Choice for Economic Development Post Left a Trail -- in The Post

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 11, 2007

Not only is Isiah Leggett's pick to lead the county's Department of Economic Development a whiz with forecasts and projections, but he's also a prolific writer of letters to the editor.

In the past five years, Pradeep Ganguly's missives to The Washington Post have defended his home town of Prince George's County and its political leader, County Executive Jack B. Johnson, who happens to be his former boss.

He took issue with The Post's endorsement of Rushern L. Baker III in the 2006 Democratic primary and said Johnson deserves credit for the county's "renaissance."

On the state level, Ganguly, 59, has advocated for legalizing slot machine gambling instead of raising taxes.

"While slots at the tracks are a winner, higher taxes are not. Polls indicate that most Marylanders favor legalizing slots, while most oppose higher taxes," he wrote in 2003. "Also, at a time when Maryland is trying to improve its 'business friendly' image, raising taxes sends the wrong message."

A year earlier, Ganguly objected to criticism in a Post column of former governor Parris Glendening's relationship with Jennifer Crawford, his onetime deputy chief of staff and now wife.

"When Crawford went on official trips, she was going as a high-ranking government official. To her credit, Crawford, now our first lady, resigned that high-paying government position before marrying the governor," he wrote. "To his credit, Glendening had the courage to pursue his beliefs and dreams, just like other open-minded people do. And he did so while following good governance principles."

Leggett's choice to take over the Finance Department from newly appointed Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine faces one of the first big tests of her new gig tomorrow. That's when Jennifer Barrett, acting director and chief operating officer, takes Leggett to New York to meet with the Big Three rating agencies: Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch. They will travel by train for the one-day visit, considered critical to the county's cost of borrowing.

Barrett, 46, predicted "stability and continuity," though she prefers to work behind the scenes. "It's been wonderful having Tim out front," she said after Leggett's announcement this week. "But I'll step back into that role."

Gabriel Albornoz was named as the director of the Department of Recreation. Albornoz, 31, is the former deputy director of the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers in Silver Spring.

Outside Leggett's news conference to introduce three new appointments, the appearance of a political player from the past had some of the dozens of department heads in attendance scratching their heads.

Leaning by a table of news releases was one of former county executive Douglas M. Duncan's special assistants, Jerry Pasternak. Was Pasternak coming back to join the Leggett administration? Dressed casually and carrying a cup of coffee, Pasternak said he was just in the neighborhood and decided to drop in for a few minutes.

New Champion for Transit

Advocates for building the Purple Line -- a Metro light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton -- have a new leader. After 11 years as president of Action Committee for Transit, Ben Ross is handing off the reins. Hans Riemer, the political director of Rock the Vote, has been nominated as the new president, and Ross will stay on as one of three vice presidents.

Riemer most recently was a County Council candidate in the District 5 Democratic primary contest to replace Tom Perez and was defeated by Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring).

A Home-Spun Start

Some politicians like big swearing-in ceremonies. Some prefer low-key affairs. Then there's Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy, who opted for a ceremony in his living room -- on a holiday.

McCarthy, 54, said Montgomery County Clerk Loretta E. Knight, offered to drop by his house on New Year's Day to give him the oath. McCarthy's relatives and a handful of supporters attended.

A public ceremony will be tomorrow at the courthouse to welcome him.

Staff writer Ernesto LondoƱo contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company