By John Adams Hurson
I’ll admit it. I was tempted to run for county office this year.
I’ve lived in Montgomery County all of my life. I enjoyed my 15 years (1990-2005) representing Montgomery County and the residents of District 18 in the Maryland legislature, problem solving by enacting progressive reforms which helped all the residents of Maryland.
The challenges facing the county continue to multiply — how to preserve our neighborhoods and our great quality of life while we continue to be the fastest-growing county in Maryland by building our business and job centers; how to fund the growing school system without hiking taxes that can drive people and business out of our county; and how to improve traffic conditions and public transit options in a county where gridlock is almost a 24/7 situation.
I was excited about being in local government; given it is the closest form of government to the people!
The 2018 election promises to be a really interesting, not just in Montgomery County, but in Maryland and across the country. Being part of that process, especially as a Democrat (in the era of President Trump) was VERY tempting, especially given the number of open at-large seats on the county council!
Since I left the Legislature in 2005, I have worked for an association in Washington, D.C., that represents all the cosmetic companies and manufacturers of personal care products (everything you probably use in the bathroom) in an effort to rewrite the 80-year-old law that sets the regulation of these products by the Food and Drug Administration. And after eight years of pursuing this legislation, we are VERY close to getting it passed.
I had hoped the U.S. Senate would pass this legislation by the end of 2017 but this did not happen. I feel obligated to see this effort through this year. Without getting into detail, there is some “must pass” FDA legislation that WILL pass in 2018, so we are hopeful we can be part of that legislation.
So I am following my mother’s advice: “Don’t do two things poorly, do one thing really well,” and the one thing I need to do well in 2018 is get the federal FDA cosmetic regulatory structure modernized.
Therefore, I will not be a candidate for an at-large county council seat in 2018. I want to thank all those who were so ready to give me their time, treasure and talents to support my run for office. I owe you.
But you probably know, it’s not like this race is short of qualified candidates. Quite the contrary! I have met many of the 28-plus Democratic candidates for these four positions, and the county voters have a wealth of experience and knowledgeable candidates to choose from. I believe the county will be well served by those we select for these positions in November 2018.
But please allow me to offer a few pieces of advice for those who win these seats:
First, always strive to work as a cohesive team for our county. Montgomery County needs its elected officials to work together, not just at the county level, but with the delegation in Annapolis and in Washington. This involves leadership, listening (i.e., not always talking), and learning from each other.
When I served in Annapolis, the county was successful when the county executive led a united council delegation that worked very closely with the county Annapolis delegation and the legislature’s leaders in the Senate and the House of Delegates. Without this cohesive team it is almost impossible to get the state and federal funding and support that the county desperately needs.
New council members should form strong working relationships with their colleagues from Montgomery County who serve in the legislature. Visit them in Annapolis. Be ready to testify on legislation senators and delegates are sponsoring, especially if it is something that benefits your constituents in Montgomery County. Be part of the county executive’s initiatives for the county in Annapolis and Washington.
Second, and this ties into the suggestions above, the funding for schools, transportation, development and many other things in the county will depend on resources coming from outside the county. This reality is not new. Unfortunately, too often our efforts to achieve the appropriate level of support end up with our resignation of saying “everyone outside of Montgomery thinks the roads here are paved with gold.”
To get past this misconception, we must devise a clear and detailed prescription for the needs of the county in the next 10 to 20 years, and start selling it, not just complaining about the false image created by others. Facts and a realistic plan that detail the needs we have in the county are the way to move beyond the “gold-paved streets” argument used against us in Annapolis and sometimes in Washington.
Third, while this seems obvious, constantly talk with your constituents about change in the county. Change is inevitable. The county will continue to grow. The county will become more crowded than it is now. The county will have more diversity in its population (a very good thing), bringing more needs for social services for our new neighbors and additional needs as our current population ages.
This is a normal, urbanization process for which we must build acceptance. Reassure your constituents that these changes can be handled in creative ways that preserve the unique quality of life we enjoy now. Dialogue is the key. Keep it up even after the election.
And finally, enjoy the ride. Campaigns always seem frustrating at times but it is a great experience, win or lose. I’ve done both, and yes, winning is more fun. But either way, you are in the ring! I’m jealous.
Good luck, everyone! You are going to be great!
John Adams Hurson was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1991-2005.