Vincent Gray - close to the vest
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Vincent C. Gray will be sworn in as the District's mayor on Sunday after a bruising election in which he promised to continue school reform and reduce crime, just not in as brash or insular a manner as his predecessor, Adrian M. Fenty.
But over the past month, as he has put together his team and shown signs of how he will govern, Gray, 68, has revealed himself to be a lot like Fenty - but with a smile and genial disposition. Fenty, 39, was often criticized for keeping a counsel of one. Gray's circle of influence is also small - a handful of friends, family and supporters.
Close advisers say the new mayor is also known for looking inward.
"He is his own compass," said Lorraine Green, an Amtrak executive and confidante who is helping him build his administration. "He trusts his own judgment. He's 99 percent right."
Out of two dozen announced appointments to his Cabinet, seven are Fenty holdovers, including Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and school construction guru Allen Y. Lew, who will become city administrator. Four Cabinet picks are new to District government.
The selections were shrouded in secrecy, similar to Fenty's top picks. The initial falling-out between the two men, in fact, traces to the 2007 appointment of Michelle A. Rhee as chancellor. Gray found out around midnight, just hours before her introduction.
In similar fashion, two days before Gray announced that he would retain Lanier, he dined at Morton's steakhouse with Kris Baumann, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, which has criticized Lanier's tenure. Gray didn't say a word.
Similar points have been raised by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and the local firefighters union, which said they were not consulted, as promised, about the selection of the head of the Office of Human Rights or the new fire chief.
"Not only is he operating like Fenty, this is the kind of behavior he criticized Fenty for," Baumann said. "It's not just about feelings and making people feel good. What happened to all the promises?"
Gray said in an interview that he never promised constituencies and labor unions that he would wipe the administration clean of all Fenty appointments.
"I said from the very beginning that I wasn't going to turn everybody out," he said. "Ultimately you end up with a blend. You want people who won't have a learning curve and who understand the dynamics of the city. These are people we went after."
Setting a new course
Fenty die-hards, meanwhile, continue to criticize Gray's terminations of Fenty administration stars, such as transportation director Gabe Klein. With his push for bike lanes, streetcars and other methods of transportation, Klein promoted a more pedestrian-friendly capital. But bike lanes and streetcars, for some, symbolized gentrification and misplaced priorities while poverty and unemployment strangled many neighborhoods.