Credit: Photos from Montgomery County

The Montgomery County Council has new leadership, with Tom Hucker moving up from vice president to president on Tuesday.

Hucker is inheriting the COVID-19 pandemic, a rocky budget for the county and several other issues as the new leader of the nine-member council.

Hucker was unanimously elected by the council on Tuesday. Council Member Gabe Albornoz was unanimously elected as vice president.

Former President Sidney Katz handed the torch to Hucker.

“This was a year of reimagining many things including public safety, education, the needs of our students and the demands on our workforce,” Katz wrote in a press release on Tuesday. “It is always difficult to challenge the status quo and even harder to change it, but change it we did.

“Some changes happened overnight, some took months and some have not yet been fully implemented. As we continue to adapt to our ‘new normal,’ it is my hope and firm belief that we will once again flourish.”

Hucker’s priorities for the next year lie with responding to the pandemic and recovering from the economic crisis.

“The twin crises that we’ve been grappling with all year are still at the top of our agenda and are going to dominate what we do in 2021,” he told Bethesda Beat in a phone interview Tuesday evening. “No one anticipated a pandemic like this and there’s been no manual to follow. We’ve been doing the best that we can.”

The next year will hopefully be a year of recovery, Hucker said, and turning the curve back down on coronavirus cases through the rest of the winter.

In the meantime, the council will need to step up to do everything it can for residents and businesses who have been affected by the pandemic, especially with a “completely dysfunctional federal response and insufficient state response,” he said.

“Some problems are avoidable and some problems are unavoidable, like the virus,” Hucker said. “We shouldn’t be forcing any small businesses to close when we have vast amounts of money in the state’s rainy day fund that has been squirreled away prudently for a rainy day just like this.”

The largest hurdle for the county is its need for more federal and state aid, Hucker said.

In addition to focusing on the pandemic, Hucker plans to focus on pressuring the state to complete the Purple Line light-rail project, increasing affordable housing to meet demand, responding to climate change and strengthening racial justice.

He also plans to keep emphasizing the need for more communication between the council and County Executive Marc Elrich — an issue brought up several times throughout the year.

“I have not been shy at giving advice to the county executive and his staff. I’m going to continue to be an advocate for the council and for a strong community,” Hucker said. “The executive is elected in his own right and he can take or reject any advice we give him. But, yeah, I’m a big believer in communicating clearly and often.”

Hucker said he and Katz have spoken about some of the issues the county will face in the next year, but haven’t had the chance to exchange advice about leading the council.

“Every day, there’s sort of a new crisis that comes up,” Hucker said.

Hucker was first elected to the council in 2014. He represents District 5 — the southeast and eastern portions of the county.

He serves on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and is vice chair of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

Prior to being elected to the council, Hucker worked as a nonprofit executive. He was elected as a delegate representing District 20 in the Maryland General Assembly in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.