Three of County Executive Marc Elrich’s appointees to his week-old administration were confirmed by the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday.
Recreation Director Robin Riley, Budget Director Rich Madaleno and Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine all offered a preview of their approach to governing.
Kleine, who was Baltimore City’s budget director for nearly a decade, introduced himself as a “good-government geek,” having studied outcome budgeting, which calls for allocating money to departments based on priorities of the county executive instead of basing the amount off of the previous year’s budget.
Kleine said he would focus on reducing the number of building code violations, and that he planned to create a list of “troubled properties” that were out of compliance. He also said funding for bus rapid transit, a project championed by Elrich, and encouraging the county’s five regional services centers to promote small business incubators are important.
Kleine later said that it is possible that more of Elrich’s appointees will receive lower base salaries than their predecessors under former County Executive Ike Leggett’s administration. Leggett’s budget director Jennifer Hughes, CAO Tim Firestine and recreation director, Gabe Albornoz, who is now a County Council member, all were paid least $12,000 more each year than Kleine, Madaleno and Riley are being paid.
“We want to offer competitive salaries but not excessive salaries,” Kleine said.
In 2019 Kleine will make $280,000, Madaleno will make $200,000 and Riley will make $170,000, according to council documents. In 2017, Firestine made $303,091, Hughes made $216,336 and Albornoz made $184,314 according to the county’s salary database.
At-large council member Evan Glass said he approved.
“I find it curious when department secretaries are paid more than cabinet secretaries for the United States,” he said. Most federal cabinet secretaries make just over $210,700.
Glass also asked what Kleine would do to help make up for the lack of women in county government, to which Kleine replied he had “a dozen or so” more appointments to make and that the public “will see more women sitting in these seats. I can promise you that.”
District 3 Council member Sidney Katz, who represent Rockville and Gaithersburg, told Kleine that he was impressed with the new CAO’s book, “City on the Line,” which he wrote earlier this year about his years in Baltimore.
“I don’t know that we’re necessarily going to change every part of what we do [but] I believe you’re the person that you can bring us to the next level,” Katz said.
Madaleno, a state senator, said that he would be committed to improving financial equity in the county. He also said he was open to the idea of putting the county on a two-year budget cycle, to allow for more discussion among county government staff and elected officials. The county currently operates on a one-year budget cycle.
He said he remembers using a similar strategy with Maryland’s university system while he was in the legislature so that he and others could have “robust conversations” with university presidents, which made for healthier debate.
Elrich, who was also present at Tuesday’s meeting, said he was open to that approach.
“I do expect my staff to support the executive’s budget, but we ought to have a discussion,” he said.
Council members told Madaleno that they hoped to see him increase transparency in the budgeting process. Council member Craig Rice, who represents upcounty areas such as Germantown and Clarksburg in District 2, said that Madaleno’s predecessor, Hughes, had a “challenge” when it came to forming relationships with the council, and communication was sometimes “adversarial.”
“How will you have good relationship that doesn’t create fear?” he asked.
Hughes said in response to Rice’s criticism that there were some council members she didn’t get along with, including George Leventhal. She said she didn’t remember having issues with Rice.
“I find it ironic that Craig is saying that now when I had very open communication,” she said.
Hughes said council members often don’t get along with the county executive’s budget director when there are disagreements between the council and county executive over the budget. She thinks Madaleno will likely also be at-odds with the council from time to time.
“Unless the executive doesn’t want his budget defended… I have no idea how other way you do that,” he said.
Madaleno, 53, said he was committed to transparency and open communication, falling back on his political experience.
“I think one thing that’s different about my resume… I’ve been an elected official and you have to foster relationships if you want to get anything done or get re-elected,” he said.
Riley pledged to work harder to keep recreation centers open between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to provide more after-school activities for students after at-large council member Will Jawando recounted an instance in which two children were not able to get into the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center in Burtonsville one afternoon because it was closed.
“We need to be open in those out of school hours, but it’s hard to balance when you have senior programs in the morning,” Riley said.
Riley said her department would use data on recreation center use to “help drive decisions” on how to allocate funding and resources.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com