The sudden and dramatic realignment of the federal government requires us to rethink the traditional role of the county executive and the requirements of the job. It is clear that for the foreseeable future, the buck will stop in Rockville, not Washington.
Federal reductions-in-force are but one painful example. The economy of Montgomery--indeed, the county's well-being--is significantly affected by Washington. Past executives could assume a stable employment pattern for the federal work force living in the county. What was a reasonable assumption is now a dangerous assumption.
It is the responsibility of the county executive to be an advocate in Washington for the continuation of those legitimate relationships and commitments upon which our county relies.
When the public-sector employee suffers, we all suffer. It doesn't matter whether we are attorneys, doctors, teachers or policemen. It doesn't matter whether we build homes or serve the people living in those homes. We all have a stake in defending the continuity of relationships that have served this community and our nation well.
It is also the responsibility of the executive to address the great anxieties that reductions-in-force have generated among families. One new priority of the county executive is to assure the public sector employee that he or she is not being forgotten. Another is to prevent more dislocations in the work force. The county executive also should institute an emergency program, if needed, to facilitate rapid re-employment.
The role of the county executive in fiscal matters also will change. The diminution of the federal role in public affairs means less federal and state money for the county. At the same time, our local responsibilities will be increasing. The public believes taxes already are too high and that public spending is often promiscuous. There is some truth to both points.
If the county is to meet new responsibilities with fewer resources, the executive will have to become more of a budget analyst. The executive must build institutional checks into government, such as submitting existing county programs to systematic performance audits.
The state of Maryland has created a comprehensive system of performance audits that have identified waste and inefficiency and led to savings of many millions of dollars. A similar program could save the county millions and eliminate inefficient programs.