Leggett's inaugural ball raises money for Montgomery County arts

By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 8:26 PM

Halfway into his planned eight years as Montgomery County executive, Isiah Leggett is facing a budget shortfall of more than $300 million, contentious negotiations with public employee unions, and cuts to programs with committed constituencies, from public schools and libraries to services for the poor.

But as Leggett prepares to be sworn in Monday to his second - and, he says, final - term, the longtime law professor is continuing to approach his work atop the local government in the county of nearly a million people with the same steady, low-key style that has become his trademark. And despite the county's fiscal woes, Leggett is offering an optimistic take on what's to come.

In the Rockville Hilton's towering atrium, Leggett presided Sunday night over an inaugural ball set up to raise money for county arts and humanities programs. Guests in tuxedos and sequined gowns perused items up for silent auction, everything from a crystal necklace to baseball tickets.

"It's a challenge," Leggett said from the head of the receiving line. "But I'm really confident. I believe we have the resources, we have the leadership, we have the people who are committed to doing what's right, not only for today but for the long term."

But first, there was the arts fundraiser.

"People need something to feel good about," said Barbara Hammond, a volunteer. "They need a morale boost. They need to be able to smile at something."

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