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The Leggett Legacy?

County executive signaling an end to his career of public service.

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?

Richard Parsons May 09, 2011 at 08:32 PM
First, as to "my organization," that would be me. I am a self-employed consultant and my column reflects nothing other than my own opinion. Second, while Doug Duncan served for three successful terms as County Executive, and prior to that as Mayor of Rockville, he started out and spent a good part of his career in the private sector, not public office, which was my point. Same could be said for that self-described "country lawyer," rail-splitter, flat-boatman and jack-of-all-trades Abe Lincoln. Most of the people you mentioned had "real-life" experience in addition to politics, and that is a good thing in my book. I know of no hard and fast rules here, but what I'm concerned about are those who get out of college, go right to work on a campaign, run for local office or state legislator, move up the ladder to Congress, Governor, Senate, etc. and before you know it they've spent their whole lives in politics. It's just a very limiting perspective if it's all you know.
Timothy May 10, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Mr. Parsons, as you well know, I was referring to the organization you headed at the time that Mr. Duncan ran for his third term. You may NOW be a self-emploted consultant, but I invite you to share with all the Patch readers exactly what role you held at the time of Mr. Duncan's third campaign. After that, I think those same readers will be able to judge for themselves whether you are being candid and can decide for themselves how much weight they should give to your opinions. And since you have avoided my initial question, I'll repeat it: Can you name one instance or issue where you feel that Mr. Leggett has decided things other than on their merits? Just one case? And as for "public service" being "all you know", I assume you have never held elective office? So "the private sector" is all YOU know? But you are writing political editorials? As for the time Mr. Duncan spent in the "private sector", I assume you mean his job as a telephone salesman for AT&T?
Timothy May 10, 2011 at 01:21 AM
"Richard Parsons, Chief Executive Officer, Montgomery County, Maryland Chamber of Commerce" So Mr. Parsons, were you attempting to mislead anyone when you implied you were not connected with any organization at the time of Mr. Duncan's third campaign for County Executive? I don't have your experience, but in most cases I've found that when someone thinks a clever misrepresentation or obfuscation is just as good as the truth, that's not someone whose opinions you should weigh very heavily. And I can assure you, Mr. Parsons, that's not a VEILED insult at all. Rebuttal?
Timothy May 10, 2011 at 11:46 AM
While we wait for Mr. Parsons to reply, I'd like to address the Patch editors. I read some of the detailed biographies about the writers and contributors posted on your site. But I noticed there was no biographical information about Mr. Parsons. I was just wondering whether you knew about his background and didn't consider that it should be disclosed? (He has quite a colorful history; just "google" him.) Didn't he share that information with you? Disclosing it might give your readers some additional information that would be useful to them in deciding how much weight to give to Mr. Parsons's editorial opinions on Patch. Thnx
mark May 10, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Yes, Mr. Parsons, and while we wait, I would like to know, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
Doug Tallman May 10, 2011 at 01:01 PM
We are quite aware of Mr. Parsons' background, and it was for that background we asked him to write this weekly column. If details on his background are lacking on our website, I'm sure it is an oversight that will be corrected in short order.
Sharon May 10, 2011 at 02:54 PM
In bold letters above article by Richard Parsons it specifically states, Timothy, "OPINION"! Wow, no wonder we are raising and watching a new generation of bullies and those who think of nothing but malicious attacking out there in 'cyber space'. Everyone, no matter what they 'station' is in life is entitled to express their opinion(s) and those reading 'editorial opinions' have the right to accept, agree or simply disregard/reject without resorting to ending comments e.g. with "are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party'! Absurd! I guess when all else fails resort to 'dirty play, name calling and insinuations'! Someone needs to take 'debate classes' and classes in civility!
Richard Parsons May 10, 2011 at 03:02 PM
I'm with Sharon: Civility! Timothy, (if that's your name) we don't have the advantage of knowing who you are or your affiliations (mine are pretty well known as I’ve been in the public eye for years -- no secrets here). Since you seem to want to twist anything I say into the worst possible light and insult my integrity, and you still haven't figured out that your first post missed the main point of my article, which was to COMMEND County Executive Leggett not criticize him, I have little interest in responding to anything else you have to say. However, since you have repeatedly accused me of all sorts of dishonest behavior -- without any foundation -- I do need to respond this one time, and then let's move on to the topic I wanted to raise: How is Ike Leggett doing as Co. Exec. and what will his legacy be? I hope the tone of your posts has not dissuaded others from responding on-point. So you know, the only reason my bio is not posted is that I started this column a few weeks ago and we simply haven't gotten to it yet. Sorry, but there’s no conspiracy theory at work here. I'll be happy to post a quick summary shortly. I would also ask that you read the Acceptable Use Policy for Patch, which calls on us to "be respectful of others." Then take a deep breath, go back and re-read this exchange and ask yourself if you feel your comments have been respectful. At least try to see my point of view, and I'll do the same. That's how we learn from each other.
Richard Parsons May 10, 2011 at 03:07 PM
I have been working on a brief bio to let Patch readers know a little more about me and the experiences I have had, both in and out of politics, which have helped form my view of the world. Hope to finish it soon. In the meantime, I am more than happy to disclose that I have worked in the private sector as an advertising executive, small business owner and COO for a well respected urban design firm; I worked on the national staff of three Democratic presidential campaigns and served as Executive Director of the MD Democratic Party; but most of my career has been in issue advocacy for various national, state and local non-profit organizations. I served for many years as the political coordinator for a national gun safety organization led by Jim and Sarah Brady and was part of the grassroots lobbying team that pushed the Brady Bill through Congress. I represented the Greater Washington Board of Trade on regional transportation and economic development issues for several years before taking over as President and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce (a post I left four years ago). I now (again) run my own business here in Montgomery County and the views I share in this column are strictly my own. If anyone feels that my opinions should have no weight because I once ran an organization of local business owners whose mission was to make Montgomery County a better place to live, work and grow a business, that is your prerogative. PS - I am not a commie.
Richard Parsons May 10, 2011 at 03:10 PM
There, now let's all get back to the topic: How is Ike Legget doing so far, and what is his legacy? What do you like, dislike, etc. about his record so far? Who do you see as the next rising star?
Bob Hydorn May 10, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Ok folks, let's come back to the real world here. Rich and Sharon are right, the word is "CIVILITY. If one has never lead a community they certainly do not know from where they are speaking. Wether it be a community of 500 or a million plus, it is an extremely difficult job. Sure everyone does not agree on everything, and they shouldn't, but let the person elected to govern, actually govern. As for Mr. Leggett, he has the most difficult position in Montgomery County. With that said, stop and look at what areas of the budget and overall government he inherited, it certainly is not all of his doing, nor will it be that of the person to follow Mr. Leggett as County Executive.
Timothy May 10, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Okay, I'll ask again:Can you name one issue where you feel Mr. Leggett has based his decision on anything other than the merits? (your words: "..frees him up, to some extent, as he finishes out his term, to make decisions on the merits, free from accusations...") I think you very clearly implied that up to now he had not always made decisions based on their merits. Can you please give just one specific example?
Timothy May 10, 2011 at 06:15 PM
I'm sorry. It was very impolite of me.....not to thank Mr. Tallman for clarifying the point I raised. I remember him from his time with the Gazette and am pleased to see his considerable talent is being put to good use. I do think that if Mr. Parsons's background was the reason Patch asked him to write his editorials, that background should be disclosed and is a legitimate subject of inquiry. One more quote: "Now that [Mr. Leggett] is truly free to be himself, things could get interesting." To me, that implies that so far Mr. Leggett has been other than his true self; i.e. he has been deceptive. Comments?
Bob Hydorn May 10, 2011 at 06:19 PM
I sure would like to know why Timothy that keeps making the comments above does not have the common courtesy to say who he really is. We publish our names, is there some reason you won't Timothy? I was always taught in school that one should make it very clear who was speaking, especially using the written word. If there is a disagreement over the topic, so be it, that can be very healthy, but there in no need to be impolite or discourteous.
Richard Parsons May 10, 2011 at 06:52 PM
I agree with Bob, it would be nice to know who we're speaking with and I think it helps enforce a higher level of civility if people know they will be held accountable for what they say. Timothy, since you have asked your question again, without resorting to insults, I am happy to answer with a couple examples I can think of. I wouldn't call any of this "deceptive" -- that is too strong a word. Rather, these are cases where politics sure seemed to be part of the mix, and his decisions were not made purely on the merits. One that comes to mind was Ike's decision (or lack thereof) on the ICC. There were many years, even after he no longer had to, where he ducked this issue and played to both sides. That was most likely a political decision, not on the merits, don't you think? Again, on the scale of politicians today, I hold Mr. Leggett in very high esteem, but no one is perfect, and no politician I have ever met makes every decision solely on the merits (though I wish they all did). Other examples? Several smart-growth realated development plans have been scaled back, even though they were right next to transit stations, due solely to political pushback from neighbors, not on the merits. Politics is about compromise, and Ike's skills as a consensus-builder are very well developed, but that was politics too. Where do you draw the line between a "political" decision and an effective "compromise?" A good question. I'm sure there are other examples out there.
Timothy May 10, 2011 at 09:54 PM
The one specific example you cite is the ICC. I take it then, that you were not aware, that Mr. Leggett recused himself from that issue because he owned homes adjoining both of the proposed routes for the ICC? As they say in baseball, "you could look it up". I don't think that could fairly be described as 'ducking" the issue. I can't respond to "several smart growth related development plans" unless you can be specific. And it sounds rather like you have your own, idiosyncratic definiition of what constitutes "merits". Are you saying that citizen opposition to a development plan doesn't enter into "the merits" of that plan?
Timothy May 11, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Gee, "Mark", what prize are you putting up for the contest? Something tells me I'm likely to win. If you'd like to have a try at answering some of the questions I posed, please go right ahead. Thanks
Timothy May 11, 2011 at 10:48 AM
I have another question for the Patch editor(s). If I cite a specific example where Mr. Parsons has engaged in hypocrisy, am I allowed to call him a hypocrite in the comments section? It involves pointing out where what he said in the past is different than what he said in his "opinion piece". I wouldn't want to be accused of being "disrespectful" or inquiring into Mr. Parsons's background if those are considered off-limits. And may I suggest a disclaimer along the lines that the opinions expressed by Mr. Parsons are his and "do not necessarily reflect.....". I think down the road Patch may find such a disclaimer helpful. Thx
Doug Tallman May 11, 2011 at 01:32 PM
1) I'm old school on disclaimers. Good newspapers don't have them, and I don't see the point of them. We ask people to express their opinions, and we ask our readers to offer their own. A disclaimer doesn't help much ... of course, my boss's lawyers might think otherwise. 2) On the hypocrite issue ... Our terms of use -- http://rockville.patch.com/terms -- call on us to be respectful. It also prohibits comments that are defamatory, abusive or harassing. Ask yourself, can you call someone else a hypocrite and not be abusive or harassing? One other point: The implication of your 7:46 a.m. post yesterday was that Rich's failure to disclose his background was in some way nefarious. He has posted here a synopsis of his work life, and I'm sure it will be added to his official Patch bio soon. Through this debate, you've remained anonymous. Are you a hypocrite? Finally, I hope you've seen the notices we've published this month inviting members of the public to use our sites as a blogging platform. Consider this an invitation to blog for us.
Timothy May 11, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Thank you. I'll try to respond in the same order that you addressed the various points. 1. I was suggesting the disclaimer because whenever Mr. Parsons makes a comment, that little box with the stylized "P" in it automatically appears next to his name. And if you put your cursor on the box, you get the message "works for Patch". I thought you might want to clarify that Mr. Parsons is a "contributor" to Patch rather than an employee. If you're comfortable not having one, that's certainly up to you. 2. With all sincerity, I think you can call someone a "hypocrite" without being abusive or harassing if they do, in fact, engage in hypocrisy. You're the journalist, but as I understand it "truth" is an absolute defense to libel. If someone lies and I call him a liar, is that abusive or harassing, or just truth? 3. You mention my "7:46" posting and say my implication was that Mr. Parsons's failure to disclose his background was in some way nefarious. You're absolutely right; I think he intentionally neglected to provide information about his background because he doesn't want his past words, positions and actions brought up to refute the words, positions and actions he engages in now. I'll avoid the word hypocrite in deference to you, and simply say that Mr. Parsons is notably "inconsistent" in his public statements. I'll have to continue this in another posting...
Timothy May 11, 2011 at 02:51 PM
4. You say that Mr. Parsons has posted a synopsis of his life work, and you are certainly correct. He did so right AFTER I pointed out that he had not done so. I believe you said the reason you asked mr. Parsons to write opinion pieces for Patch was because of his background. I take that to mean you feel his background is at least part of what qualifies him to be a "contributor" who "works for Patch". And if his background is part of what qualifies him, shouldn't we know about it? You tell me that the failure to post background information about Mr. Parsons was an oversight, and I am quite willing to accept that...from you. And if I hadn't pointed out the oversight, it would still be "overlooked". 5. You say that throughout this debate I have "remained anonymous" and ask whether I am a hypocrite. I'm not sure I follow the reasoning there, but your premise is just wrong. I have not remained anonymous: my name is "Timothy". If you have any doubt, please send an e-mail to me at the address I was required to give when I signed up for Patch and we can arrange for me to show you my drivers license. The only restriction I place is that my personal information remain confidential with you. And that restriction would have to stay in place until Patch adopts a policy of requiring each poster (Not contributor, just poster) to submit proof of identity and allow disclosure of personal info. We can start with "Mark", whose comments you do not seem to feel are harassing, etc. More...
Timothy May 11, 2011 at 03:09 PM
6. I had not seen the notices you mentioned. Thank you for the invitation, but I would prefer not to emulate Mr. Parsons. It has no appeal to me. If I want to express my views, I can do so through the comments sections when something strikes my interest. I hope you have noticed that the only comments I have posted anywhere on Patch have been in response to this one "opinion" piece by Mr. Parsons. Contrary to the implication that I think has been raised by Mr. Parsons and his "chorus", I am not someone who generally picks fights or engages in what I believe are called "flame wars". But I take strong exception to Mr. Parsons words and have exercised my right to speak, just as he has done. If Patch feels that I have been out of line, I invite YOU to ban ME from the comment sections. I hope I have covered everything to your satisfaction. If I have OVERLOOKED anything, please feel free to call it to my attention. I think I'm about to run out of room again. Any chance you pay by the word?
Timothy May 12, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Sure has gotten quiet all of a sudden. During the interlude I thought I'd toss in a few facts. Not opinions; just facts. Mr. Parsons joined Patch on March 4 and has submitted at least one lengthy "opinion" piece every week since then. And I won't even attempt to count the number of extended comments he's posted overall; I count six on this page alone. And he posted what Mr. Tallman called "a synopsis of his work life". But Mr. Parsons says he hasn't had time to post information about his background similar to that posted by other "contributors". I just checked; still no biographical information on the appropriate page. Thnx
Timothy May 13, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Just wanted to point out that it is almost time for Mr. Parsons to post his next weekly opinion piece. And there is still no background info about him posted. I hope I didn't scare him off. I guess if he posts another opinion piece I'll just have to pick up in the comments section for it. First thing out, I'll ask him why he had enough time to write another opinion, but not enough time to finish the biographical info he said he was working on and hoped to finish soon. That was three days ago. (I assume Patch will let me know if they think I've crossed the line.) I'm REALLY looking forward to responding to what Mr. Parsons posts.
Jim Coyle May 15, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Maybe this would be a good time to have a community discussion of the need for a change in our country government structure. Given that the County operates like our federal government with competing government elements, Executive, Legislature, States' Attorney, and the school System where each can pass the buck (accountability) onto others. How about consideration of a return to the County Manager system where the County Council would have to be the final decider of all policies and budgets? "Passing the buck" would be allowed especially allowing the County schools to avoid accountability for its budget. A Council-manager form is the purest corporate structure for a local government. A Board of Directors (Council) would hire the CEO (manager) and then be responsible for eveything that happens. Wouldn't that be nice for a change instead of finger pointing!
Jim Coyle May 15, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Correction: "passing the buck would "not" be allowed
Sharon May 15, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Well expressed, Jim! I agree with you. But having worked for the Federal government (and now happily retired & far enough away and removed from the insanity), I will say that Uncle Sam would have preferred for you to use the overused (and abused) key word 'delegate' rather than "pass the buck". LOL!
ilkunta July 09, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Back on topic! Ike isnt going run again bc he will loose. He cut library funding yet there was $65,225 for his overpriced private bathroom. Why does he need a 4 person security team (which is costing us $360,000 bc each earns $90,000)...who is after him? He isnt first Afr Am POTUS Barack Obama! Ike also tried to instill fear in MoCo residents by saying if ambulance fees fail there will be budget shortfall. There was already $300 million budget shorfall! Ike needs to take a pay cut. He has $ saved up so he doesnt need the $158,464 do he? Every little bit helps.
Jim Coyle July 09, 2011 at 10:23 PM
What a bunch of cheap shots against the County Executive. Like Obama, he inherited an out of control budget and has worked diligently to get things under control. Fortunately and finally, the County Council followed his lead in trying to start a process to modify the budget. You don't turn a battleship around on a dime. Lets give him the credit he deserves.
Don O'Neill July 12, 2011 at 03:28 PM
People like to toss around the term "civility" as if it is commonly understood by everyone. My definition of "civility" is "sacrifices one makes for others". Message to Bob Hydorn: If a person chooses to share comments under a pseudonym for privacy reasons, cut the person some slack. That would be an act of civility.

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