Looking for the Next County Executive, Part I: Ike’s Legacy

After three terms, Ike Leggett is stepping down as Montgomery County Executive. Ike arrived in office at a very tough time, just before the bubble burst in 2007 causing revenues to collapse even as need soared. He had to make extremely difficult budget choices and he made the right ones, choosing to protect education and public safety even though that meant he had to slash funding for other treasured items, like libraries.

The other great talents that Ike Leggett brought to the office were calm and civility. Even as the economy came crashing down, he projected cool stability—a welcome contrast to the approach taken by many other leaders. Ike is also rightly known for treating constituents consistently with respect and dignity that remains a welcome model in an era of increasingly harsh politics.

While Ike made the right choices in where to cut the budget, he did not use the recession to reshape Montgomery County government. This was a missed opportunity to reorganize the County to try out potentially more efficient ideas designed not to just meet current budget challenges but to also set the County up ready for the future.

Tomorrow, I continue with a discussion of what sort of focus and approach that Montgomery County needs in its next county executive.