There’s a fine line between inclusive and an unruly mob. But somehow Montgomery County Executive-elect Marc B. Elrich (D) and his top lieutenants managed to keep things orderly at the first meeting of his transition team Tuesday.
Elrich’s team is about 180 strong – a diverse array of politicians, operatives, civic leaders, community activists, small business owners and lawyers. Most were on hand for the inaugural meeting at the East County Community Center in Silver Spring.
“Not the usual suspects,” Elrich observed as he looked around the room.
Elrich, cast occasionally as the lonely, thoroughly unconventional progressive throughout his long political career, was met with a standing ovation as he addressed the group, and began with humility and gratitude.
“This election was about how we move things forward,” he said. “No executive can do it by himself.”
Elrich, a three-term County Council member, thanked the transition team members for making the journey with him.
“You can be a good county – you can be a really good county,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end of the road. We still have a long way to travel.”
Elrich praised his predecessor, three-term Executive Isiah Leggett (D), for providing a “strong foundation,” and offered assurances that he would run the county, as Leggett has, in a fiscally responsible way.
“I was very careful not to run on a Christmas tree platform,” he said, but added that fiscal prudence shouldn’t be a bar to innovation. “The county government is going to be fiscally responsible and a force for dynamic change.”
One reform Elrich is promoting: Two-year budgets, which would give county officials an opportunity to see what programs are working.
Elrich said that everything he does will be guided by the quest for “equity” – erasing “decades of sexism and racism.”
With that, he introduced Andrew Kleine, the former Baltimore City budget director who Elrich has tapped to be his chief administrative officer and is also heading the transition.
“I know that Andrew has the kind of social conscience and heart that’s important to me,” Elrich said. “I know he’s more fiscally conservative than my instincts, but that’s a good thing. I don’t want to surround myself with mirrors. Mirrors tend to lie. You see what you want to see.”
Kleine outlined the process – the transition team was splitting into seven groups and would hold three sessions before issuing reports and battle plans for Elrich to achieve his top goals.
“This transition period is incredibly tight – 26 days with Thanksgiving in the middle,” he said.
For three hours, the transition team’s working groups met in spirited sessions, outlining the challenges the county faces, the things in the county to be valued, and ways to make things better.
The working groups are:
- Thriving Youth and Families
- A Growing Economy
- A Greener County
- Easier Commutes
- A More Affordable and Welcoming County
- Safe Neighborhoods
- Effective, Sustainable Government
“I love how [Elrich] is doing this,” said Shruti Bhatnagar, a transition team member and longtime civic and community activist. “I love that it’s so diverse. I love that he’s bringing people from the community together.”
In an interview, Kleine said he and other Elrich aides were talking to Leggett’s department heads and others interested in serving in top positions over the next couple of weeks and hoped to have hiring announcements soon.
“We’re not looking to clean house,” he said.
Here are the members of the transition team:
Saman Qadeer Ahmad
Victor del Pino
Barbara Goldberg Goldman
Alicia Jones McLeod
Peter Myo Khin
Crystal Brockington Sallee
Laurie Anne Sayles
Susie Sinclair Smith
- Marie Taylor
Juan Pablo Vacatello