William B. Amonett said he has learned in his three terms on the Prince George's County Council that it is seldom a good idea to step on another elected official's toes.
So when the rumors began to circulate two weeks ago that he already had the five solid votes necessary to succeed Floyd Wilson as chairman, he did a fine job of sidestepping questions on the issue.
He said later that he did not want to add to the discontent of other council members who wanted the job. In the end, vice chairwoman Jo Ann T. Bell, who hoped to get the job, helped make the vote for Amonett unanimous when she realized his selection was predetermined.
Settling conflicts among council members before his chairmanship began would not have been the best way to start his year as chairman, he said last week.
Amonett, 53, a bluff and congenial real estate appraiser from Brandywine, said he is hoping to solve more conflicts than he creates during 1985, a crucial pre-election year. All the four-year council posts are up for election in 1986.
"One of the things that immediately comes to mind is to try as a council to get all of the major controversial issues taken care of this year," said Amonett, who has not decided whether he will run to retain his seat at the end of this term.
He said 1986 will be "the wrong type of year to be addressing those issues. You don't get the best legislation . . . . "
Amonett said he expects the nine-member council to grapple with decisions about the Metro Green Line extension, the coming post-TRIM fiscal year budget and future comprehensive rezoning efforts affecting the county's development plans.
Amonett, who was born on a dairy farm in Boyceville, Wis., is an appraiser with the Marlow Heights firm of Glover and Associates. He belongs to several political, professional and fraternal organizations, and says he likes to fish when he gets the chance and also enjoys reading and traveling.
He and his wife Johanna, who works part-time as a secretary, have three daughters -- Jeanette, 26, Cathy, 25, and Lori, 22.
Amonett first ran for the council in 1974 against Republican incumbent Lucille Potts, and he defeated her when the county's Democratic powers placed his name on their slate.
Even then, Amonett said, he was interested in encouraging economic development and tourism opportunities for the county.
Amonett, who served twice as council chairman in the years before members were elected by district, says that while he is a fiscal conservative, he has more moderate views on issues affecting the elderly.
The parochialism that has resulted from district elections has meant a thornier job for the council chairman, Amonett said. The presence of nine members with nine separate regional agendas has cast the chairman in the role of the council's only unifying force, he said.
"I know I have voted for some projects during the current term that I did not necessarily believe in because I needed support for some of my local projects," Amonett said.
Previous chairman Floyd Wilson, Amonett's fellow council member for 10 years, said that Amonett has changed since his last election, which he won, 8,153 to 6,763, against Ella Ennis.
"I'd definitely define him as a conservative," Wilson said. " . . . He's turned around 180 degrees now since the last election."
Wilson described Amonett as a "good worker" who is well versed on issues.
Amonett said that he expects to get along reasonably well with County Executive Parris N. Glendening, continuing the generally cordial relationship they have had since running on the same tickets.
But Amonett added that Glendening may have unnecessarily harmed relations with the council in a recent speech by accusing council members of forging "an unhealthy alliance" with antidevelopment activists.
"That was a mistake," Amonett said last week. "The County Council as a group has been very pro-economic development."
The council's decisions to curtail or kill proposals such as Konterra and Brookefield, a planned community that was slated for Amonett's district, means that the council is in favor of planned development, not against all growth, he said. Amonett led the council charge against Brookefield and went along with colleague Frank Casula's plan to reject the bulk of the Konterra rezoning request.
"There are some people who have a total no-growth philosophy," he said. "I don't share that."
Glendening, who called Amonett's selection a "fine" choice, said that he and Amonett talked after the speech and they agreed that his words of criticism would have been more politic if they had been less harsh.
Glendening said that the speech he delivered to a receptive audience of county business people was intended to drive home his administration's pro-development point by criticizing those who had blocked developments such as Konterra.
But despite the strain between the council and the administration that followed Glendening's remarks, the executive predicted that the council's next year will be a smooth one.
"Political animals are such that we tend to pull our heads in as we come closer to an election," Glendening said.
Amonett said he expects to work well with Glendening's office. "We're going to have our fights and disagreements," he said. "But that's the way it should be."