Things are going to change in Rockville.
In addition to the departure of two of the top employees (the city manager and clerk), at least two newcomers will join the city council this year.
Two-term council member John Britton is not seeking re-election, and councilman Piotr Gajewski is looking to unseat incumbent Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio.
After they are sworn in, the mayor and four-member councilís first charge will be to hire a new city manager. After what much of the current mayor and council describe as a successful seven years as the cityís top administrator, Scott Ullery announced he would leave the job Dec. 2 — two years before his contract expires. With Rockvilleís strong city manager style of government, filling this job with a thoughtful, experienced individual is critical. Ullery says the next city manager will be tasked with addressing the financial condition of the cityís pension system and rising costs of employee health insurance.
Rockville will also need a clerk — a job often described as the face of the city — after this monthís departure of Glenda P. Evans, also leaving before her contract ends.
In the race for mayor, Gajewski and Marcuccio offer different leadership styles and distinctly different visions for one of Marylandís largest cities and the county seat.
Gajewski, 52, has the vision and understanding of the intricate relationships among key players in the county to move Rockville forward, especially during a time of transition among top city staff. The King Farm resident joined the city council in 2007 and has shown positive growth in his two terms. A couple of examples: his push for the cityís adoption of rules of order to govern meetings and his fight to preserve a tax credit for homeowners. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the music director and conductor of the National Philharmonic is accepting criticism and compromising with those who have different ideas.
He is dedicated to protecting the interests of Rockville as major county projects such as the Great Seneca Science Corrdior and White Flint creep just outside city limits. He also held firm to his opposition to the removal of the $100 homeowner credit by voting against recommending the budget for passage and then voting against the budget.
During her tenure, Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio brought a divisive, polarizing style of governance to Rockville, evidenced by 11th-hour attacks against Gajewski by her supporters. Itís not unreasonable to judge Marcuccio, 78, by some of the company she keeps and the city has become something of a sideshow in Montgomery County politics with her at the helm. This is evidenced by her failure to develop productive relationships with the county executive, public school system and others. Her opposition to the size of a relatively reasonable subsidy for Choice Hotels to relocate to the city was shortsighted and demonstrative of a politician who lacks political and business acumen.
Eight candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for the four council seats.
Incumbent councilman Mark Pierzchala is at the head of the pack. A College Gardens resident, Pierzchala, 59, is a statistician by trade and brings in-depth knowledge of budgeting and other fiscal issues. He is a strong voice for financial stability, encouraging growth in the business sector to shoulder a greater share of the tax burden.
John Hall, 47, who served on the city council from 2001 to 2005, should return. A NASA executive who co-authored the cityís Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, he is committed to preserving the growth-management tool. The Hungerford resident is well-prepared, having served as chairman for two terms on the Rockville City Traffic and Transportation Commission; as chairman of the Rockville Town Center Master Plan Transportation Committee; and a member of the Rockville City Commissions Committee.
Of the remaining candidates, Town Center resident Virginia Onley, 62, stands out as the most sincere. Onley, who was 408 votes shy of a seat on the city council in 2009, would bring a grassroots perspective and offer a voice for communities that have historically not been heard on the council. She has extensive experience on city boards and commissions since 1994. One caveat: she would have some heavy lifting to do to get up to speed on current city issues, such as the APFO.
While one-term incumbent Bridget Donnell Newton, 53, hasnít clearly shown vision or leadership in her term, she has a better grasp of the issues than when she was elected in 2009 and has grown as a politician. Newton has demonstrated that she understands governance is quite a different animal than making campaign promises and is not a bad choice to round out the council.
In editorial board interviews this fall, nearly every candidate spoke of the cityís need to improve relationships with Montgomery County and the county school system. Strong relationships are key, especially as economic challenges will plague governments nationwide. To bolster those relationships, it would be healthy for the city to examine the benefits and drawbacks of moving to staggered four-year terms for elected officials.
The polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.