THE JOB comes without ruffles or flourishes, its term is short, and the special duties are largely ceremonial, but the presidency of the Montgomery County Council can be an important position of leadership when it's in responsible hands. Conversely, as Montgomery residents can remember from the not-too-distant past, the council presidency can be turned into a factional outpost for conventional warfare against the county executive or intramural battles between council cliques. A year ago, when council members tapped Rose Crenca for the job, the county -- and its all-Democratic winners -- had just emerged from the rubble of a singularly rough-and-tumble war between the forces of Sidney Kramer and David Scull for the top executive job. The council was something less than a legislative love feast, and no one really expected the new president to work any civic miracles.
But this week, when Mrs. Crenca relinquished the presidency to Michael Subin, she could look back on an exceptionally good job of leadership during a trying 12 months. Besides the usual full plate of issues to dissect, parboil, rehash and digest in the true Montgomery County tradition, one of the hottest items of the year had to do with Mrs. Crenca's own back yard: Silver Spring redevelopment. Studies were long and tempers were short, but Mrs. Crenca managed to steer along the council's deliberations with fairness and to reach her own conclusions, which -- no matter how she would come out on these questions -- were bound to infuriate at least one solid portion of her constituency.
Many of Mrs. Crenca's fellow Democrats in the county thought she would be a strong candidate next year for the congressional seat held by Republican Constance Morella. But on Tuesday, Mrs. Crenca said no, "I want to be here . . . where the action is," and where she has three years remaining on her council term. Much of what she seeks to accomplish lies at the council level, Mrs. Crenca noted, including future changes in downtown Silver Spring. If her accomplishments as council president are any measure of her contributions yet to come as a council member, Mrs. Crenca's passion for local government service should continue to enrich its proceedings.