Incoming Montgomery Co. Executive Elrich ready to get to work

WASHINGTON — Montgomery County’s next county executive is already getting to work on shaping his administration.

County Council member Marc Elrich, a Democrat who won the three-way race for county executive on Tuesday, said his transition team will start things rolling with four “listening sessions” at locations across the county over the course of the next month. Elrich said the idea is “for people to come out and give us their ideas, their suggestions, their hopes, their fears, whatever.”

Elrich will also start to put together a cabinet. There could be some changes, he said. He’ll begin by interviewing current department heads. “There are some positions we know we want to change and there are others where we’re going to wait and see,” he said. Asked which positions he wants to change, he declined to say.

During the campaign for county executive, Elrich was painted as anti-business, and he’s aware that’s a concern. He said of the business community, “They’re just going to have to look at what I do, and at some point they’ll realize I don’t actually have an anti-business agenda. They can judge me by the work I do.”

Montgomery County also has a reputation for being regulation-heavy, something that scares off businesses. Elrich said his plan is to “benchmark” the county’s regulatory environment against neighboring jurisdictions: “We’re going to look at code issues and see where we can be better and smarter.”

Some restructuring of the county government should be expected, said Elrich, who again, didn’t elaborate, saying he’s just getting started with a close look at the county’s finances. In Montgomery County, the county executive outlines the capital budget priorities by Jan. 15 and operating budget priorities by March 15.

“We do have serious financial challenges,” Elrich said, but added he’ll continue to focus on early childhood education as a priority.

Asked about the passage of Question 1 on the November ballot — the constitutional amendment that creates a “lockbox” on casino money and dedicates it to education spending — Elrich said, “I think it helps the schools,” but “It’s going to pose challenges for the legislature.” He said that’s because in the past, money that would have gone to schools was often shifted to other areas to shore up budget shortfalls.

Meetings with new, outgoing executives

Elrich will be meeting with outgoing County Executive Ike Leggett early next week. The two each served on the council before moving on to the executive’s office. Erlich said he’s not yet had contact with the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican who was reelected to a second term Tuesday, but Elrich said he’s worked with some of the governor’s staff in the past.

“I’m already familiar with some of his people; I have a good working relationship with them. I anticipate that going forward we’re going to work with each other.”

Finally, Elrich said, “I want the residents of Montgomery County to know how much I appreciate their support. I really do appreciate their faith and trust.”

Elrich hopes to work with the recently elected county executives in other jurisdictions, such as Councilman Calvin Ball, just elected executive in Howard County, and Johnny Olzewski, the next executive in Baltimore County. “I think as county executives we face pretty similar issues and problems, and I hope we learn from each other.”

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