Fenty Fills Another Key Cabinet Position

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Mayoral nominee Adrian Fenty has decided on two major Cabinet choices since he won the Democratic primary three weeks ago, moving as briskly to prepare to govern as he moved around town knocking on doors during the campaign.

Fenty's announcement yesterday that he would pick Metro's interim general manager, Dan Tangherlini, to be city administrator came two weeks after he said he would nominate Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi to another five-year term. Fenty has also said he is strongly considering launching a takeover bid of the city's failing public schools, and he has met with Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, of whom Fenty has been critical.

Although Fenty is virtually assured of victory in the largely Democratic city, he still must win the November general election and be sworn in before he can officially hire a Cabinet.

Nevertheless, Fenty emerged from the John A. Wilson Building yesterday morning and introduced Tangherlini as the man who would help him run the District government. After talking about their common visions, enthusiasm and energy, the two disappeared into city hall to discuss transition plans. By last evening, Fenty and Tangherlini were reviewing a list of D.C. agency directors together.

Some District stakeholders, including the Greater Washington Board of Trade, praised Fenty's action yesterday, but others, including some community activists, expressed caution.

Iris Toyer, head of Parents United for D.C. Public Schools, said she wonders if Fenty is thoroughly considering all possible candidates.

"He's going at lightning speed," Toyer said. "I'm not necessarily concerned it's too fast, but whoever is advising him, I want to make sure they are really talking to a wide range of candidates."

Fenty, 35, said he won't name his entire Cabinet before the Nov. 7 general election, but he noted that he will consider hiring people for open jobs -- such as the city's attorney general position, which is being vacated by Robert J. Spagnoletti. Naming Tangherlini and Gandhi early, Fenty said, was intended to shore up key positions that would help him get off to a fast start.

"If you have top-shelf talent and you do not go after them, I would be derelict in my promise to voters," Fenty said.

Tangherlini, 39, who oversaw the District's transportation department for six years before joining Metro this year, said it was a difficult decision to pull out of the running for a permanent Metro general manager. He was scheduled to interview with Metro's board this week. He would earn $195,000 as city administrator; he is making $235,000 as Metro's interim head.

"More work, more responsibility, less money," said Tangherlini, who is married with two children. "But I really believed this is an opportunity to make more of a difference in more people's lives."

Fenty's pace has not been lost on Tangherlini. In an unusual move, Fenty and Tangherlini exchanged letters in which both commit to join forces.

Louise Renne, a lawyer who headed the transition team of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2003, said it is not unusual for mayoral nominees who know they probably will win to talk about potential members of their administration before the general election.

But, Renne said, this was the first time she had heard of an exchange of written promises.

"In some ways, it's actually a good thing to know who an executive is going to appoint to various positions," Renne said. "I have to say, I've never heard of formal letters being exchanged. . . . I guess you need a team of lawyers to tell you whether they are worth anything" in a legal sense.

Fenty is moving faster than Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) did in 1998, said Gregory McCarthy, who worked for the mayor for seven years. McCarthy said Williams did not name his Cabinet until after he took office in January 1999, but he said that Fenty is smart to move quickly. Fenty also is getting help from Williams, who has agreed to include Fenty in budget discussions and to share with him weekly briefing materials about contracting and personnel issues.

James C. Dinegar, president and chief executive of the Board of Trade, said Fenty is prioritizing the most critical departments.

"His sense of urgency is appropriate in issues that matter," Dinegar said. "He seems to us to be targeting schools, public safety and accountability to run a city like a business. Time is of the essence in all of them."

Tangherlini's contract with Metro runs through Feb. 15, but Fenty said that they will try to negotiate an earlier exit and that the two will be talking daily.

"He will be involved with every agency, every decision under my direct authority," Fenty said. "Dan is an ideas man. He knows the city government, and he will challenge the bureaucracy and the old ways of doing things."

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