The Montgomery County Council yesterday unanimously elected David Lee Scull as its president, signaling the emergence of a new independent-minded majority to lead the council as it faces a number of difficult issues.
Before addressing the thorny question of county employe compensation -- a new report projects the cost of fringe benefit packages will grow by 104 percent by 1987 -- the all-Democratic council completed the more immediate business of electing its officers.
Esther P. Gelman was elected vice president after eight years on the council without holding an official leadership position. Gelman and Scull ran together on the "Merit Team" slate in the Democratic primary and pledged to make the council more assertive. That slate won a 4-to-3 council majority.
The "Merit Team"-controlled council then elected Mike Gudis as president pro tem, a position that has not been filled in recent years. Gudis' selection gives the "Merit Team" council members three official titles. The president pro tem presides when the president and vice president are both absent.
Scull said he looks "forward to a very harmonious and productive four years" and declared that the divisions of the Democratic primary campaign were over. He praised his predecessor as council president, Neal Potter, for his "steady hand" leading the council during the tumultuous election year.
The new council then turned to its regular business. Noting that pension programs and fringe benefits are claiming an increasingly large chunk of the county's budget, the council agreed to set up a task force to come back with a comprehensive list of options. Council members cautioned that the task force should be objective and not automatically assume that county employes are overpaid.
A new report by the Greater Washington Research Center shows Montgomery's fringe benefit liability growing by 104.3 percent by 1987, higher than that of every area jurisdiction except Alexandria. "Our rate of increase in fringe benefits might be catastrophic if we don't get at it," Potter said.