After working her way to the top, Pulley is ready to serve
By Mary Schneidau Sullivan
Christian Pulley was a graduate student in 2003 when she first attended a Laurel City Council meeting as an assignment for a city planning class at Morgan State University. The New Jersey native dutifully took notes at the meeting, where she observed Laurel Mayor Craig Moe in his first full year on the job.
“I always kept Laurel in the back of my mind as a planning job,” Pulley said.
She joined the city as a planner in 2008 and has spent the last 14 years working her way up through city government, including serving for several years as director of economic and community development. In January, Pulley was appointed as the first Black person to serve as Laurel’s city administrator, the employee tasked with running the city’s daily operations.
“It’s been great, and I’ve definitely been blessed,” she said. “I have a to-do list for almost every day, but a lot of times my to-do list is very different from the to-do list that gets done.”
The city administrator manages operations across the city’s 13 departments, handles aspects of the city’s insurance programs and budget administration, and oversees boards, commissions and committees. The administrator also serves as a liaison between the mayor and city council and often responds to inquiries from residents and businesses that need help or a resolution.
“She’s the day-to-day person that is making things happen, taking care of issues, those types of things,” Moe said of Pulley. “It really needs to be a person that can multitask on several different levels and assignments, and she’s been able to do that.”
Moe has worked with four previous city administrators, including Kristie Mills, Marty Flemion, Bill Goddard and LouAnn Crook. All of them, including Pulley, spent years on city staff before moving into the administrator position. That progression, Moe observed, allowed them to become deeply familiar with city operations as well as the needs of residents and businesses. He also appreciated Pulley’s desire to keep learning, as evidenced by her membership in this year’s Leadership Maryland class, among other things.
Pulley is one of a handful of women who hold key positions in the city.
“It’s awesome, it’s empowering,” she said. “The mayor is surrounded by women and trusts women.”
Other women in top city jobs include Michele Saylor, director of budget and personnel services; Kim Rau, clerk to the city council; Audrey Barnes, director of communications; Sara Green, the chief of staff; and Joanne Barr, the deputy city administrator.
Pulley also recognizes the influence she carries as a Black woman in such a prominent position.
“Of course I am my own woman, my own person,” she said. “But it’s humbling, it’s exciting. It’s legacy-building within itself, and it’s an honor.”
All of the struggles that women and African Americans go through to achieve success and influence are not ultimately about power, Pulley said, but service.
“It’s doing the right thing with the power of influence to serve the community, the city of Laurel, citizens and business owners.”
Pulley’s parents and grandparents instilled in her a clear understanding of the importance of education, and she credits that for helping her earn her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a master’s from Morgan State.
Erika Pulley-Hayes, Pulley’s older sister, also credited a strong family life and vision with laying the foundations for success.
“All she has achieved she certainly put in the work for it,” Pulley-Hayes said. “But also our family really instilled a sense of excellence in us from a very young age.”
Pulley-Hayes said she often thinks of her younger sister as “her oldest child” because their mother died when Pulley was just 15 years old; Pulley said that Pulley-Hayes, nine years older, helped guide her through young adulthood. The two remain best friends, having recently taken a trip to Greece together and regularly meeting for dinner. Their close bond helped them navigate the loss of their father last year.
For her part, Pulley said she is focused now on helping Laurel go “to the top.” She believes Laurel is the best municipality in Prince George’s County and wants to help it become the best in the state.
“I definitely enjoy working here,” she said. “I try to remain calm and [be] a leader who is approachable. I’m here to serve the great citizens of Laurel.”