Correction:

A previous version of this article omitted Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice from those council members in attendance at the Tuesday gathering at which Valerie Ervin announced her resignation.

Valerie Ervin leaving Montgomery Council; plans to lead working-families nonprofit

Katherine Frey/Washington Post - FILE: Montgomery County Council members Mike Knapp and Valerie Ervin chat during a meeting Tuesday February 2. Ervin on Tuesday announcemed her resignation.

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Valerie Ervin, the first African American woman to serve on the Montgomery County Council, announced her resignation Tuesday to head a New York-based nonprofit group that promotes economic and social justice for low-income families.

The council will appoint a successor to fill her unexpired term after her departure becomes official early next month. It is expected that members will appoint a “caretaker” who will not compete for the seat in June’s Democratic primary.

epa04176175 Shane Red Hawk of the Sicangu Lakota band of the Rosebud Sioux (L) and his daughter Tshina Red Hawk (R) wait for tribal leaders with the 'Cowboy and Indian Alliance' to begin a horseback ride in protest of the Keystone XL Pipeline across from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, USA, 22 April 2014. The alliance of farmers, ranchers, and tribes has dubbed their week-long series of protests 'Reject and Protect.' EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

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Ervin’s exit means there will be at least two new faces on the nine-member council that takes office next December. Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) is running for county executive in the primary and is also not returning.

Ervin’s District 5 seat, which represents a swath of eastern Montgomery that includes Silver Spring, Takoma Park, White Oak and Burtonsville, is likely to attract wide interest. There are two announced candidates: Silver Spring activist and former CNN producer Evan Glass and Terrill North, a Takoma Park activist and former congressional staffer.

North had been running for an at-large seat but said Tuesday that he will try for the District 5 seat. Montgomery Planning Board member Casey Anderson confirmed Tuesday that he is considering a run. Other names that have circulated in political circles are Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery) and Board of Education President Christopher Barclay.

On Tuesday afternoon near the council chamber, friends and supporters gathered to hear Ervin’s resignation remarks and pay tribute to her record on behalf of low-income families, which includes a push to expand summer food programs for schoolchildren and job protections for janitorial and other building service workers when their buildings change contractors.

In her seven years on the council, Ervin, 56, rankled some colleagues with her blunt rhetoric and occasionally sharp elbows. Only three of the eight other members were at the noon gathering: Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Council President Craig Rice (D-Upcounty).

But others who clashed with her — including representatives from labor and the county’s state legislative delegation — did show up.

Just a few weeks ago, after County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he might veto a significant raise that the council approved for members taking office next year, Ervin called it “another Ike Leggett profile in courage” where he “put his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.”

But Leggett came to say he appreciated her candor. “She had no fear about praising me when she thought I should be praised and criticizing me when she thought I should be criticized,” Leggett said.

Ervin will become executive director of the Center for Working Families, the education and issue advocacy arm of the Working Families Party.

The party, which has recruited candidates and cross-endorsed nominees of other parties in New York, Connecticut and Oregon, is credited with helping Bill de Blasio (D) win last month’s New York mayoral race.

Ervin explored a 2014 run for county executive but reconsidered when it became clear that Leggett and former county executive Doug Duncan — two of the three announced candidates in the Democratic primary — were likely to enjoy overwhelming advantages in fundraising and name recognition.

She’s leaving the door wide open for an eventual return to public office, however, including a possible spot in state government if Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) wins the Maryland governorship next year. Ervin has been an early and enthusiastic supporter of Brown and his running mate, Howard county executive Ken Ulman.

“If the opportunity presented itself? Absolutely,” she said, adding that she will commute to New York and remain a Montgomery resident.

 
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