A Conversation with Marc Elrich
Written by Joy Jiang, Andrew Dai, Chaiwey Chen, Jeremy Chung
From handling a two-year-long pandemic, working on urban development, strategizing with Montgomery County Public Schools to better students’ needs, all the way to governing and making key decisions for the one million citizens in Montgomery County, County Executive Marc Elrich has had to focus on a variety of policy aspects. On December 12, 2021, the Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club spoke with Elrich about these experiences.
In the 2018 election, Erlich defeated fellow Democrat David Blair by a narrow margin of less than 100 votes to become the County Executive. Now, as County Executive, Elrich is responsible for proposing county policies, developing budgets and programs, and, what may be the most time-consuming, meetings.
“My day is kind of like endless meetings,” Elrich said. “I work with staff to talk about how we might implement [projects] and they tell me what they’re doing.” Elrich also meets with county members to discuss feedback on different programs and provide aid. However, meeting with others in the community is one of Elrich’s favorite parts of the job. Like this week, his favorite part of the week was an event in Wheaton, meeting with a group of small business owners. “I could actually think of something I could do to help them and that was kind of fun,” Erlich said. “I find anything where you get an opportunity to actually see people is a lot more fun than just seeing them on Zoom.”
He has had a lot of ups and downs as County Executive. Namely, COVID-19 has been both a struggle for Elrich and a source of pride, looking at how the county has been able to respond. “We’re the most vaccinated county in the country,” he said, “and it’s a large county. Having the rates as low as we’ve been able to get our rates – that to me is really important because it’s helped keep people safe.” But in the beginning, with limited information about COVID-19, the situation did not look as promising. “Having to navigate [COVID-19] was one of the most challenging things we ever did,” Elrich said.
Starting his career as a teacher at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Silver Spring, Elrich believes that teaching has both exposed him to problems in the Montgomery County school system and helped him develop essential skills to succeed as County Executive.
One of Elrich’s main concerns about schooling is students’ educational inequality, which he believes is a byproduct of the remaining effects of the segregated schools of past generations.
As he noticed during his time as a teacher, “if kids are living in poverty, if their families are economically insecure, if they’re coming to school hungry, if their parents are worried about money, … that puts a lot of stress on a little kid,” Erlich said. “I think we’ve not done enough outside of schools to help families be more economically successful and stable and that contributes to a lot of the problems we see in schools.”
Looking to the Future
Looking ahead, Elrich hopes to provide affordable housing and better transportation, along with more life science job opportunities. “We’ve got to commit ourselves to taking the steps necessary, in order to be successful,” Elrich said. “We need to look forward and figure out the pieces we need to put in place that will make the county more successful.”
Elrich further provides insightful advice to the leaders of the future. “It’s important to be involved, to learn the issues,” he said, mentioning his political involvement at a young age. He emphasizes the need for passion and interest, which create enormous potential for opportunity.
Although the role of county executive can seem intimidating, Elrich brings a warm approach to the job by displaying his passion and his love for helping others. He finds that being County Executive allows him to make a deeper impact locally than if he were a leader on a larger scale. In 10 years, he hopes to be retired and traveling the world, exploring things that he is interested in and leading a more relaxed life. However, until then, Erlich still plans to run for reelection in 2022 and again will contest against David Blair for the coveted seat.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 26 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.