Montgomery County executive candidate Neal Potter, hoping to assuage the jitters of business leaders uneasy with his candidacy, has lined up a former county official who is now vice president of a development firm to manage day-to-day government administration.
William Hussmann, who was chief administrative officer in the administration of County Executive James Gleason, is Potter's top choice for the job, according to sources close to Potter.
Potter confirmed that Hussmann is high on his list and said he would make an announcement next week.
Hussmann, 55, vice president of the Hallowell Corp., said he would not infringe on Potter's prerogative to make the announcement. But, he said, he and Potter have had serious discussions about the job and that he has gone so far as to discuss with his present employer the possibility of leaving.
"Bill is an extremely intelligent and organized man . . . he has a great reputation," said Robert Metz, a development attorney who has been a critic of Potter. Metz heads a business political action committee that is considering which candidate to endorse in the Nov. 6 election.
Metz wants to back the write-in effort of incumbent Sidney Kramer -- who lost to Potter in the Democratic primary -- but there is some dissent from group members who think it wiser to stay neutral. The Republican candidate is Albert Ceccone, a Chevy Chase businessman.
Potter campaign advisers have been torn over whether he should publicize his likely government decisions for fear of seeming presumptuous. However, in recent days Potter has been placed on the defensive by criticism of his tax and business views.
Mercade Cramer, president of the Vitro Corp., released a letter he sent to Gov. William Donald Schaefer expressing concern about Montgomery's business climate if Potter is elected, and he claimed other top employers in the county share his worries.
Potter supporters hope that the choice of Hussmann, a former Rockville planning director who also served as chief administrative officer in Prince George's County, will ease those fears.
Business leaders, while praising Hussmann, noted that the job of chief administrative officer is one of day-to-day managing, and said their worries about Potter have to do with policy, such as his support of new taxes on business and developers.
"Neal has a basic philosophy that is anti-business. He is not going to change. He hasn't changed in 20 years. That is what concerns me," said Metz, who is a Republican.
Potter, who denies being anti-business, has continued his outreach to business leaders. Nathan Landow, state Democratic Party chairman and a prominent developer, hosted a $250-per-person fund-raiser for Potter Wednesday night, which drew such stalwarts in the business community as developer Morton Funger and Barry Scher, an official with Giant Foods. Both had backed Kramer.
The event raised about $10,000, said Potter finance chairman Denise Hill. She said Potter has placed a $250 limit per family on contributions from special development interests.
Some civic activists, who were Potter's strongest backers in the primary, have criticized him for his involvement with the development community but they say they still support him in November. "Given the choice, Neal is the choice -- absolutely no question," said Margaret Erickson, who chairs a citizens' political action committee.