Thursday, October 02, 2008

Montgomery County’s Most Influential People, Part Four

Our respondents collectively nominated 171 individuals as the most influential non-elected people in Montgomery County. Of these people, 108 received just one vote and 22 received two. To make it onto the upper reaches of our list, it was not enough for a person to be well-known in one local area or in one sector of the community. A person needed wide recognition across multiple segments of our sample to get near the top. Here are the leaders, along with some commentary from myself and our voters.

1 (tie). Royce Hanson, M-NCPPC Chairman
27 Votes

Respondent: “All development starts here.”

Respondent: “In a county obsessed with development politics, Hanson has his hands in most of the heated debates in the county.”

Adam: “Royce Hanson was a player in this county decades before many of today’s politicians came on the scene. His institutional knowledge is unsurpassed and his stature is far greater than his predecessors.”

1 (tie). Jerry Weast, MCPS Superintendent
27 Votes

Respondent: “Education still rules in Montgomery.”

Respondent: “He controls the largest part of the county budget and a huge number of employees. The school system's impact on the community is enormous. It is our one single civic entity countywide. In a community that so values education, he is shaping the future with his curriculum decisions.”

Adam: “Jerry Weast has transcended the superintendent role and become a true power broker whether people like it or not.”

3. Tim Firestine, Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer
20 Votes

Adam: “Ike Leggett’s right-hand man. A supremely confident, supremely competent master of MoCo’s bureaucracy. Check out this post I wrote about him last year.”

4. Bonnie Cullison, President, Montgomery County Education Association
19 Votes

Respondent: “For all of the talk of their waning influence (ie: some of their endorsed candidates lost) - they are not a group you want to get on the wrong side of.”

Respondent: “As President of MCEA, she’s extremely effective at using MCEA’s power to influence elected officials.”

Adam: “It’s not merely that Ms. Cullison is the head zookeeper of the county’s 800-pound gorilla. She is also a former chair of the Committee for Montgomery and is known in many circles throughout the county.”

5. Adam Pagnucco, Assistant to the General President, United Brotherhood of Carpenters
18 Votes

Adam: “I know what all of you cynical people are thinking. No, I did not rig this vote and no, I did not vote for myself! Let’s be honest about this, folks. The only reason I occupy this position is because the vast majority of our survey respondents are regular readers of this blog. With a different survey group and/or methodology, I might not be on this list at all. But political blogs are growing in influence, and not just this one. Politicians beware!”

6. Gino Renne, President, UFCW Local 1994, Municipal & County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO)
16 Votes

Adam: “MCGEO is a force and Gino Renne is their founder and leader. Check out how his radioactive yellow-clad legions dominated the budget sessions in the last cycle.”

Respondent: “While I may not like his tactics, he has the ability to turn out his members when needed and that increases his influence.”

Respondent: “As president of MCGEO, he will be the other major party at the table during budget negotiations. MCGEO and MCEA could destroy Ike and the council over the next year. They could also undermine their own power.”

7 (tie). Blair Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Lee Development Group and Gazette columnist
11 Votes

Respondent: “The development king with more money than God.”

Adam: “Blair Lee’s balancing of his public writings and private interests is a very difficult feat, but he has been doing it successfully for a long time.”

7 (tie). Gustavo Torres, Executive Director, Casa de Maryland
11 Votes

Respondent: “The Godfather of the Latino community.”

Adam: “Gustavo Torres built up Casa from a church basement refugee group into a major factor in every local politician’s thinking. His influence is growing steadily inside and outside the county.”

9. Tom Perez, Maryland Labor Secretary
9 Votes

Respondent: “Leading the administration's education efforts about slots and an insider in certain national Democratic circles.”

Respondent: “As Labor Secretary, he has earned respect due to his intelligence and hard work. Many people, both advocates and businesspeople, were impressed with him (and Gansler) as they worked out the foreclosure assistance plan last year. He is also winning friends outside MoCo by working for slots. Should Mikulski retire in 2010 and Anthony Brown jump off the ticket for that opportunity, Perez could be an attractive Lieutenant Governor selection.”

Adam: “A superstar in waiting.”

10. Esther Gelman, Former Montgomery County Council Member
8 Votes

Respondent: “Esther Gelman is an informal advisor to nearly all MoCo electeds and her wisdom is unprecedented. She is a practical activist who will not abandon the good in pursuit of the perfect.”

11. Wayne Goldstein, Past President, Montgomery County Civic Federation
7 Votes

Respondent: “You don't want Wayne on the opposite side of an issue from you. If he's taken a position, he usually has facts. He loves facts. He doesn't let go. He's persuasive and has a great sense of humor.”

Adam: “Lives up to his nickname: the Great Civic Grand-daddy. Anyone who has a problem, does a lot of research, makes a bunch of noise and won’t go away is following in his footsteps.”

12 (tie). Jon Gerson, Director of Community Outreach, Montgomery County Education Association
6 Votes

Adam: “MCEA’s super-smart political strategist has been a player for a long, long time. May be the best political handicapper in the county.”

12 (tie). William G. Robertson, President and CEO, Adventist Health Care
6 Votes

Respondent: “Bill Robertson is hands down one of the most universally liked and respected CEOs in Montgomery County. This, of course, is because Bill himself is genuinely nice, respectful and caring of others. He understands that being a CEO is not contrary to his mission as a faith driven community business. The respect that he has gained from members of the community, both elected and non-elected, as well as the time and money he has dedicated to this community will ultimately give him a significant leg up on the other hospitals jockeying for places to grow in Montgomery County.”

14 (tie). Tom Israel, Executive Director, MCEA
5 Votes

Respondent: “The executive director of MCEA who keeps the organization running through various officers. He is very intelligent and skilled in many areas. He is both political and hard working. He will play an important role in what happens with our local budget problems. As MCEA transitions to new leadership in a year, he will be an important inside player in setting the agenda for the organization.”

14 (tie). Terry Lierman, Chief of Staff, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
5 Votes

Respondent: “Former party chair, D08 congressional candidate and now Steny Hoyer's chief of staff. Need I say more?”

14 (tie). Karen McManus, Aide to Chris Van Hollen
5 Votes

Adam: “Van Hollen could not have a better representative in the community.”

14 (tie). Amy Presley, Clarksburg Activist and Planning Board Member
5 Votes

Respondent: “Well known, popular for a Republican, in fact has managed to lose the label of being a Republican. Been very effective in motivating people.”

Adam: “Butt-kicking super-activist is a role model for other troublemakers.”

14 (tie). Bob Stewart, Executive Director, MCGEO
5 Votes

Adam: “Tough-talking labor leader would fit right in with the Teamsters or the Building Trades.”

Honorable Mention (4 Votes), in Alphabetical Order

Ed Asher, President and COO, Chevy Chase Land Company
Stewart Bainum, Chairman of the Board, Choice Hotels
Doug Duncan, Former Montgomery County Executive
Jim Humphrey, Planning and Land Use Committee Chairman, Montgomery County Civic Federation
Glenn Orlin, Deputy Staff Director, Montgomery County Council (known as “The tenth Council Member”)
Susan Turnbull, Vice Chair, Democratic National Committee
Rebecca Wagner, Executive Director, Community Ministry of Montgomery County

Final Notes: Three of our top four vote-getters may all be leaving their current positions over the next few years, making the top of this list extremely fluid. I will be writing a reaction post next week, so if you want to put in your two cents, call me.