September 15, 2023

Message from the County Executive


Dear Friends,

I joined a “ride along” with Montgomery County police officers this week. While it was a relatively quiet night in Downtown Silver Spring, the time I got to talk to the officers was incredibly valuable.

I had the opportunity to hear about the challenges that officers face with staffing. They have expectations to work overtime every week, and sometimes shifts are minimally staffed. I also heard about geographic size of the beats matched against the number of officers that are available. When they are out with minimal staffing, they are stretched thin.

These are all issues that I sometimes hear about in meetings, but it was helpful to hear directly from the employees doing the work.

These staffing concerns I heard from the officers reinforce the decisions we made to provide signing bonuses, improve pay and expand recruitment efforts. We will continue exploring other ways to increase the size of our force to where it is supposed to be.

The officers also had a chance to hear some of my concerns and answer questions about what they are dealing with and offer suggestions about what we can/should do differently. I know that some of what they heard from me is in some ways different from their perception of me.

This ride along is why a direct dialogue with our front-facing staff is valuable. Dialogue helps inform how we can continue to improve, and I saw good, dedicated officers doing difficult work. I appreciate the officers’ willingness to talk frankly with me. It was very helpful to see, hear and experience what our officers are encountering out there.

I always learn a lot from engaging and talking to all County employees about their on-the-job experiences, and it is helpful to my decision making process.

Board of Education Releases Summary of investigation Regarding Sexual Harassment Allegations

Montgomery County Board of Education President Karla Silvestre yesterday sent a letter to me and other elected officials with a summary of the investigation conducted by outside law firm Jackson Lewis regarding the processes surrounding the June 2023 promotion of Dr. Joel Beidleman, sexual harassment complaints against him and the process within MCPS.  I have not seen the full report at this time, and I have not been briefed by MCPS or the Board of Education about this investigation. From what I read that was publicly available, it is disturbing that those involved in promoting a principal did not feel an obligation to follow up on the details of an investigation that they were aware of prior to approving the promotion. That is highly irresponsible, inappropriate and a risk to school security. 

Equally upsetting is the disclosure that the MCPS promotion process “does not have a mechanism to automatically identify whether a candidate for a promotion or a transfer is under investigation” and that anonymous tips are not followed up on and investigated. I await the broader investigation, including addressing the issues submitted by the teacher’s union members and staff to the Board of Education and administration. I expect a full and complete investigation that addresses all the outstanding questions and issues.

The MCPS staff, families, and the entire community deserve transparency, accountability, and a better process.
Health Update: New Vaccine Approved, COVID Cases and Hospitalizations Increase

As we are entering a season of holidays, events and gatherings, we must also be aware and concerned about the consistent increase in our COVID-19 rates. Our COVID cases have been increasing week after week throughout the summer to their highest levels since last May.

Additionally, our hospitalization numbers due to COVID have been increasing. We are over five times higher this week than we were just two months ago in mid-July. These numbers are important to pay attention to and should be considered a “canary in the coal mine.”

When hospital beds fill up with COVID patients, it impacts every other health problem that bed might be needed for. We have not yet reached the danger point here, but we are monitoring and hoping that the cases begin to stabilize or decline.

Earlier this week, the FDA approved a new COVID vaccine that protects against the strains currently circulating. The CDC’s advisory committee recommended that anyone age 6 months and older get the new vaccine. We need everyone eligible to get the new booster that was just approved this week.

As compared to other local jurisdictions, our County is one of the most vaccinated in the nation. More than 95 percent of County residents received at least one dose, but only 35 percent received the bivalent booster dose. The efficacy of these vaccines wane and it is very important that everyone gets boosted when this new shot becomes available.  

Vaccines will start being distributed to health care providers and pharmacies across the the next few days. A big difference in the rollout of this new vaccine is that insurance companies will pay for vaccinations and shots will primarily be available through private physicians’ offices and local pharmacies.  Like most other health departments, the County clinics will be for uninsured individuals only.

As much attention as the new booster will receive over the upcoming weeks, we also want to remind you to get your flu shot. I got my flu shot this week and I urge everyone to get a flu shot and the new COVID shot. 

For those are who are over 60 years old—like me—it is recommended to get the new RSV vaccine.

We are entering a time of year where we are spending more time indoors, and as the holidays approach in a couple of months, we all may be part of larger group gatherings.

Getting regular recommended vaccinations protects you from serious illness and it will make it less likely that you will infect a vulnerable person. Boosters can help reduce a person’s viral load and the odds of transmitting the virus to someone else who may be at higher risk for complications and more serious illness from these respiratory infections.

Please contact your health care provider or visit to search by zip code for local pharmacies offering these vaccinations and flu shots.

University of Maryland Institute for Health Computing Update

The Institute for Health Computing keeps moving forward. Earlier this week, the University of Maryland Board of Regents Finance Committee took a step forward in establishing the Institute for Health Computing by recommending the approval to lease office space near the North Bethesda Metro Station. I appreciate the committee's support and look forward to a positive vote from the Board of Regents and formally celebrating thereafter. Last year, Montgomery County signed an agreement with the University of Maryland, College Park, University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) to create the Institute of Health Computing at the North Bethesda Metrorail Station.

This Institute will be the first graduate level academic facility in Montgomery County. It will leverage the University of Maryland’s world-renowned expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, the clinical and research expertise of the University of Maryland Medical System and the County’s leadership in biotechnology to revolutionize healthcare delivery.

Health computing and artificial intelligence technology are revolutionizing life sciences by increasing the speed to create new drugs, analyze clinical trials and create personalized medicine plans that will help with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases. The use of this technology in population health will better serve all residents in the County and will help identify and address health care disparities among historically underrepresented groups in the County and across the State.

This new technology means that life science companies require employees with specific high-level technology skills. The Institute for Health Computing will help attract businesses in need of talented employees trained in the latest state of the art techniques and practices. 

The work of this new Institute also can be applied in other ways to help other industries like hospitality or retail that utilize big data. This project will be a game changer for our local economy.

This Institute for Health Computing has already created quite a buzz among life science companies. When I was in Taiwan with its technology businesses and leaders, they were very interested in what we trying to create in North Bethesda. The Institute of Health Computing is key to take our region’s life science cluster from being third to first in this nation.

This project is good for Montgomery County and the entire State of Maryland. I look forward to continuing our conversation with Governor Wes Moore’s administration and our General Assembly leaders about State investment needed during the General Assembly session.

I will continue to update you as this project progresses.

Fiscal Year 2025 Budget ‘Community Conversations’ Begin

It was only a few weeks ago our Fiscal Year 2024 budget went into effect. Now, it is time for us to begin to focus on the FY 25 capital and operating budget process. Our budget reflects the County’s needs and concerns—and our community’s values and goals.

Our first “community conversation” was this week at the Mid-County Community Recreation Center in Layhill. I appreciated those who attended and the issues, concerns, and budget priorities they brought to our attention.

This year, we have increased the number of budget forums from eight to 10 to be even more inclusive. This includes a budget conversation in Spanish that will be held next Thursday in Wheaton. We also will be holding community conversations in Chinese and Amharic. In addition, there will be forums specifically for seniors and the County’s PTA groups. 

We hold these community conversations to give people a chance to be heard because their voice matters. The ideas and feedback we hear drive our decisions and our priorities for the next fiscal year. The budget process is very nuanced, and quite often, final decisions come down to the arguments, advocacy and activism of those who are supporting specific requests and needs.

I encourage you to participate in these conversations because your voice shapes our path forward. For more information on our FY 25 budget “Community Conversations,” click here.

Climate Message of the Week: Addressing the ‘Climate Gap’

It is no secret that we are facing a climate emergency and are already significantly feeling the impacts of climate change here in our County with hotter summers, increased flooding events and more extreme storms—all crises that experts expect to continue.  

Climate change is not simply a change in weather patterns, but has widespread detrimental impacts on public health, community assets and the economy – among many others. Although all residents of Montgomery County will feel the impacts, certain communities are statistically more vulnerable and acutely more likely to feel its effects, simply because resources have historically not been readily available to them.

This is called a “climate gap” as expressed in our Climate Action Plan– one that we consistently work toward narrowing. Through critical research and conversations with community groups, County staff have created a foundation that ensures racial equity and social justice into climate planning and actionable processes.

Initiatives such as the Climate Stories Ambassadors Project have had more than 100 community leaders and residents share their own observations to the changing climate. Through equal linguistic access to our messaging, we are committed to ensuring all people are represented in the climate work we do every day. 

During Hispanic Heritage Month, Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in partnership with Wheaton Urban District, Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District and the Montgomery County Office of Community Partners, will be hosting a series of environmental events from 5-8 p.m. every Friday beginning Sept. 15 through Oct. 13 at the Marian Fryer Town Plaza in Wheaton.

Remember that our actions today will define the world we leave for generations to come. 

Hispanic Heritage Month Begins

National Hispanic Heritage Month began this week and runs until Oct. 15. 

We are a County where one in five residents are of Hispanic or Latino descent and 40 percent of our foreign-born population are from Latin American and South American countries. Many of our Latino residents have been here for generations; others are new arrivals to our nation. All are respected, welcomed and embraced in this County.

As County Executive, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue that work in our government and want to acknowledge the work of former County Executive Ike Leggett toward creating a more inclusive and welcoming County. That includes increasing the diversity of our government so that it more reflective of the communities we serve.

There are many events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month including cultural celebrations and educational programming and new business highlights, community conversations and the launch of a new informative series for economic development.

This past Sunday, I attended the Festival Salvadoreno. This annual celebration drew thousands of people to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg. This was a great event to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrate El Salvadorian Independence Day.

I hope you join us in celebrating and honoring our Hispanic and Latino communities over the next month.

Jewish High Holidays Begin

Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset tonight. This holiday marks the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

The Jewish High Holidays are a time of both rejoicing and serious introspection. These holidays are a time to celebrate the completion of another year while also taking stock of one's life, and a chance to reflect on how one can do better in the upcoming year. These days are the most sacred time of the year for our Jewish community. 

Shanah Tovah to all who are celebrating. May the new year be filled with great health, happiness, justice, and prosperity.
As always, my appreciation for all of you,

Marc Elrich
County Executive