By Adam Pagnucco.
Bill Conway, Potomac
Many readers have encountered Diana Conway, one of MoCo’s most tenacious and effective environmental activists. As she is someone who has long been involved in local elections, your author had long assumed that a Conway might someday appear on the ballot. Well, we were half-right – the Conway who is running is her husband, Bill.
Bill Conway is a recently retired energy lawyer who is a nationally recognized expert on the electric power industry. He once worked as a U.S. Senate staffer and played a key role in designing wholesale electricity deregulation in the early 1990s. He’s a heavy hitter and with a profile like that, one might assume that Conway would come across as a know-it-all. But then you meet him.
Conway’s intelligence is as obvious as his immense likability. But his greatest asset is his curiosity. Your author has interviewed dozens of candidates over the years. Most of them are reluctant to admit ignorance on anything for fear of coming across as unready for elected service. Not Conway. While he certainly has plenty of knowledge and opinions – he is just as animated in discussing social justice as he is about the need to grow the economy – he is comfortable enough in his own skin to ask questions. LOTS of questions. Your author has never met a candidate who took such deep dives on policy issues right off the bat – for HOURS – as Conway.
Intellectual curiosity may be the single most underrated trait in great elected officials. Their job is to deal with a tremendous variety of issues that demand attention and expertise, often many in the same day. The best of them learn quickly and love to learn. Bill Conway has a lot going for him but he has that trait in spades. It will serve him and his constituents well if he gets elected.
PS – Right now, no at-large candidate is working harder than Conway on the campaign trail. Here’s the proof.
Gabe Albornoz, Kensington
Imagine working your way up the ladder quickly and landing a dream job. Everything is great, yeah? And then less than two years later, the cuts begin. By the time it’s all over, your budget is down 23% and your employees’ work years are down 22%. Is it still a dream job?
Gabe Albornoz would say yes even though that actually happened to him. As the county’s Director of Recreation, his department took those cuts between Fiscal Years 2008 and 2012, some of the biggest cuts to any part of the government. Albornoz had to look people in the eye and let them go, something almost all managers hate to do. But he got through it by concentrating reductions in force at the middle management level and empowering front-line employees to make more decisions. No recreation centers were closed and Albornoz recruited non-profits and community groups to help fill the gap. That’s one reason why Albornoz is considered one of the best managers in county government.
But that’s not all he is. Albornoz is also the former Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and steered the party through some difficult conflicts with labor. Many new candidates have to spend time building relationships with players across the county – and it’s a BIG county. Albornoz already has those relationships – with elected officials, civic associations, community groups, faith groups and everyone else he has worked with in county government over the last decade. Unusually, he seems to be almost devoid of enemies. (Explain how you do that to this blog author, Gabe!) It’s a large network that could pay big dividends.
The knock on many people in legislative positions is that they know nothing about running a government, or a large organization of any kind. No one could say that about Gabe Albornoz. He is among the best prepared people to ever run for Montgomery County Council.
More to come in Part Three.