Marilyn J. Praisner
CIVIC ACTIVISM -- a wonk pastime in Montgomery County -- has always produced legions of plan-wielding, chart-bearing witnesses who revel in marathon public hearings. But for decades the champion go-to leader when it came to local expertise in matters Montgomery was County Council member Marilyn J. Praisner, who died Friday at 66. Her total immersion in the intricate mechanics of county government was a labor of love, laced with exceptional energy and a passion for public service. It wasn't that she always prevailed with superior arguments or because of her colleagues' reverence for her vast experience; on more than a few occasions, she would cast the lone vote for a position. But Mrs. Praisner enjoyed universal respect as a thoughtful, studious and informed legislator.
Not only was Mrs. Praisner the longest-serving woman on the council -- she was in her fifth four-year term, having served three of those years as vice president and three more as president -- she also served on Montgomery's school board during some of its stormiest years, working successfully to bring warring factions to acceptable compromises. In all of her roles, Mrs. Praisner's homework proved a valuable plus.
Early on, she signaled the importance of addressing growth in the county and the need to adjust it to the accompanying requirements of new schools, roads and transportation. While her initial advocacy of growth freezes may have exaggerated the degree to which growth should be tempered until facilities could catch up, she raised appropriate red flags for the council's consideration.
For all her attention to minute detail, Mrs. Praisner's contributions to the local scene were anything but narrow; she was a leader in regional approaches to government, vigorously pioneering support for Metro, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and interjurisdictional programs to improve the environment. Marilyn Praisner saw and understood the interdependence of the governments in this area, and her impact on the region is indelible.