Thomas Hamilton, the controversial director of the Montgomery County Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs (OLTA), said "the probability is 95 per cent" that he will run for the Montgomery County Council in the 1978 election.
"Whether it's as a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent, I haven't decided," he said during a phone interview last week. Hamilton said he would make a decision in the next four to six weeks.
In his four-year tenure as head of OLTA, Hamilton has managed to upset, by his own admission, tenants and landlords, as well as Frances Abrams, head of the department of environmental protection (DEP), and chief administrative officer William Hussmann. Hussmann most often mediates between Hamilton and Abrams, whose agency's functions have often overlapped those of OLTA.
However, Hamilton has also gathered a group of stalwart supporters, including both landlords and tenants, who spoke in his behalf at a recent public hearing on a transfer of OLTA to the jurisdiction of DEP, proposed by county executive James P. Gleason.
"Without any doubt I can get as many names as I want - 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 . . ." Hamilton said, referring to the petition of 3,000 names required by those candidates running as independents. "I've also received several commitments from people to fund my campaign."
Hamilton's big problem is waiting to see if Council members Norman Christeller and John Menke, the Council president, seek to hold onto their at-large seats on the Council. Hamilton said he respected them both immensely and would probably not try to run against either.
He also would not think of running for his Woodside district seat against Elizabeth Scull who presently holds it. "I think Mrs. Scull is so firmly entrenched in that district," Hamilton said, "that only an atom bomb could dislodge her."
Hamilton, who calls himself an independent, also said he was currently "talking to people" about which party affiliation, if any, he should seek. Hamilton spent a year and a half working as a rent research analyst for the Economic Stability Board of the Nixon administration before he was hired by Gleason in 1973 to head OLTA.
Hamilton earned his bachelor's degree in economics and accounting from Allegheny College in pennsylvania in 1967. He later got his master's degree in business administration from George Washington University.
"You have to understand that although Gleason is a Republican, and I head this office, that doesn't necessarily make me a Republican," explained Hamilton who says he is one of the few merit-based, as opposed to political-appointed, agency heads in the county government.
Hamilton said he mentioned his probable intention to run for a County Council seat to Geason who weeks ago Hamilton recalled that Gleason said nothing, but "he acted as though he was surprised," according to Hamilton. "He probably doesnt think I have an ice cube's chance in hell of winning," Halmiton summed up.
Despite his background, Hamilton said if he runs he's not going to dwell on rent control issues of on the controversy surrounding the proposed move of OLTA to DEP.
"I don't think that has anything to do with my decision," Hamilton said "I've been nurturing his decision for a couple of years now."
His concern, he said, is "good management of government. "I can see me adding my 10 years of experiecnce in housing to the County Council, he said. "How we're going to provide housing to the young people in this county, I don't know. Something's got to be done," he said, referring to the high cost of rentals in the county.