Montgomery County’s new procurement director, Ash Shetty, thinks it’s time for the county to streamline processes to make the department more friendly to businesses — a touchstone of County Executive Marc Elrich’s campaign platform to make county government more efficient.
Shetty, 39, was confirmed unanimously by the Montgomery County Council Tuesday as the next procurement director. He will oversee an office that is responsible for working with businesses to acquire goods and services and its dealings with contractors.
The county bought more than $1 billion in goods in services during fiscal 2018, which included everything from recycling materials to drug screening services.
Shetty, who is married to state delegate Emily Shetty, a Kensington Democrat, formerly worked at a number of private-sector management consulting firms, including the last nine years at Arlington, Virginia-based Gartner in a senior-level management position.
While being interviewed by County Council members, he said one of his goals as procurement director is to implement a color-coded procurement process map, where if a contractor is determined not to pose risks, they may skip some of the steps that contractors now follow. The concept is similar, he said, to the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, where select passengers may go through security without removing their shoes or other articles of clothing.
“At the end of the day, some of this comes down to better communication,” he said.
Shetty said he doesn’t want the office to attract more negative attention from the public than the overall positive role that the procurement office serves.
“When they [bidders] don’t succeed it’s very easy for them to give up. If somebody goes through the trouble to participate in our process, we owe it to them to come back again,” he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine said Shetty is ideal for the role because he has worked to oversee public-private partnerships.
“He has ideas for turning procurement from a frustrating bureaucracy into dollars better spent,” Kleine said.
Council members were enthusiastic about Shetty’s new outlook on the county’s approach to procurement.
“I spent a lot of time at the state level doing procurement… and I think the amount of times you talked about the lack of competition having a cost is encouraging,” said Council member Andrew Friedson, who previously worked in Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office as a senior policy adviser.
Council member Evan Glass said that he too understands the frustration that business owners have had with the procurement office, recalling difficulties he had as a small business owner where a contract was written in “cookie cutter design” where the terms couldn’t be modified.
“Thankfully we weren’t fully reliant on that for a full fiscal year. [The department] can’t operate that way, and there are real businesses operating outside of this scope that would love to work with the county but have given up,” he said.
Council member Hans Riemer also was complimentary during the interview, but has said he is worried that some of Elrich’s appointees to senior level positions lack the crucial element of prior experience in Montgomery County government.
Shetty will be paid a base salary of $190,000, which is the same as his predecessor Cherri Branson earned in 2018.
With Shetty’s confirmation Tuesday, Elrich still has a number of senior cabinet members yet to appoint.
Those include a replacement for Police Chief Tom Manger, who will retire in April, along with permanent directors for the departments of human resources, housing and community affairs, health and human services and libraries. Elrich also has yet to appoint special assistants to serve in his office.
Three of the positions Elrich has yet to appoint, the libraries, housing and HHS directors, are currently receiving applicants from across the country due to an executive search being performed by the Bethesda recruiting firm Krauthamer & Associates, which was hired by the county in December.
More than 50 have applied for each position, and are being interviewed, said partner Gregg Moser. Moser said the applicants live as far away as California.
“We’ve been looking for the best candidates and referral sources and that’s taken us to all these locations,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com