PRESS RELEASE: Current and Former Councilmembers, Former County Execs to Step Forward to Support Ike Leggett. Click here to find out more!

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"Anything Goes" Theatre Party and Fundraiser
    Musical: Anything Goes
    Date: Sunday, April 23, 2006
    Curtain: 2pm
    Reception to Follow
    RSVP by April 18, 2006
    Place: Olney Theatre Center
    Click above link for details,
       or contact
Nita Armstrong at:
       301-977-4216 or
       [email protected]
    Click here to download the
       invitation as a PDF file.
Meet and Greet that was Held at Ron and Kim Little's Home
    Photo Album
    Date: Mar. 18, 2006
African-American Dems pay homage to black officials
    Montgomery County Gazette
    Published: Mar. 1, 2006
Letter to the Honorable Montgomery County Delegation
    Date: Feb. 23, 2006
Leggett Goes After Waste
    Washington Post
    Published: Feb. 16, 2006
Letter to County Council President George Leventhal
    Date: Feb. 14, 2006
Save Our Sligo
    Photo Album
    Date: Feb. 7, 2006
Ike Around the County
    Photo Album
    Various Dates and Locations
Volunteers at the Olney

    Photo Album
    Date: Jan. 30, 2006
Martin Luther King Commemorative Event
    Washington Jewish Week
    Published: Jan. 26, 2006
Coffee Hosted by Carmen and Joe Camacho
    Photo Album
    Date: Jan. 24, 2006
Debate at Leisure World
    Photo Album
    Date: Jan. 12, 2006
District 20 Breakfast Club
    Photo Album
    Date: Dec 18, 2005
Montgomery College in Takoma Park
    Photo Album
    Date: Dec 10, 2005
Habitat for Humanity Groundbreaking
    Photo Album
    Date: Nov. 6, 2005
County Executive Candidate Supports ‘Balanced Growth’
    Montgomery County Gazette
    Published: Nov. 16, 2005
Current & Former Councilmembers, Former County Execs to Step Forward to Support Leggett
Press Release
    Released: Nov. 8, 2005
Anticipating Emergencies
     Article: See 'Press Releases'
Published here: Sept 22, 2005


Montgomery's Leggett: A Listening Legacy

1st African American Elected to Council Retires After 16 Years

By Michael H. Cottman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 26, 2002; Page B04

On the Montgomery County Council, it's known as the "Leggett Rule": If you have the votes, vote. If you don't have the votes, keep talking.

"I would seize the moment during a debate and talk until I had the votes," said Isiah Leggett, who retires today after 16 years as the first and only African American elected to the council.

But it's more than Leggett's ethnicity or legislative savvy that council colleagues say they will miss. They cite his patience, tenacity and ability to bring people together as qualities that have helped him compile an impressive record. It includes a tough clean water bill; creation of a county inspector general's position to investigate waste and fraud; and establishment of a people's counsel, who offers advice on zoning issues to residents and neighborhood organizations.

Leggett (D-At Large) also was instrumental in passing the county's "living wage" bill, intended to help the working poor by requiring most for-profit companies doing business with the county to pay their workers more than twice the federal minimum wage.

Above all, supporters say, his willingness to listen will be missed. "He taught me a very important lesson," said council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large). "Even if you disagree with people, meet with them, build relationships with people because you never know where they'll be on an issue."

Leggett, 58, a professor at Howard University School of Law, spent most of this year's political season encouraging members of minority groups to run for local and statewide office. He campaigned diligently for Thomas Perez, a civil rights lawyer who will be sworn in Dec. 2 as the first Latino elected to the council.

"He's irreplaceable," Perez said of Leggett. "He blazed a trail for so many candidates of color in Montgomery County, and his leadership is not just for people of color but for everyone."

If there is a sour note at the end for Leggett, it is the 2002 gubernatorial race. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend passed him over as a running mate in favor of Charles R. Larson, a retired four-star admiral and a Republican who changed his party affiliation only after Townsend recruited him for the Democratic ticket. Larson is white. Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. selected Michael Steele, GOP state party chairman and an African American.

Leggett's supporters fumed over Townsend's choice of Larson. And it left Leggett critical of the Democratic Party's commitment to African Americans.

"The Democratic Party cannot continue to take the African American constituency for granted," Leggett said. "They lost the race because they didn't get blacks out to vote."

He added: "The Republicans made an issue out of the fact that Democrats have not responded to African Americans on a statewide basis. The Democrats told us they'd do better down the line, but the Republicans -- and Steele -- are ready now."

Leggett won't be lieutenant governor come January, but he is still a long way from the three-room home in Louisiana where he grew up, one of 13 children. His father did odd jobs, he said, and his mother was a short-order cook.

He couldn't afford to enroll at Southern University in Baton Rouge and was turned down repeatedly for the university's work study program. He finally got a job helping maintain more than 100 acres around the campus. "But I decided then that I wouldn't cut anybody else's grass for the rest of my life unless it was on my own property," Leggett said. He now cuts the grass on his sprawling, six-acre Burtonsville yard. "It reminds me of my struggles in life."

One of the biggest came in 1992, when a former aide brought sexual harassment charges against him. A jury took only 90 minutes to dismiss the allegations, but the trial took a big personal toll and cost the county more than $700,000 in legal fees.

When Leggett leaves, the council will be without any African American members. Donell Peterman (D-Silver Spring), a black community activist appointed six months ago to fill an unexpired term, also will step down.

As Montgomery County becomes more diverse -- nearly 40 percent minority and with half of all Asian Americans and Latinos in Maryland -- minority representation on the council is essential, Leggett said. He said he plans to remain active by meeting regularly with members of the Montgomery County African American Democratic Club, a group of black professionals he organized to identify emerging political leaders, bring more black voters into the process and challenge elected officials to address the concerns of African Americans. Leggett said he believes minorities can be elected in Montgomery if they assemble a diverse coalition of supporters and do not limit their base to members of minority groups.

Leggett said he's not ruling out trying for higher office someday, but now it's time for him to move on. He has spread himself too thin, he said, between the council and his teaching duties at Howard.

"I never intended to stay this long," he said. "And it's time for new leadership."

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


  Authorized by Friends of Ike Leggett: Lawrence N. Rosenblum, Treasurer
  Copyright © 2005