Ronald V. Russell, former Pr. George's council chairman and county administrator, dies at 51

Ronald V. Russell
Ronald V. Russell (Gerald Martineau/the Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 8:27 PM

Ronald V. Russell, a former chairman of the Prince George's County Council who went on to serve in the administration of former county executive Jack Johnson, died Sunday at Montgomery General Hospital in Olney of a heart attack. He was 51.

Mr. Russell represented District 6 in the county from 1994 until 2002, when term limits forced him to leave office. He served as chairman twice, in 1998 and 2001.

He also chaired the land use and zoning committee and was known for his outspoken concern about managing development in fast-growing Prince George's. He headed the council that created Commission 2000, a group charged with recommending growth-management strategies and legislation.

In 1996, Mr. Russell was one of two council members to vote against approving the construction of the new FedEx Field in Landover. He cited concern that roads wouldn't be able to handle traffic drawn by the new stadium.

"He wanted to make sure that community folks had a voice when it came to development," said Michael Arrington, a cousin of Mr. Russell's and a former state delegate who in recent years has worked as a lobbyist in Prince George's. "Those who chose to develop within his community knew that they had to work to win over the community."

Mr. Russell also pushed for new school construction to relieve overcrowded classrooms and supported restrictions on building in areas with overenrolled schools. He was instrumental in the establishment of schools with adjacent recreational facilities, such as Upper Marlboro's Perrywood Elementary next door to the Largo/Kettering/Perrywood Community Center.

He briefly ran for county executive in 2002 but abandoned his bid and threw his support to Johnson. Johnson, who won the election and served two four-year terms as county executive, hired Mr. Russell as a consultant on issues that included development, school construction and zoning.

In 2004, Mr. Russell became deputy director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources. He also served as the county's coordinator for the National Harbor project.

Several months before Prince George's County was rocked by Johnson's arrest in November on charges of tampering with evidence in a probe of allegedly corrupt land deals, Mr. Russell left the Environmental Resources Department and became vice president of strategic planning at Dimensions Healthcare Systems in Prince George's.

Ronald Vincent Russell was born Sept. 7, 1959, in Bethesda. He grew up mostly in Seat Pleasant and graduated from Bladensburg High School.

He graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park and worked for Prince George's County as a budget analyst before he was elected to public office.

Survivors include his wife, Annette Douglas Russell of Mitchellville; two daughters, Lauren Russell of College Park and Ashley Russell of Mitchellville; his mother, Mary Russell of Seat Pleasant; two brothers, the Rev. Charles Russell of Bowie and the Rev. David Russell of Brandywine; and two sisters, Teresa Russell of Upper Marlboro and Evelyn Russell Cole of Kathleen, Ga.

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