Temperature of Rockville Council Election Just Went Up

With Scott Ullery’s recent announcement that he’ll retire as City Manager in December, the temperature of the upcoming City Council elections just went up several degrees.  Hiring a City Manager is one of the most important decisions they can make and has both long-term and short-term implications.  We’ve been fortunate to have such a skilled administrator as Scott Ullery, who has been a calm and consistent force at the City despite the continual challenges that come into his office from all corners.  I’ve always found him to be ethical and fair, and while I know some people sought his removal, it’s usually because they’re trying to do something that doesn’t align with our city’s strategic plan, violates city codes, or requires Council approval.  It’s a thankless job because you are always subject to public criticism and you get a new set of bosses every two years (and the best city managers, like the best editors, are often invisible and let others get the credit).

Selecting the next City Manager will be a crucial responsibility for the next Council–and it’s not an easy job.  In my former hometown of Upland, California, we had a terrible series of City Managers during the past dozen years.  The first was censured by his own professional association for unethical behavior and the most recent for beating his girlfriend and trying squelch the police investigation (and he’s also under investigation by the FBI for bribery).  Nice.  It’s really spun that community downward and the only reason it hasn’t made national news is because of the even worse situations in the cities of Bell and Vernon.

Will the next Rockville City Council be up to the task?  I’m not even sure we’ll have enough candidates to fill all the seats.  The election is four months away and candidates have to submit their petitions in two months, and so far, the only people who have officially announced are:

Mayor (one seat):

Council (four seats):

We won’t know who’s running until there’s a public announcement or a petition is filed with the City Clerk, so unfortunately I still have to operate on rumors, which are swirling around Bridget Newton, Tom Moore, and Mark Pierzchala, but I suspect a couple others will appear.  If you know of a good leader in your neighborhood, urge them to consider running.   The next couple years will be tough and we’ll need all the help we can get.

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3 responses

  1. Max,
    You are correct. In our form of Council-manager government, the City Manager is our CEO. Rockville has been fortunate over the past 50+ years to have had excellent managers, mostly due to Rockville’s national reputation for being a great community and respectful of its City Managers. We have witnessed a bit of backsliding on respect for the CM on the current M & C; this next election will give us the opportu nity to indicate that this approach is not welcome. Excellent corporations do not criticize their CEO’s in public; they handle these matters in private when required.

  2. Max, thanks for this piece; it is informative as always.

    I can clear up one of your unanswered questions. I am running for Rockville City Council. I am collecting petition signatures, snappy logos are being drawn up, and I am preparing all six kids for a long, hot summer of door-to-door campaigning with me. All is going well, although the kids have a few calls in to the Maryland Department of Labor.

    You are correct that hiring a City Manager is one of the most important decisions the mayor and council make. The process has three major components:

    1. designing the scope;
    2. narrowing the candidates; and
    3. hiring.

    All three tasks should be left to the next council. Rockville is blessed with plenty of people who can ably step in as interim city manager.

    We should decide what we need from our next city manager in a full and vigorous debate among candidates and voters this fall, and then the new mayor and council should make the call. This is a critically important job; the hiring decision should not be a rush job.

  3. Max, Allow me to clarify my last post. Mayor Marcuccio and Councilmember Newton voted against extending the City Manager’s contract in a Council Meeting. Despite recent comments I have read in the Gazette about their support for Mr, Ullery, their action to cancel his contract, i.e. meaning firing him, set the stage for Mr. Ullery’s decision to retire. At her re-election announcement, Mayor Marcuccio was quoted as saying that the City Manager is going to be a campaign issue. So despite their recent rhetoric, actions do speak louder than words! Now the City will have to spend probably $60+K to recruit and hire a new CM. What an unnecessary waste of public funds! I hope the Rockville voter is apying attention to this disaster.

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