Notebook: Some Enchanted Morning in Montgomery County

Rona E. Kramer could barely get out a full sentence at the start of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan’s (R) cabinet meeting in Olney before the crowd cut her off with applause. Kramer, Hogan’s secretary of Aging and former two-term senator from Montgomery County, served as host for the Cabinet meeting, which took place in front of a set for “South Pacific” at Olney Theatre Center. “With this audience and being on stage, I think I’m going to have to do a song and a dance,” Kramer said. “I rarely get this excited an audience and I’m going to have to take advantage of it.”  Secretary of Aging Rona E. Kramer  Kramer set the scene for anyone who might be unfamiliar with the area. “MoCo: home to 93,000 acres of beautiful agricultural reserve, one of the world’s premier tech corridors, 300-plus biotech companies, NIH, NIST, FDA and a helluva lot of Kramers.” During opening remarks, Kramer recognized her family’s political ties in the county. Her father, Sidney Kramer, former Montgomery County councilman, state senator and county executive, couldn’t attend the meeting but was nevertheless cheered. And Rona Kramer said no one would have wanted to attend the meeting more than her late mother, Betty Mae. “She loved the Olney Theatre and she loved me almost as much,” Kramer said, noting that someone was sitting in a chair engraved with her name. And then another Kramer had to be recognized: “At great personal risk, since no one ever knows what he might say or do, I’d like to acknowledge my brother,” Rona Kramer said. “The guy who gave my dad the very few gray hairs that he has, Delegate Ben Kramer.” Democrat Benjamin F. Kramer ― who, come January, will almost certainly join the Maryland Senate chamber his sister and father both once occupied ― stood in the crowd and shouted back. Only the end of his comments could be heard over applause. “He loves his big sister,” the delegate called out, to a round of “Awws!” from the crowd. An honorary family member was also recognized. “Any discussion of the Kramer family would be incomplete without recognizing my parents’ other son: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett,” Kramer said, noting the family’s closeness with the retiring county executive. “…It’s that close resemblance that everyone always notes.” Kramer then introduced Hogan, who repaid the compliments. “She is a superstar in our cabinet. She did a great job representing Montgomery County for many years, and she’s a terrific Aging Secretary for the State of Maryland,” Hogan said. When Rona Kramer returned to the microphone about 15 minutes later, she didn’t forget Hogan’s words. “I’d like to take one moment to note a little injustice here. The governor referred to me as the ‘aging secretary,’” Kramer said, as Hogan turned a deep shade of red. “I just want to tell you: You’re aging, too,” she shouted over to Hogan. Kramer peppered the theater’s crowd with a variety of laugh lines for the rest of the roughly two-hour meeting. When it was over, she declared the meeting a success. “To be honest, this has been more fun than my Bat Mitzvah!” Kramer beamed. Full-Court Press After the meeting at the Olney Theater, Hogan Cabinet members and other high-ranking administration officials fanned out all over vote-rich Montgomery County, one of the last stops in the Cabinet’s statewide tour since Hogan took office. From farms at the very northern tip of the county, to the gritty urban alleys of downtown Silver Spring, to the affluent suburbs, changing communities, commercial and technology hubs in between, administration officials saw Montgomery County in all its traffic-clogged glory. Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt talks about the state’s commitment to the Artspace artist housing in Silver Spring. Photo by Josh Kurtz   These tours can occasionally lead to unlikely cultural mash-ups, such as when Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt, a buttoned-down former financial manager and gentleman farmer from Kingsville, rubbed shoulders with East Silver Spring hippies and artists. They were together in Silver Spring for the groundbreaking of Artspace, a planned loft and studio space for low-income local artists, with some slots set aside for military veterans. The county has committed about $3 million for the project, and the state is providing $9 million in low-income housing tax credits. “It creates a place that we can call home,” Holt said. “A place that will create artwork. A place that I think will create jobs. It’s a powerful economic generator.” The shovels used for the groundbreaking, as the photo here shows, were certainly unusual looking – and fitting for the occasion. The project is expected to be completed in 2020.  Photo by Josh Kurtz  Good Hair Twins State Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the Republican nominee for Baltimore County executive, picked up an endorsement Tuesday from a man who held the job he is seeking – former county executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, a Democrat. “Baltimore County Executive is not an entry-level position, and we need someone with a proven track record of executive experience to address the many financial challenges that will confront the County,” Rasmussen said. “I have known Al for many years and genuinely believe he will serve us well by providing exceptional leadership, competent skills, professional knowledge, and strong personal moral character. Al is a person we can trust to do the right thing for all Baltimore County communities.”
Rasmussen, currently a registered lobbyist, served as county exec from 1986 to 1990, after stints in the House of Delegates and state Senate, where he was chairman of the Finance Committee. Rasmussen unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2006.  “Having been County Executive himself, Dennis understands the kind of skills and experience necessary to run a large organization like Baltimore County government,” Redmer said. Rasmussen headlined a fundraiser for Redmer in Timonium Tuesday night. Redmer is squaring off against former Del. John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski (D) in November.

dgaines@marylandmatters.org

jkurtz@marylandmatters.org

Danielle Gaines
Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.
Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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