By Adam Stone
Pokuaa “P.K.” Owusu-Acheaw, J.D. ’15, has cut a wide swath through state and local government since earning her UBalt Law degree.
She served as a legislative aide for Maryland Sen. Joanne C. Benson, representing Prince George’s County, and as regional director for U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. From there she worked as intergovernmental affairs officer in the Prince George’s County Office of the County Executive, and then as managing director of legislative and political affairs at the Maryland State Education Association.
Now she’s chief of staff to Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna K. Miller.
The common thread? “I am very much into solutions,” she says. “When I see a problem, I want to know how we can bridge the gaps and get resources — or individuals with expertise — to solve a problem.”
Legal training helps her to meet that mark. “I know how to look at the larger picture, how to ask questions on intricacies that other individuals without legal training might not bring up,” she says. “It has allowed me to think critically, to see things with multiple lenses.”
Those who’ve seen P.K. in action say they understand why she is one of the rising stars on the Maryland political scene.
“I have been blessed to watch her career blossom from our time together at UB Law to now, working together in Annapolis,” says State Del. Caylin Young, J.D. ’16, who represents District 45 in Baltimore city. “P.K. is one of the smartest political minds in Maryland. She is someone you can always count on for personal and professional advice.”
Yaakov “Jake” Weissmann, J.D. ’16, first met P.K. when she worked for Benson and he was deputy chief of staff in the Office of the Senate President. “The Senate is a tough place: It is a work-hard, play-hard place,” says Weissmann, who currently serves as the assistant chief administrative officer for Montgomery County government.
“Managing a senator is not easy,” he says. “You’ve got to be knowledgeable enough on the issues. You got to be knowledgeable enough on the other senators, and at the same time you still need to be aware of what your senator wants and be responsive in that regard. And P.K. did a phenomenal job.”
In her present role, Owusu-Acheaw says the Moore-Miller administration is focused on “increasing opportunity for work, wages and wealth, making sure that Marylanders have an equal opportunity to achieve their full potential.”
And she’s got a personal stake in bringing that to fruition. “I am a first-generation American, the child of Ghanaian parents who sacrificed so much for me to get to where I am. So I am fully invested in the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” she says.
Opportunity covers a lot of ground. Her work includes the administration’s efforts to end child poverty, as well as projects focused on transportation, behavioral and mental health, social justice and reproductive health. Her work also includes supporting the administration’s efforts to address climate change — “to ensure there is a future, in which we can protect resources and ensure children can breathe air that’s just as clean [as it was for] their grandparents,” she says.
Where is Owusu-Acheaw headed with all this? Perhaps a future career in elective office?
“Right now, I’m just focused on how I can use the present time to address issues that currently exist and any issues that might be developing. There’s no shortage of issues that exist in our state, and I’m just busy and hard at work at trying to solve those right now.” she says. “I’m looking to the future to see how we can make it better, but not looking too far ahead to see what’s next for me.”
Day to day, the job can be challenging, she says. “Government works around the clock to make sure that Marylanders have what they need,” she says. But in the big picture, the rewards more than make up for the effort.
“Even if I’m having a tough day, I can know that the work the team just did is going to make an impact, not only on someone today, but also in the future, someone who doesn’t even exist yet,” she says.
“That’s the kind of thing that gets me up every morning,” she says. “I get the satisfaction out of knowing that 30 years down the line, I will look back to something that we worked on during a tough legislative session and be able to say: We made an impact. That is a feeling that I honestly am very privileged and honored to have.”
Adam Stone is a writer based in Annapolis.