Thursday, February 25, 2010

What It Takes: Montgomery County Planning Board Chairs from Hanson to Hanson

By Marc Korman.

Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson is not seeking reappointment and the Council has begun advertising the vacancy. Before looking forward, it might be helpful to look backwards at some Planning Board Chairs.

Hanson has served three terms as chair, with two from 1972 to 1981 and the current term. He has accomplished much in that time. In his initial stint, he helped establish the Agricultural Reserve. He was brought back in 2002 partly to get the County past the problems associated with Clarksburg. Under his leadership, the County is well on its way to moving White Flint, Gaithersburg West, and the Purple Line forward. But his successor will need to keep these on track, deal with the Policy Area Mobility Review that has been one of the centerpieces of the last two growth policies, and continue to navigate the tricky politics of growth.

There have been a few names in the running so far including Kensington Mayor Pete Fosselman, former Planning Board member John Robinson, former Chair Gus Bauman, and a now debunked rumor about Councilman Mike Knapp.

To get a better idea of what the Council might be looking for, let’s take a look at the backgrounds of the recent Planning Chairs during what I will call the Hanson period, covering his first period as chairman until now.

Royce Hanson (1972-1981) - Before his first tour as Chairman, Hanson had an extensive political and academic background. Hanson ran for Congress in 1966 and 1968, managed a Judge’s campaign, and was a Democratic convention delegate. He was President of the Washington Center for Metropolitan Studies and a Professor at American University. He also served as a Board member for a year before becoming chair.

Norman Christeller (1981-1989) - Christeller was appointed to fill a vacancy on the County Council in 1972 and then elected in his own right in 1974. He resigned from the Council in 1978 for a presidential appointment to the Department of Agriculture which never occurred. He also served on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. Following his time as Chair, Christeller went on to organize and chair a nonprofit dedicated to promoting low income housing. He passed away in 1999 at 75.

Gus Bauman (1989-1993) - Bauman served as legal counsel to the Planning Board for four years in the 1970s. He went on to serve as litigation counsel for the National Association of Home Builders. He also worked at law firm Beveridge & Diamond in the 1980s, where he returned after his time as planning board chair and an unsuccessful campaign for County Executive.

William Hussman (1994-2001) - When Montgomery County elected James Gleason as its first County Executive in 1970, William Hussmann became the first Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. Hussman became CAO from 1972 to 1978. He held the position again in the early 1990s under County Executive Neal Potter. Hussman also served as Rockville City planning director and was, according to one Washington Post article, a developer at some point in his career.

Arthur Holmes (2001-2002) - Holmes had already served on the Planning Board for seven years when he was appointed Chairman. He was a retired Two Star Army General. He had been chief executive of a business in Silver Spring until 1995. He was also the Planning Board’s first, and so far only, African American Chair. Holmes currently serves as Director of the County Transportation Department.

Derick Berlage (2002-2006) - Berlage was elected to the County Council in 1990 and reelected in 1994 and 1998, where he chaired the Land Use Committee and the National Capital Transportation Planning Board. He also worked in the private sector as a real estate attorney. Berlage now serves as St. Mary’s County’s Director for the Department of Land Use and Growth Management.

Royce Hanson (2006-2010) - After his first two terms as Chairman, Hanson directed the Committee on National Urban Policy of the National Research Council. He was a professor at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and Dean of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Texas. He returned to Montgomery County in 1998 and taught at the University of Maryland and George Washington University.

The experience has been varied, with several having political experience and a mix of public and private job experience. They have also all been men, which based on the current rumors is a streak likely to continue. At least two of them, three if you count Hanson twice, previously served on the Planning Board.

Many MPW readers have long memories so if you think I’ve missed an important part of someone’s background or made another error, please post it in the comments.