Saipan {heart} Doug Dixon, Uh, Duncan

By Marc Fisher
Thursday, June 1, 2006

In politics, you never know where you might find new friends. Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, for instance, turns out to be a pretty popular guy on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, about 7,770 miles from Rockville.

Who knew?

As The Washington Post reported last week, while Duncan was busy planning the new Strathmore concert hall and pushing for construction of the intercounty connector, five business people in Saipan were so taken with this man's achievements that they felt compelled to send him buckets of their hard-earned dollars. Duncan pulled in $20,000 from Saipan.

Frankly, I'm impressed. So I figured the folks in Saipan would be thrilled to hear the latest news. I got John Pangelinan, who wrote Duncan a check for $4,000 back in 1999, on his cell.

You're not gonna believe what Doug's done now, I said. They're really, finally going to build the intercounty connector!

"Intercounty what?" Pangelinan said.

Oh, we had a laugh about that! Goodness, I said, can you imagine being able to speed from Gaithersburg to Laurel lickety-split? No more Norbeck Road tie-ups, right?

"I've never been to Montgomery County," said Pangelinan, who not only owns Bobbie's Amusement, a mom-and-pop coffee shop on the island but also is publisher of the Saipan Tribune, a newspaper that reaches more than 2,000 of the island's 7,000 residents.

Hey, I know what you mean, pal. Sometimes when you're visiting Washington, it's hard to know when you've crossed from one jurisdiction to another. But as soon as you hit Montgomery, you know it. You can't miss those gleaming new buildings housing all those biotech companies Duncan has lured and those fancy new shops in Chevy Chase.

"I really was not aware of this Dixon," Pangelinan said. "Is it Duncan? What is he, the county clerk or something?"

Island humor! When you grow up on a small island, you wear a lot of hats -- coffee shop guy, newspaper publisher and island comedian, too.

So, I said to my new friend (he invited me to come see the beaches and the orange blossoms, which should be out any day now), take me back to 1999. How did you first fall for Duncan's infectious charisma? Was it the vision of the new town of Clarksburg, the exciting bustle of Rockville Pike?

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