Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett, D.C. Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray and Mayor William E. Euille of Alexandria, Va., are four men with a lot in common. First and foremost, they are all African American and secondly, collectively, they represent jurisdictions that are connected to each other in the most powerful region in the world. Baker, who was sworn in on Mon., Dec. 6, is new to his role as the leader of the most affluent and well-educated African American county in the country. He joins Isaiah “Ike” Leggett, who was sworn in on the same day for a second term in one of the nation’s most affluent counties that is quickly growing more economically and ethnically diverse. In January 2011, Mayor-elect Gray will become the sixth African American elected mayor of the District of Columbia since Home Rule was established in 1973. Formerly known as Chocolate City due to its majority African American population, he will become the political leader of a whiter, younger and wealthier constituency struggling to coexist among long-time Washingtonians in communities across the city. And in Alexandria, Mayor Euille, who is serving in his second term, is also working with diverse constituencies in one of Virginia’s most historic districts.
With these officials in office and President Barack Obama in the White House, there is an expectation that there will be greater opportunities for African Americans who live and work throughout the area. Homeownership, employment, small business development and contracting, education and an overall improved quality of living for African Americans is what voters hoped for when they elected these individuals to office.
These local leaders are not just linked by the beltway where a vast majority of their constituents are commuters traveling from one jurisdiction to the other to work, shop or for recreation. They are also connected by the challenges they face of having to manage shrinking budgets of nearly $15 billion combined, to address the shared needs and expectations of their constituents.
So, it was an inspiring and positive sign to know that Baker and Gray met recently to begin a process of mutual cooperation on ways to address the region’s growing challenges across borders. Now, it is time for Leggett and Euille to be invited to the table, as well.