Monday, October 26, 2015
In 1990 Families for SAFE HOMES realized from data it collected that Troy was experiencing a problem with underage drinking. They organized a community workshop to consider the problem and over 100 parents spent a Saturday morning discussing how to address the issue. Twelve of the original attendees formed a permanent group dedicated to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug-abuse prevention programs and the Troy Community Coalition was born. The Troy School District helped the group organize, and provided the Coalition a home in its Services Building, where it still has its offices today. But who would assume leadership of such a challenging new venture?
Enter Mary Ann Solberg, a social studies teacher by profession with degrees from Western Michigan and Michigan State Universities. Solberg was also an active community volunteer, the debate coach at Farmington High School, and an economics and speech teacher. She was the perfect choice. Under her leadership the new group sought a federal grant for a five-year plan to address the problems in Troy. Solberg worked hard to develop and implement comprehensive, long-term strategies to reduce substance abuse among young people. She also convinced other communities to join Troy in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse by youth and to expand their efforts to fight substance abuse by adults.
The Coalition and the Troy Police worked together to develop programs and goals for the community. “The Troy Police force is one of the most professional police forces in our country, and Troy set the standard for fighting drug and alcohol abuse, changing community standards,” Solberg said.
Mary Ann Solberg was so successful in Troy that Washington, D.C. noticed her effectiveness. She was nominated to be Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. She was sworn in as the nations’ deputy “drug czar” on June 20, 2002 by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Solberg is still worried about drug abuse, especially the widespread use today of marijuana. She points out that we now know much more about how young brains are affected by marijuana. “Legalize marijuana and you’re just going to have a new batch of problems,” she warns. “Today new drugs and drug combinations “change so quickly and can cause so much harm. (This) should be a concern for all of us,” Solberg stresses. She suggests that everyone look at the statistics from Holland.
After five years of service as the Deputy Director, Mary Ann stepped down in 2007. She and husband Cliff moved to Daniel Island, South Carolina to be near their daughter Laura Trowbridge, her husband Kent, and their grandchildren, McCab and Ann Claire. She remains an active volunteer, serving on the Board of the Charleston Symphony, working on the Friends of Charleston Home Tour, and helping raise money for her church’s building fund. She has also served on a number of federal boards and accepts occasional speaking engagements. Mary Ann loves to travel and play bridge. “We love, love, love where we are,” she says, “but I miss Troy…It’s a wonderful community and (I say) happy 60th birthday!”
Photo: Mary Ann Solberg
Telephone interview with Mary Ann Solberg
To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.