Back in 1974 during the stormy development battles in Friendship Heights, Bethesda and Silver Spring, Montgomery Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson stood before group after group of citizens and business men, insisting on a compromise in their zoning tug of war.
The civic groups complained that the proposals would result in the "Manhattanization" of their neighborhoods, while the developers protested that the very same plans would drastically cut back on their rights to get the fullest value from their land.
Hanson held his ground. He was cheered and jeered.
Now, as he campaigns in a close three-way race for the Democratic nomination for Montgomery County executive, this contradictory reputation still trails him. Depending on whose backyard the board's decisions have intruded upon, Hanson's name evokes strong reactions.
His admirers call him "fair," "decisive," "brilliant" and marvelously witty," a tireless worker and a public official who leans over backwards for just solutions to the difficult development issues besetting the county.
His critics, however, say he is inflexible, cocky and too theoretical in his planning conclusions. His most strident critics - some developers and some anti-development citizens - believe he has at times ignored what they had to say.
"I am a forceful person," said Hanson, a tall man, who with his baldish head and large rectangular glasses looks the role of the professor he once was.
"I do have ideas," he said. "If after devoting 25 years of my life to government, I had no ideas, I wouldn't be worth the powder to blow me up."
The controversies Hansen has found himself in the midst of, as well as his two unsuccessful congressional campaigns and his leadership of the planning board have made him a household word in many parts of the county.
"Oh, are you still around?" asked one woman recently when she encountered Hanson campaigning on the streets of Silver Spring.
The candidate flashed his pleased-as-punch grin and commented later in his Oklahoma drawl, "Any politician carries with him any baggage he has. If you're going to worry about it, you'd better stay out of politics.The ordinary voter takes you on the basis of what you are."
What Hanson is, according to his supporters, is a man of proven executive experience in contrast to his opponents, State Sen. Charles Gilchrist, a legislator for four years and a tax lawyer, and council member John Menke, a physicist and one-term councilman.
After five years as the first fulltime chairman of the planning board, an agency with a $13-million budget, Hanson, his backers contend, has both the management skills and the intimate knowledge of local government that are needed in a time when the county's economy, government spending and spiraling taxes are crucial [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
To buttress his campaign slogan - "Hanson Makes Sense" - Hanson has aligned with a slate of four County Council candidates, including two[WORD ILLEGIBLE] Neal Potter and Esther Gelman. "What we have to offer is a generation of government experience," said Hanson. "This experience [WORD ILLEGIBLE] is the strongest thing we have going."
With Hanson, Gelman and Potter on the primary election ticket are Mable Gramba, a planning board member, and Mike Gudis, a businessman specializing in tax matters. Gudis is opposing incumbent council member Jane Ann Moore. This is the only full slate of council candidates in this primary election headed by a county executive candidate.
But the idea of a team makes some of Hanson's rivals soothe. They see it as the Intest example of the "eliguishness" they contend is abhorrent to their view of individualistic Democratic politics.
Hanson, however, argues that "the only way the government will work is if the executive and the council see eye-to-eye sufficiently . . . I'm the person who initiated this form of government in the county. I've watched the way it has developed and I am very much concerned about the way the executive office hasn't lived up to its potential."
Back in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] when he was 30 and a brash assistant professor of government and public administration at American University, Hanson raised the hackles of the older county leadership by crusading against the council-manager form of government, which he called an ineffectual "fantasy."
The same year the Committee for Fair Representation which he headed, initiated its drive to have the state's legislative districts redrawn to wrest control of Maryland's legislature from the rural interests that represented barely a third of the state's population.
By the end of the decade, Hanson had won these two battles. A six-year movement culminated in court-ordered "one man-one vote" redistricting. Also, the county charter commission, on which Hanson served as principal draftsman, had recommended and received voter approval of the council executive government.
But he had lost two other battles.
During the mid- [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Hanson's two tries for election to Congress - against former congressmen Charles McC. Mathias (now a senator) in 1964 and Gilbert Gude in 1966 - were unsuccessful. After the second defeat, Hanson became president of the Washington Center for Metropolitan Studies until his appointment to the planning board in 1971.
Now Hanson is seeking office again, answering the occasional barb that he is a 'born loser' with uncharacteristic, brevity. "It's life,' he said, "like being bald.
Hanson the candidate has plunged into campaigning with enormous vigor, darting from one prospective voter to the next on the street and in stores with giant strides, which, he says, came from hopping furrows in his youth on an Oklahoma farm.
In his campaign statements, Hanson has called for construction of the proposed cross-county freeway, once known as the "Outer Beltway," and for new moderately priced housing financed by county revenue bonds and for the revitalization of Silver Spring's business district.
He has condemned the Taxpayers League ballot referendum to roll back property taxes as a "meat-ax" approach to cost-cutting in government. But he said that if government programs must be cut, those for senior citizens, youth and the handicapped should be the last to go.
In his plans to hold down government expenditures, Hanson said any pay increases in pay or benefits for county employes would have to be "fully justified" by "demonstrated improvements in efficiency and productivity."
Campaigning is a task Hanson clearly enjoys - dancing with senior citizens, singing barbershop tunes with middle-aged men and reminding teachers (whose endorsement, he split with Gilchrist) that he was one of them for 17 years.
Nearly every two years since he was a teen-ager, Hanson has campaigned for somebody. The last time was in 1976 when he managed President Carter's campaign in Montgomery County.
Despite this training, Hanson announced for the race more than a year after his chief rival Gilchrist got a head start on contributions and party, civic and union endorsements. Hanson has raised $27,000 in contrast to Gilchrist's more than $35,000 and Menke's $20,000.