Leggett, council take office in low-key ceremony
Montgomery County inauguration cost $5,000, compared with $100,000 in 2006
Montgomery County's elected leaders were sworn in Monday, but without much of the fanfare and expense that accompanied the event in the past.
Four years ago, the county spent $100,000 on the inauguration, which was held at the Strathmore live music venue in North Bethesda.
Monday's event was held at Rockville High School at a cost of $5,000, said Joseph Beach, the county's director of the Office of Management and Budget.
"We took a more bare-bones approach to the inauguration this year," he said.
About 600 people watched the new council and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) take the oath of office.
The council's two new members Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown and Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Silver Spring did not receive gifts as new council members have in the past. New members received paperweights four years ago.
Beach said the county also cut back on flowers at this year's ceremony. A few small potted flowers were placed on stage in the high school auditorium.
A modest gathering for county employees with punch and cookies was scheduled for 3 p.m. at the County Executive Office Building in Rockville.
"We just managed," Beach said. "We were very careful in what we spent."
The largest expenses appeared to be printed programs for the event, and shuttle bus service from two Rockville locations to the high school.
The new council's first meeting will be Tuesday, when members will discuss the county's structural budget deficit and begin deliberations on $36 million in mid-year cuts that Leggett proposed Thursday.
The cuts needed to help the county fill a $300 million budget shortfall include layoffs of more than 100 public safety employees and cuts to schools, social services and other areas.
"I didn't feel very celebratory," said Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, who was sworn in to his second term Monday.
His mind was on the county employees who might lose their jobs before or after the holidays, he said.
"It's hard to be excited right now," Elrich said.
The council's newest members, Riemer and Rice, said they have been preparing for weeks to make difficult decisions about the budget almost immediately after taking office.
Riemer said he has been meeting with the heads of employee unions and reviewing a county report on the government's structural budget deficit.
"I feel like I've got my feet firmly planted," he said.
Rice said he and Riemer have been receiving regular council briefings for two weeks.
"It's going to be a difficult time for the county," Rice said.