About Laura Neuman

Would you like to see your daughter,” the nurse asked my mother just after I was born. “No thanks, I have the rest of my life to look at her.” That’s where my story begins.

My parents were high school drop-outs with criminal records. My father was addicted to prescription medication and often out of work, and my mother was the business partner of a corrupt Baltimore politician with ties to the mafia, who was indicted on drug and racketeering charges, prostitution and money laundering.

My siblings were my friends in my early years, especially my sister Leslie, who is developmentally-disabled. We shared a bed, which was a mattress on the floor, in a hallway.

On Christmas Day when I was eleven, my mother beat me so badly that I bled all over my Christmas gifts: a new pair of jeans and a plaid shirt. This is when I knew I would leave. It is also when I started to understand the importance of resilience and determination.

While I waited, and my mother’s business partner went to federal prison, I took the bus to the library to escape. The library was my sanctuary – and it’s where I learned about a world beyond my own. A world of possibility.

You decide what you’re capable of

“Would you like to see your daughter,” the nurse asked my mother just after I was born. “No thanks, I have the rest of my life to look at her.” That’s where my story begins.

My parents were high school drop-outs with criminal records. My father was addicted to prescription medication and often out of work, and my mother was the business partner of a corrupt Baltimore politician with ties to the mafia, who was indicted on drug and racketeering charges, prostitution and money laundering.

My siblings were my friends in my early years, especially my sister Leslie, who is developmentally-disabled. We shared a bed, which was a mattress on the floor, in a hallway.

We’re told education is the way out, but the truth is that a great education is not available to everyone. I attended six different schools, starting in Baltimore City Public Schools, before being forced to drop out of high school in 11th grade.

Still a teen, I left home with all my belongings in a plastic trash bag, and lived out of my car while I saved my waitressing money for the down payment on an apartment.

Two weeks after moving in, I was raped at gunpoint in my own bed. No one believed me. Not the police. Not even my own mother. Not only did the police not investigate my case, they walked my friends and family through how they thought I staged the entire thing.

I was sent a bill for the rape examination and had to cancel the follow-up appointment because I did not have health insurance. For almost nineteen years, I carried the pink hospital discharge slip with me as the only proof that October 13, 1983 really happened.

I never gave up. Over the next 12 years, I lived in 19 different places and had 11 different jobs. I tried to go to college but couldn’t afford the tuition, as schools handed over paperwork for loans to pay for classes that wouldn’t get me to a degree, much less a job that would cover the debt.

My first job in business was as a part-time customer service rep at T. Rowe Price for $7/hour. I applied to all the big companies – Microsoft, IBM, you name it. I wanted a career in business but was turned down for opportunities over and over because I did not have a college degree.

“No One
Understood”

I showed up every day dressed for the job I wanted, not the one I had.

While working at a direct mail firm, where my desk was in a hallway, I hosted a meeting for a potential client that would change my life.

Loyola University in Maryland was so impressed they suggested I apply to their MBA program. At first, I didn’t call them back. I was embarrassed. Then, I asked for a meeting. I wanted them to make an exception for me.

Loyola took a chance on me and I earned an MBA – without finishing high school or college. I was then invited to the prestigious Executive Program at Stanford Business School.

I paid for these life-changing programs myself, because I knew I was a good investment.

As soon as I was accepted into the MBA program, I went back to the big companies and applied again. When they turned me down, I decided to bet on myself.

Motivational Speaking
Political Office | Laura Neuman

I became an entrepreneur, cashing in my savings and 401k, paying my bills on a credit card, and accepting equity instead of a salary. I turned around an insolvent start-up and the company was later sold for $230 million. The story became a Princeton University case study on entrepreneurship and the company was voted Venture Deal of the Year.

But all the success in the world didn’t matter if I couldn’t do the most important thing: Get my rape case investigated.

In 2002 a detective named Bernie Holthaus took on my case. The DNA evidence was destroyed, but he found a set of fingerprints.

After 19 years, the case was solved in 3 days.

Justice brought a feeling of freedom I didn’t know existed. Anxious to make a difference, I agreed to share my story on 48 Hours, CNN, and in numerous publications.

In 2007, while the perpetrator was up for parole, the 48 Hours show was the lynchpin to convicting him in 6 more cases. He pled guilty, and has now been tied to numerous other unsolved crimes. He was the worst serial offender in Maryland history and has now confessed to murder.

While listening to another speaker at Dartmouth on the importance of business leaders taking their experience into public service, I decided to do the same. My first role in public service was testifying on legislation to put serial offenders behind bars.

Laura was a Featured Speaker with

In 2011, I accepted my first official public sector role as CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

In 2013, I was sworn in as the 8th County Executive of Anne Arundel County. I managed a $1.3 billion budget, improved the county bond rating, and restored good governance to an office plagued by scandal, as my predecessor went to jail.

After years of estrangement, I truly believed my mother would finally be proud of me. I fulfilled her most ambitious dream. A few weeks after taking office, I took my daughter to visit her grandmother. I said, “Mother, did you hear about my new job.” She replied, “Yes, I heard.” And then she walked away.

When I ran to keep my coveted political seat, my mother joined my opponent’s team and worked to secure my defeat.

We don’t win them all. But you can’t win if you don’t try.