John L. Menke, the current president of the all-Democratic Montgomery County Council, said last week that he has no intention of running for another term on the Council.
"The thought of another four years just doesn't turn me on," said Menke, a Council member since 1974. "If I see my interests are shifting in another direction, I want to follow them."
The other direction may be that of county executive, according to menke, who said that he is seriously considering running in 1978 for the position, now held by Republican James P. Gleason.
Appraising his time on the Council, Menke said, "I really enjoyed it - I'm serious. It's been a very satisfying kind of thing."
But now, Menke explained, he wants to have more effect on the inner wheels of government.
"I've become interested in making the darn thing work," he said. "I've found a lot of my work on the Council has been on the relations between the county and agencies."
Menke cited asbestos pollution and the water crisis as problems that the Council helped play a role in solving. Menke has his own ideas on how to affect relations among groups and agencies in the county - ideas that he said he could best implement as county executive.
"One example," he remarked. "I'm not being critical of the county executive, but Jim (Gleason) withdrew from the big seven - seven of the larger Maryland counties that were pressing for state legislation. We have not participated since that. The Council disagreed with that move."
Or take rent control, he said, "I know I've upset both sides," Menke said, referring to his recently introduced bill on rent control that would, if approved, replace soon-to-expire mandatory rent controls with voluntary guidelines for landlords and a list of rights for tenants. "But what I've tried to do in legislation is take a fresher look. Is there a way in between both sides?"
Menke said he has no qualms about his ability to be county executive. "I don't think there's any question that I'm a viable candidate." But he is not, he said, a "classical politician."
"I've not come out of a typical party structure," he explained. "You know- when you're ready to run, someone in the party anoints you." Menke said he is considering running because there are things he is interested in doing. "So I want to find out what the party is doing. Will there be a primary in which major issues are discussed?" he asked, adding, "I would be much better running on issues."
Menke's political career began in 1972 when the Barnesville resident organized his fellow up-county residents to protest a proposed sewage treatment plant at Dickerson and a related expansion of the Potomac Electric Power Co. generating plant there. Two years later, Menke, who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York with a degree in physics, quit his National Brueau of Standards job as a nuclear engineer and ran for the County Council. He won his atlarge seat that year at the age of 34.
If Menke does decide to run - after finding sources of money and after numerous talks with county residents who belong to such groups as the Men's Republican Club and the Montgomery County Taxpayers League - he will not announce his decision until a new Council president is picked in early December. He said he expects current Council vice-president Elizabeth Scull to take the position next.
"I've tried very hard as president of the Council to not push my position as president of the Council," he explained. When asked if he would make a decision in December, he hesitated, saying he just didn't know. "You kind of grow into these decisions," Menke said.