Republic of Eastport. "I decided to run for alderman when Ellen Moyer decided to run for mayor," he says. "We've been close for years and have been fighting the same fights." Cohen sees the biggest challenge facing Eastport as deciding how to preserve and maintain the community's unique character. "It's a small area that has a little bit of everything very close together. We need to balance the tension between these entities and look to the future. How well we accomplish this will determine our quality of life."

Also during his term as alderman, Cohen hopes to focus on zoning laws, development issues and, most importantly, youth programs. "It's the role of government to provide such services as mentoring programs and recreational opportunities for our young people. Although many may not see any immediate benefits from them, we need to look long term at the big picture."

Cohen, who currently is employed by the State's Hot Spot Program, says he is consumed by politics on all levels, and most of his free time, when it's not spent with Donoho and the dogs, revolves around his devotion to it. "I just love it. Politics is all around us. It's all about people. At its most basic, it is people working together to solve problems."


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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