Bethesda Political Consultant, Civic Activist Keith Haller Dies
Haller remembered as a Montgomery County political junkie and champion of the nonprofit community
Keith Haller, the founder of the Bethesda polling and consulting firm Potomac Inc., who was active for decades in Montgomery County business, civic and political circles, died Tuesday.
His death, at age 70 of cancer, was reported Wednesday morning by Maryland Matters, a nonprofit and nonpartisan political website he co-founded.
Haller, of Rockville, was a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes, a Democrat who represented parts of Montgomery County for eight years.
“It’s a huge loss for the county and the community,” said Steve Silverman, a Silver Spring lobbyist and former Montgomery County Council member.
Silverman said he had known that Haller was ill since the summer, but that his death still comes as a shock. He said he first got to known Haller 25 years ago when they worked on several projects in the county. Silverman said that Haller had a “go big or go home” approach to development.
“He was the person who came up with big ideas. His philosophy was that you can always scale back and always scale up,” Silverman said.
Silverman also noted Haller’s early support for the planned Purple Line — a 16-mile light rail line that is to connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties by 2022.
“He helped shape the communications message to get it over the finish line. It’s a great legacy project,” Silverman said.
Maryland Matters co-founder and editor Josh Kurtz said he too felt some degree of shock Wednesday morning, despite the knowledge that Haller had cancer.
Kurtz said that he, Haller and Lou Peck (a contributing editor for Bethesda Magazine) began talking about the idea of launching a website dedicated to Maryland politics in 2014. They started it three years later.
“He’d [Haller] been thinking about doing something similar for many years. He was a news connoisseur and shared the opinion that Maryland and Montgomery County weren’t getting adequate coverage,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz said he got to know Haller in the 1990s when he was covering the county for The Gazette, a chain of weekly newspapers in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Frederick and Carroll counties which closed in 2015.
Haller was knowledgeable about political polling and advocacy, but also loved the arts, Kurtz said. He said Haller was involved in the nonprofit Fund for Montgomery, which sponsors the World of Montgomery festival each year at Montgomery College and celebrates the county’s diversity.
“You just look at a thousand different aspects of life in Montgomery County… he was active in the nonprofit world… he did political polling and political advocacy … he knew a million people and touched a million people,” Kurtz said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org