Gray keeps five Fenty agency heads

By Mike DeBonis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2010; 9:03 PM

Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray moved Friday to keep key members of Adrian M. Fenty's administration in place, retaining agency heads in charge of city planning, garbage pickup and snow removal, motor vehicles and other high-profile government services.

Of seven administrators introduced by Gray (D) at a news conference, five currently hold their cabinet posts, and the two others hold lower-level government jobs. Gray introduced them as "seasoned public servants well versed in the inner workings" of the government. Each wore a lapel pin bearing Gray's "One City" campaign logo.

Harriet Tregoning will remain as city planning director, Gray announced. A Maryland cabinet official when Parris N. Glendening (D) was governor, Tregoning has been a stalwart advocate of easing zoning restrictions to allow higher-density development that takes advantage of public transportation and other non-automobile options.

Tregoning, who was closely identified with Fenty's vision for the city, had become a flash point for Gray. Well-organized "smart growth" supporters had called for her retention, while an influential planning and preservation group with some ties to Gray, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, had called for her ouster.

During Gray's time as chairman of the D.C. Council, he and Tregoning worked amicably through the politically sensitive process of developing more than a dozen "small-area plans" for neighborhoods. The relationship led to speculation that Tregoning might be considered for a deputy mayor position overseeing the city's economic development activities.

The promotion did not come through. But Tregoning said she would not have stayed on as planning director if she didn't have confidence in Gray.

"Anyone who serves at the pleasure of the mayor has a decision to make every day about whether they'll be able to do their job," she said. "I have no reason to be anything other than optimistic about a Gray administration."

To run the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs - a sprawling amalgam of agencies handling business licensing, building permits, professional certifications and more - Gray elevated Nicholas A. Majett. The longtime District employee now serves as the department's top deputy director, in charge of communications and customer service.

The department once was considered the center of District government dysfunction but generally is considered to have improved considerably under Fenty and his predecessor as mayor, Anthony A. Williams (D). Gray would not address why he had chosen not to retain the agency's current director, Linda K. Argo, saying he did not want to "draw comparisons" between her and Majett, who has been deputy director since 2006.

Majett said that he hoped to put a greater emphasis on the agency's regulatory functions. "Ms. Argo did a good job. I'll do a great job," he said.

The appointment is the only one announced Friday that will be subject to D.C. Council approval.

At the Department of Motor Vehicles, another once-ridiculed agency, Gray announced Lucinda M. Babers would stay on as director. Babers, the DMV's head since 2007, is credited with expanding services available to city drivers online, by mail and by phone.

Also remaining in their posts are Eric E. Richardson, director of the Office of Cable Television, and Soohyun "Julie" Koo, executive director of the Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.

Ronald R. Collins, currently assistant secretary of the D.C. Council, was named director of the Office of Boards and Commissions, returning to a job he held from 2002 to 2007 under Mayor Williams.

Gray also retained William O. Howland Jr. as public works director, where he oversees trash collection, street cleaning, graffiti removal and parking enforcement. Howland has held the job since 2004, making him the District's longest-tenured cabinet official.

The department's responsibilities also include snow removal, and the appointment came a day after an afternoon storm dropped about 11/2 inches on the city. Howland helped lead the response to last winter's historic storms that dropped several feet of snow.

Gray said he had complimented Howland on the state of the city's streets Friday and noted that he already had met with Howland and Allen Y. Lew, the incoming city administrator, to discuss snowstorm planning.

Howland said he did not mind the prospect of leading the city's snow-removal operations for years to come - "as long as it's not like last year."

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