Rose Crenca relinquished the presidency of the Montgomery County Council to Michael L. Subin yesterday after her one-year term as the council's leader. But in an emotional speech taking herself out of a possible race for Congress, Crenca described the council as the place she needs to be for the remaining three years of her council term.
"I don't want to run for Congress. I want to be right here . . . where the action is," Crenca told a standing-room-only audience that packed the council chambers for its annual election of officers.
Crenca, a popular three-term council member, had been lobbied heavily in recent weeks by leading Democratic officials to mount a challenge to Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Republican serving her first term from the 8th Congressional District, which covers Montgomery County.
Crenca said she was flattered to have been courted and thinks that Morella, widely viewed as a formidable opponent, can be defeated. Crenca said much of what she is interested in accomplishing lies at the council level, and cited the planned downtown redevelopment of her home town, Silver Spring.
Crenca's speech -- full of quotes from Shakespeare, motherly-type admonitions to her male council colleagues, humorous jabs at herself and some voice-breaking moments of emotion -- set a generally jovial tone for the meeting. But a bitter note was sounded by Neal Potter, 72, the council's senior member and elder statesman, who objected to what he called the closed process used to select the council's officers.
Potter noted that this year's officers were decided last year after the new council was elected and some members fashioned a plan to rotate the positions among themselves for four years. Potter, calling for an "open Democratic process," abstained as Subin, 38, a first-term council member from Gaithersburg, was elected president. Michael L. Gudis was voted vice president and William E. Hanna Jr. was elected president pro tem.
All seven members of the council should be involved in the annual process, said Potter, as he made clear he was not objecting to any of the candidates.
Crenca countered that any council member was free to nominate anyone.
The council offices are largely ceremonial, although the president is able to control the agenda and, by virtue of running meetings, is placed more in the public eye. The president is paid $47,300 a year, compared with $43,000 for council members.
Subin is the first president in recent memory from Montgomery's rapidly growing upper county. He headed the Education Committee and has emerged as a strong ally of County Executive Sidney Kramer. Until October, Subin had worked as a public policy analyst for Tracor Inc., but his job was eliminated in a reorganization.
In other business yesterday, the council was brought up to date on AIDS in the county.
County Health Officer Martin Wasserman estimated the county was spending $1 million a year to combat AIDS, mainly in education, patient support services and testing and counseling. He said his department would be requesting a larger budget next year but said it was too soon to discuss exact amounts.