Slow pace of Gray's transition worries officials

By Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 26, 2010

Less than six weeks before Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray assumes control of the District, he has yet to name a single agency head or indicate which members of the Fenty administration he plans to retain.

Gray's slow-to-start transition is reigniting fears about his career-long cautious decision-making style and raising concerns that he won't be fully prepared to take over from incumbent Adrian M. Fenty (D) on Jan. 2. Numerous officials inside and outside the District government say that they are having difficulty obtaining information from a transition team bogged down by meetings and confusion about who is in charge.

Gray (D) is heading into an intense period of work in his current job as council chairman, as talks on balancing a $188 million budget shortfall ratchet up in early December, and observers say he must step up the pace if he expects a smooth transition.

"We need a fully staffed government at the beginning of an administration," said Council member David A. Catania (I-At large), who remained neutral in the primary face-off between Gray and Fenty. "Times are too serious to have uncertainty at the top of the ranks.. . . What has been shared with the public so far suggests the transition is off to a somewhat slow start."

Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), said he plans to talk to Gray "to find out what is going on."

"The transition should have started a couple days after the primary, because it was a foregone conclusion he was going to be mayor," said Barry, a strong Gray backer and former mayor. "I get the impression that hasn't happened quite that way, and I am little concerned."

Barry said he fears that Gray may be getting so "much different advice from different people" that it's slowing the process of making appointments.

Although Catania and Barry said they are confident that Gray will rise to the challenge before the inauguration, the slow-moving transition offers a window into the differences between the incoming mayor and the man he easily defeated in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Gray said that his decision-making is measured but that it won't slow his ability to govern come January. "I think we're moving at our own pace," he said. "We're in this for four years. We want to make sure we get it right."

When to act

During their primary contest, Fenty portrayed Gray as someone who was too bureaucratic to govern a changing city, but Gray responded that although he likes to hear all sides before making a decision, he knows when it's time to act.

Fenty, who made getting things done "as fast as humanly possible" the mantra of his administration, relished his reputation as a fast-moving, hard-charging leader, even when he was criticized for reaching decisions too quickly and without consulting those affected by his moves. At this point in 2006, Fenty had named a chief of staff, attorney general, city administrator, police chief and deputy mayor for education, as well as reappointed Natwar Gandhi as chief financial officer.

Bill Lightfoot, who headed Fenty's transition team, said the early appointments were instrumental in allowing Fenty to push through school reform as soon as he entered office and to react to the kind of early crises that often test an administration.

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