This week Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett made it clear he will not seek re-election to a third term or run for anything else in 2014. Some had expected this decision, others had been speculating about him running for governor or some other higher office. However, two terms will be enough for Mr. Leggett.
In this era where so many politicians cling to power for power’s sake and overstay their welcome, this is not necessarily bad news. I, for one, wish a lot more local, state and national elected officials viewed elective office as just one phase in their careers, rather than a career unto itself. The best leaders tend to have real life experience outside of politics, either in the private sector, the military, in community or non-profit leadership roles or, in Leggett’s case, a combination that includes academia. That outside experience helps bring a more grounded perspective to their roles as public servants and in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.
What we lose with today’s "permanent class" of career politicians is that real-world perspective. This is, in part, what fuels voter disillusion and calls for term limits. Imposing a voluntary term limit on your own career, as Leggett has now done, is to be commended from this standpoint. It also frees him up, to some extent, as he finishes out his term, to make decisions on the merits, free from any accusation that he is just positioning himself for the next election.
Leggett has had a long and distinguished career in local politics, having served on the County Council, as chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, and most recently as county executive. These last few years, facing the worst recession in our lifetimes, with rising needs and declining revenues, were probably not much fun for Leggett or anyone else in local office, but he has made some tough calls and has the scars to prove it. Now that he is truly free to be himself, things could get even more interesting.
Although it may be too early to rate his overall performance, near the midpoint in his tenure, Mr. Leggett has already made some important contributions, notably his smart growth initiative. In the coming weeks, when this year’s increasingly contentious budget process wraps up, we will start to get a clearer picture of both his fiscal legacy and who is lining up on the Council to take his place.
How has he done so far, and what do you think the “Leggett Legacy” will be?