As he takes helm as mayor, D.C.’s anti-Fenty shows he also keeps his cir­cle tight

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY NIKITA STE­WART

Vin­cent C. Gray will be sworn in as the District’s mayor on Sun­day af­ter a bruis­ing elec­tion in which he promised to con­tinue school re­form and re­duce crime, just not in as brash or in­su­lar a man­ner as his pre­de­ces­sor, Adrian M. Fenty.

But over the past month, as he has put to­gether his team and shown signs of how he will gov­ern, Gray, 68, has re­vealed him­self to be a lot like Fenty — but with a smile and ge­nial dis­po­si­tion. Fenty, 39, was of­ten crit­i­cized for keep­ing a coun­sel of one. Gray’s cir­cle of in­flu­ence is also small — a hand­ful of friends, fam­ily and sup­port­ers.

Close ad­vis­ers say the new mayor is also known for look­ing in­ward.

“He is his own com­pass,” said Lor­raine Green, an Am­trak ex­ec­u­tive and con­fi­dante who is help­ing him build his ad­min­is­tra­tion. “He trusts his own judg­ment. He’s 99 per­cent right.”

Out of two dozen an­nounced ap­point­ments to his Cabi­net, seven are Fenty holdovers, in­clud­ing Po­lice Chief Cathy L. Lanier and school con­struc­tion guru Allen Y. Lew, who will be­come city ad­min­is­tra­tor. Four Cabi­net picks are new to District govern­ment.

The se­lec­tions were shrouded in se­crecy, sim­i­lar to Fenty’s top picks. The ini­tial fall­ing-out be­tween the two men, in fact, traces to the 2007 ap­point­ment of Michelle A. Rhee as chan­cel­lor. Gray found out around mid­night, just hours be­fore her in­tro­duc­tion.

In sim­i­lar fashion, two days be­fore Gray an­nounced that he would re­tain Lanier, he dined at Mor­ton’s steak­house with Kris Baumann, pres­i­dent of the lo­cal Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, which has crit­i­cized Lanier’s ten­ure. Gray didn’t say a word.

Sim­i­lar points have been raised by the Gay and Les­bian Ac­tivists Al­liance and the lo­cal fire­fight­ers union, which said they were not con­sulted, as promised, about the se­lec­tion of the head of the

Of­fice of Hu­man Rights or the new fire chief.

“Not only is he op­er­at­ing like Fenty, this is the kind of be­hav­ior he crit­i­cized Fenty for,” Baumann said. “It’s not just about feel­ings and mak­ing peo­ple feel good. What hap­pened to all the prom­ises?”

Gray said in an in­ter­view that he never promised con­stituen­cies and la­bor unions that he would wipe the ad­min­is­tra­tion clean of all Fenty ap­point­ments.

“I said from the very be­gin­ning that I wasn’t go­ing to turn ev­ery­body out,” he said. “Ul­ti­mately you end up with a blend. You want peo­ple who won’t have a learn­ing curve and who un­der­stand the dy­nam­ics of the city. These are peo­ple we went af­ter.”

Set­ting a new course

Fenty die-hards, mean­while, con­tinue to crit­i­cize Gray’s ter­mi­na­tions of Fenty ad­min­is­tra­tion stars, such as trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor Gabe Klein. With his push for bike lanes, street­cars and other meth­ods of trans­porta­tion, Klein pro­moted a more pedes­trian-friendly cap­i­tal. But bike lanes and street­cars, for some, sym­bol­ized gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and mis­placed pri­or­i­ties while poverty and un­em­ploy­ment stran­gled many neigh­bor­hoods.

But the biggest hur­dle for Gray is how to han­dle Fenty’s school legacy. Na­tion­ally, Fenty is viewed as the hard-charg­ing phe­nom felled by a dis­grun­tled teach­ers union.

In Oc­to­ber, Gray and Fenty jointly an­nounced that Kaya Hen­der­son, Rhee’s deputy, would take the helm of schools as in­terim chan­cel­lor af­ter Rhee’s de­par­ture. De­spite other ap­point­ments he has made in ed­u­ca­tion, Hen­der­son re­tains the “in­terim,” leav­ing Fenty sup­port­ers and school-re­form ad­vo­cates un­cer­tain about the fu­ture of city schools.

“You don’t have an in­terim po­lice chief. You don’t have an in­terim fire chief. You don’t have an in­terim city ad­min­is­tra­tor,” said Terry Lynch, a Fenty sup­porter. “By hav­ing an in­terim chan­cel­lor, you make it dif­fi­cult to keep top staff or to at­tract top staff. Who would want to be tied to that ship?”

Gray is not swayed by the crit­i­cism, say­ing he will fol­low a na­tional search process as re­quired by the District law that al­lowed may­oral con­trol of the schools.

Cam­paign strate­gist Mo Ellei­thee said the ad­min­is­tra­tion will look a lot like Gray’s cam­paign — a mix of long­time sup­port­ers and new­com­ers.

But some long­time sup­port­ers ques­tion whether Gray has gone too far to make amends with Fenty sup­port­ers. Af­ter the pri­mary, Gray cast him­self as Fenty’s po­lar op­po­site when it comes to lis­ten­ing, hold­ing town hall meet­ings in ev­ery ward of the city. But he re­peat­edly said that he knew the rea­son some peo­ple didn’t vote for him was be­cause they didn’t know him.

The town halls were also to in­tro­duce him­self to res­i­dents in wards 2, 3 and 6 — com­mu­ni­ties where a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers cast bal­lots for Fenty.

In­ter­net dis­cus­sion groups for neigh­bor­hoods east of the Ana­cos­tia River have lit up with com­plaints that the for­mer Ward 7 coun­cil mem­ber’s tran­si­tion team does not have enough rep­re­sen­ta­tives from their com­mu­ni­ties.

This is Gray’s in­doc­tri­na­tion as mayor, said Ster­ling Tucker, the city’s first elected coun­cil chair­man.

“Ev­ery mayor has to go through that,” Tucker said. “You take any seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion. They say, ‘We put you in of­fice. We own a part of you.’ They don’t want to be ig­nored.”

Gray and Green

Within Gray’s tran­si­tion team, mem­bers pri­vately com­plain that they learned quickly they were not part of Gray’s in­ner cir­cle. At the cen­ter is Lor­raine Green. Gray and Green­met as em­ploy­ees un­der Mayor Sharon Pratt in the 1990s. Gray was di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices, and Green headed the Of­fice of Per­son­nel. To­gether, they cut thou­sands of po­si­tions from the fis­cally chal­lenged hu­man ser­vices agency. Green said that Gray tried to talk to ev­ery em­ployee who was be­ing laid off to ex­plain why.

Their bond is pro­fes­sional. They rarely so­cial­ize, though they also bonded through the deaths of their spouses.

“My re­la­tion­ship with Lor­raine is ba­si­cally busi­ness, but with­out the chem­istry we wouldn’t be able to work to­gether,” Gray said.

Gray also re­lies on ad­vice from his chil­dren. Car­los Gray ral­lied young Wash­ing­to­ni­ans for his fa­ther’s elec­tion. Jonice Gray Tucker, a Yale Law School grad­u­ate, be­came a be­hind-the-scenes player. For­merly an as­so­ci­ate at Skad­den Arps, she in­tro­duced her fa­ther to lawyer Robert S. Ben­nett, best known for rep­re­sent­ing Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Gray tapped Ben­nett to head a pro-bono, in­de­pen­dent probe into D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Mar­ion Barry’s use of per­sonal con­tracts. Early last year, Ben­nett con­cluded that there had been a con­flict of in­ter­est, and the coun­cil cen­sured Barry and stripped him of his com­mit­tee chair­man­ship.

The move helped cast Gray as a politician who could over­look po­lit­i­cal al­liances in gov­ern­ing. The cen­sure took place around the same time that a coun­cil in­ves­ti­ga­tion into con­tracts in­volv­ing Fenty’s fra­ter­nity broth­ers was in full swing.

Tucker, now a part­ner at Buck­leySan­dler, also came to her fa­ther’s res­cue on pri­mary day when she ob­served what she be­lieved to be voter sup­pres­sion. With the back­ing of her firm, she rep­re­sented her fa­ther’s cam­paign with the D.C. Board of Elec­tions and Ethics.

She said her fa­ther has come to trust her over the past six years or so as she has evolved in her pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

“Oc­ca­sion­ally, he lis­tens to me,” she said, laugh­ing. “As he says, I will al­ways be the child.”

When Tucker, 35, was deal­ing with her own per­sonal dilemma in 2009 of de­cid­ing whether to switch jobs, she went to her fa­ther’s of­fice at the John A. Wil­son Build­ing. From 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., they talked it out.

“Why should you go? What do other peo­ple think?” she re­called him ask­ing. “I said, ‘ Are you ever go­ing to give me ad­vice?’ He said, ‘I am help­ing you. You are go­ing to come to a de­ci­sion your­self.’ ”

“He gives you a menu of op­tions,” Tucker said.



Vin­cent C. Gray will be sworn in as the District’smayor around 10 a.m. Sun­day at theWal­ter E. Washington Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. He will be the sixth per­son to hold the po­si­tion.


Mayor-elect Vin­cent Gray works on his in­au­gu­ra­tion speech Thurs­day in his old of­fice in the John A. Wil­son Build­ing.

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