John Robison, husband of former Laurel Councilwoman Janis Robison, recalled how his wife was always ready to help constituents, even when she was home cooking dinner.
“If you called and you had a problem, she would stop what she was doing and try and solve it,” he said. “She felt strongly that if you represented people, you had to do everything to help them, and do it immediately.”
Janis Robison, 63, died Monday at Laurel Regional Hospital following a battle with amyloidosis, a rare autoimmune disease. She served on the Laurel City Council from 2002 through 2011.
In 2008, she was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a disorder where proteins build up in one or more organ systems and impair their function, according to the Amyloidosis Foundation website.
She continued to serve as a District 1 city council member while battling the disease, but told The Gazette in a 2011 interview that she chose to not to seek a fifth term for health reasons.
Janis Robison served as chairwoman of the city’s Public Works and Transportation Advisory Committee, on the Prince George’s County Municipal Association’s legislative committee, and participated with the Maryland Municipal League and the National League of Cities, Laurel spokeswoman Careen Koubeck stated in a release.
Robison was also an advocate for the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department and the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad, and was a graduate of the Laurel Police Department Citizens Police Academy, Koubeck added.
“She was a little dynamo,” said Marty Flemion, Laurel deputy administrator, who worked with Janis Robison during her nine years on the council. “She was like the Energizer Bunny.”
Her husband said she decided to run for City Council in 2002 after a heated discussion with then-mayor Frank Casula.
“We talked and she said, ‘I think I want to do this. I think I can do some good,’” John Robison said.
Politics ran in Janis Robison’s family as her uncle, Joseph Robison, served as Laurel’s mayor from 1990 to 1994.
He said she loved being a council member, despite the job’s many challenges.
John Robison said his wife would do many little things to let city employees know they were appreciated, such as making chili or beef stew for public works employees on snow days.
“She wanted to know what the folks were doing and she worried about them,” John Robison said.
During her time on the council, she was very active in the community, spearheading the city’s “Keep Alive, Drive 25” campaign, an initiative to prevent speeding, and promoted it on a national level.
Councilman Mike Leszcz (At Large) said Janis Robison was very active in promoting that program, encouraging the city to post the signs alerting drivers.
“She was compassionate, she was thoughtful; she could stand her ground if she had to,” Leszcz said. “She was very approachable by citizens, and she was a great listener.”
Flemion said Janis Robison would ask questions before she took action on an issue, making sure she understood it from all angles and was very persistent in getting answers to questions from her constituents.
Kay Harrison, city administration office manager, said her friendship with Robison goes back more than 25 years.
“If she spoke it, it came from the heart, and it was always well thought out,” Harrison said.
A memorial service is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at Laurel Presbyterian Church, 7610 Sandy Spring Road in Laurel. Memorial donations may be made to the Amyloidosis Foundation Inc., 7151 N. Main St., Suite 2, Clarkston, Mich., 48346.
City flags will be flown at half mast until March 12, according to a news release.