With less than two weeks until the start of the 1985 General Assembly, the Montgomery County Council is scrambling to hire a lobbyist to represent its interests in Annapolis. There's just one hitch: No qualified candidate seems to want the job.
"It's a sad story and real disappointing," one council staff member said last week. "And the timing couldn't be worse."
County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist has his own lobbyist, as do executives of four other large Maryland counties and Baltimore City. But few county councils send representatives to the legislature.
Since October, the Montgomery council has advertised twice for someone to replace Patricia Billings, who was chosen from a field of four candidates in August 1983 to lobby legislators at their 1984 session.
Billings, a locally prominent Democrat, was hired to increase the council's then-negligible influence in Annapolis, but left the $30,000-a-year post after the session to take a job with a private trade association.
Since then, applicants to succeed Billings have been scarce. Only two candidates -- Carol Petzold, a Democratic Party activist who ran unsuccessfully for a House of Delegates seat in 1982, and Jesse Bogan, a Silver Spring consultant, applied for the job, officials said. The council rejected both but may reconsider the application of Petzold, who previously served as the county Board of Education's lobbyist in Annapolis, officials said.
Last week, Montgomery County's Contract Review Committee, which oversees all government contracts, waived legal advertising requirements and allowed the council to solicit applicants by telephone and by word of mouth, said committee Chairman Alastair McArthur, an aide to Gilchrist.
Under the terms of the waiver, the council must contact at least three people and submit its final choice to the review committee for approval, McArthur said.
Council member David L. Scull said few people applied for the lobbyist's job because the government's advertisements in local newspapers were "not noticed by the county activists."
Scull said the council needs its own lobbyist to advocate its position on issues on which the council and Gilchrist disagree. Last year, for instance, Billings lobbied heavily on legislation affecting Montgomery's ban on handgun ammunition sales. But the county executive's lobbyist did not because it was a law Gilchrist had not supported.
Other officials speculated that prospective applicants may have been put off by the fact that the 1985 legislature is shaping up as a relatively mundane session, with none of the dramatic debates over teacher pensions or crucial changes in state funding for schools and local services that marked last year's General Assembly.
Still, both the council lobbyist and Thomas B. Stone Jr., Gilchrist's new representative in Annapolis, are expected to battle in the forthcoming session for increases in state funding to community colleges, fire and rescue agencies, social services and education.
Council staff director Arthur W. Spengler said the lobbyist will be paid at most $20,000 for four months of work and probably will be appointed during the second week of January.
"We may not have somebody there on day one of the session, but hopefully that week," Spengler said.