Rose Krasnow remembers her first successful political campaign. It was in 1964 in Memphis, Tenn., when she volunteered for George Grider’s campaign to unseat 13-term U.S. Rep. Cliff Davis, a machine politician and onetime KKK member.
“I always tell people that I worked on my first election when I was 11,” she said.
Now, Krasnow, a former Rockville mayor, is among seven candidates — so far — seeking to be the next Montgomery County executive. Four are Jewish, including Krasnow. What sets her apart from all the others, she said, is that she is a woman and she has executive experience.
Krasnow, 66, said there was no aha moment that made her decide to run. But she cites as an influence the post-inauguration Women’s March in January. Then there was the fact that the all-male lineup of executive candidates didn’t reflect a county where a majority of residents are female or not white.
“If someone else had stepped up who was a woman or a person of color, chances are I might not have done it,” she said. “I really had to talk to myself a little. There are a lot of things going on in this country that I really don’t like, and I wonder how we can attract more people to run for office.”
Krasnow pointed to her six years as mayor from 1995 to 2001, followed by 13 years at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission — she’s retiring as deputy director at the end of the month — as the management bona fides she said are needed to oversee Montgomery County. She said the council members she is running against — George Leventhal, Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner — all have knowledge of the county, but not the leadership experience.
Also in the race are state Delegate Bill Frick (D-District 16) and Potomac businessman David Blair. Lawyer Robin Ficker is the sole Republican candidate so far.
“It’s very different to share responsibility among nine [council members] than it is to actually be the one setting the agenda and making the decisions,” she said. “I thought when I was running for mayor, ‘We have five equal votes [on the Rockville City Council], so it won’t be that different.’ But it actually was very different. Because I was the one the city manager came to say, ‘What do you want on the agenda? What direction do you want to go? Who on staff do you think should go?”
Krasnow says her proudest accomplishment as mayor was the conversion of the space formerly occupied by Rockville Mall into a town square, including the Rockville Memorial Library.
“We always knew we wanted the library to be included in the downtown redevelopment plan, but it had not been included in the county executive’s budget,” she said. “The county executive at that time [Doug Duncan] did not have the courtesy to call me and tell me it wouldn’t be included, and so the citizens of Rockville called and said, ‘We need to fight and get the county council to put the money back in.’ We were successful in that fight and it stands there today.”
The successful revitalization of downtown Rockville drew praise from Sima Osdoby, Krasnow’s friend and neighbor of 37 years in Rockville’s New Mark Commons development, where Krasnow lives with her husband.
“We had this mall in the middle of town which was an economic drain on the city, and she worked really hard to get a decision on getting rid of it,” Osdoby said. “She understood that the city needed to have an economic development focus. And she was able to do it in a way that didn’t pit residents against businesses. The understanding was that we’re all in this together, and this is what we need to do.”
Krasnow said one of her priorities as county executive would be to expand the tax base by putting the county’s empty office buildings to work for residential use and for nonprofits. She said the empty space could be used for new schools to accommodate a growing student body. More than 17,000 new students enrolled between 2008 and 2015, making it the 17th largest school system in the country, according to the Montgomery County Public Schools website.
“Our school population has been growing at about a high school a year, which is a problem for us since land has gotten so expensive,” she said.
Another of Krasnow’s neighbors, Ann Reiss, said the former mayor stands out among the field because she communicates her wants clearly, but values citizen input.
“She’s not a knee-jerk reaction person,” Reiss said. “She listens to all different sides and makes sure she’s heard all the issues.”