Homeland Security Chief To Lose Job In Overhaul

Gordon Aoyagi, who has worked for Montgomery County 23 years, took over the homeland security department after serving as county fire administrator.
Gordon Aoyagi, who has worked for Montgomery County 23 years, took over the homeland security department after serving as county fire administrator. (By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post)
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By Ann Marimow and Ernesto Londo¿o
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 28, 2008

Homeland security chief Gordon Aoyagi is planning to end his 23-year career with the county in the spring. Aoyagi's plans were inadvertently disclosed at County Executive Isiah Leggett's news conference last week to flesh out his reorganization of government departments and agencies.

The overhaul, which must be approved by the County Council, would create a separate Transportation Department and a General Services Department. The restructuring also calls for abolishing the Department of Homeland Security.

Leggett (D) said the changes would make government "more open, inviting, responsive and accountable."

The latter move begged the question of what would become of Aoyagi, 62, who watched the news conference from the front row of the county executive's conference room. Leggett was coy in response to a reporter's question: "Right now, he's not going anywhere."

After the news conference, Aoyagi elaborated. He led the committee that examined how to reorganize county departments and agencies. After studying other jurisdictions, Aoyagi said the committee listed among its recommendations establishing an Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security within the executive's office and making the Police Department responsible for building security and Leggett's protection.

"Why should I stand in the way of something that impacts all residents of Montgomery?" said Aoyagi, who does not have another job lined up.

The Homeland Security agency was created in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, environment by former then-County Executive Douglas M. Duncan to better coordinate the county's response to disasters. Aoyagi took over after serving as the county's fire administrator and earlier as an assistant chief administrative officer and chief of the county's transit services. Aoyagi was also in the running to become Leggett's chief administrative officer, a position held by Timothy Firestine.

The agency was not without critics. After a homeland security officer chastised public library patrons for viewing sexually-explicit material on the Internet, some County Council members questioned the role of the department.

"I'd probably advise the next county executive not to have a Department of Homeland Security," council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) said at the time. "We don't want them swaggering around trying to figure out whether Osama is in the house at the Little Falls library."

2 File for Praisner's Seat

Two Democratic candidates, Cary Lamari and Pat Ryan, are the first to file to run in the County Council District 4 special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Marilyn Praisner.

Lamari is a former president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation. He ran for one of four at-large seats on the council in 2006 and finished 11th out of 13 candidates.

Ryan, a federal government consultant, has worked on affordable housing issues as co-chair of Action in Montgomery and vice chair of the National Coalition for Homeless. He retired from the federal government after two decades of work on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and before that at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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