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Montgomery Council Member Praisner Dies

Marilyn Praisner, known for her deep understanding of government during her 17 years on the Montgomery County Council, died this morning after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Praisner (D-East County), 66, recently ended a term as president of the council, spending much of the time working on a new growth policy for Montgomery. She was the longest serving woman on the county council.

Praisner had surgery on Wednesday, after putting in a full day on Tuesday at the council. She was alert and resting yesterday, said council spokesman Neil Greenberger.

But she "took a turn for the worse," he said. No cause of death was given and funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), a good friend of Praisner and a longtime supporter and political colleague, issued a statement today mourning her death.

"Nobody in Montgomery County government ever worked harder, knew more, or cared more than Marilyn Praisner. Whether serving her country in the Central Intelligence Agency, looking out for our kids as a School Board member, or laboring tirelessly to make a good County better in her 18 years on the Council, Marilyn brought to whatever task at hand a keen intellect, a big heart, and a passionate devotion to public service. ''

Praisner was involved in two back-to-back car accidents on Nov. 16 and was hospitalized for two weeks. At that time, doctors determined she needed a heart valve replaced, which she did not discuss publicly. She returned to work in early January before the surgery. On Tuesday, she attended the council's public sessions and was at her desk until late in the day.

Before entering politics, Praisner worked at the Central Intelligence Agency for 16 years, serving as an intelligence analyst, branch chief and staff member of the deputy director of intelligence.

Praisner was a PTA activist and served on the Montgomery County Board of Education from 1982 to 1990. She served twice as board president and was then elected to the County Council in 1990. She was council president in 1993, 1997 and 2007.

During her current term, she chaired the Council's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and served on its Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, which she had chaired in her previous four terms.
She was married to Donald E. Praisner; they had three grown children.

"It is a huge void," said council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville). "She was by far the longest serving member of the council and the hardest working person I've ever met. I think one thing hard to overemphasize is the impact this has on a small legislative body. Marilyn Praisner made a huge difference."

Andrews said her acumen on financial matters will be missed. "Marilyn had an encyclopedic knowledge of the budget," he said. "That will be felt as we go through the remainder of this council's term."

Gov. Martin O'Malley said, "For over 20 years, Marilyn Praisner dedicated herself to improving the quality of life for the people of Montgomery County. Her steadfast devotion to our children at the local, state, and national level was an inspiration to us all. My prayers are with her family and friends, the Citizens of Montgomery County, and our entire State at this time of great sadness. I join with them to mourn the loss of such a dynamic woman and my friend Marilyn Praisner."

Washington Post staff writer Ernesto Londoño contributed to this report.

From Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a former council colleague:

Attached please find a statement from Secretary Thomas E. Perez regarding the passing of Councilwoman Marilyn Praisner.

Today is a sad day for all Marylanders, as we have lost one of our most dedicated and effective public servants. Marilyn Praisner was a transformational figure in Montgomery County. In her 25 years of county service on the Board of Education and the County Council, nobody worked harder than Marilyn Praisner, and nobody fought harder for her constituents than Marilyn Praisner. Her intelligence, work ethic, accessibility and concern for the underdog were the hallmarks of her tenure. In her professional career with the federal government, and in her public service in Montgomery County, she shattered glass ceilings and set a tone of civility and competence. Marilyn Praisner was elected to office by the voters of District four, but she represented and spoke for all vulnerable people in Montgomery County.

On sad days like today, there is tendency to ask: "how did she die." I prefer to reflect on a different question: "how did she live." Marilyn Praisner lived a life of selfless dedication to her community and family. She embodied the best of public service. Our community is far better off because of Marilyn Praisner. A dedicated wife, mother, grandmother and public servant, Marilyn Praisner was my seatmate and my soul-mate on the County Council. As we mourn her premature passing; we should take solace in knowing that her spirit endures, and we should recommit ourselves to following her example of professionalism, accessibility and commitment to equal opportunity for everyone.

Albert R. Wynn (MD-4) issued the following statement:

"Montgomery County and the entire State of Maryland have lost an outstanding leader today with the passing of Councilmember Praisner. Her dedication and commitment to the work of politics and policy are unrivaled. Her keen grasp of technology and telecommunications issues and the need to protect the consumers' interest will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her husband Donald and the rest of her family during this rough time."

By Anne Bartlett  |  February 1, 2008; 12:39 PM ET
Categories:  Miranda Spivack  
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Montgomery County should mourn the passing of such a tireless and dedicated public servant. Our condolences to the bereaved.

Posted by: Thomas Hardman | February 1, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Our hearts go out to her and her family, she was so wonderful! I know Don will miss her dearly. She went to the Good Hope & Route 29 Neighborhood Network meetings and was an advocate for programs to improve the quality of life and worked hard to help us fulfill the children's recreational needs as an alternative to negative activity in Rockville, Germantown and Damascus as well. May we continue to carry out her goals and do what is right as a tribute to her hard work. Peace in Montgomery County for all.

As we grieve because this is so Heart wrenching to hear;knowing Marilyn, I am sure she is in heaven helping the council up there. When we struggle with decisions, we can remember that there is an angel of conscience to watch over the council and county government that helps light the way. May each of us do our part to honor her.

Posted by: Linda Panagoulis | February 1, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

My deepest sympathies to Marilyn's family and friends. Marilyn's passing is indeed a great loss to all of us. She was a politician who was a public servant in all the best senses of the word and her knowledge and attention to detail- using that detail for action where it counts- was incredible. the few times I took the time to go over the budget deliberations and presentations on line I was impressed with the things she noticed and asked for - often under the radar- 'wonky' type items that could have a large impact on how things happen in the county. She will be sorely missed.

Posted by: kathy | February 1, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I so enjoyed working with Marilyn. We shared a lot of laughs and helped a lot of people together. I had profound respect for her knowledge, her experience, her perspective and her dedication to public service. I will never forget her example of tireless commitment and I know that for years to come, before a tough vote, Councilmembers, including me, will wonder, "What Would Marilyn Do?"

Posted by: Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal | February 1, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Today, I join the residents of Montgomery County in mourning the tragic loss of one Marilyn J. Praisner (D-4), a highly respected lady whose 18 years of public service on the County Council has been simply unsurpassed in Montgomery County. She was driven by one simple goal, to make Montgomery County a better place to live, and for that, we owe her a sincere debt of gratitude.

However, a serious issue has arisen as a result of her untimely demise which needs to be immediately addressed. Montgomery County's Charter states, "Unless the Council has provided by law for filling a vacancy by special election, the following process for filling a vacancy shall apply. When a vacancy has occurred, a majority of the remaining members of the Council shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy within thirty days."

If there was ever a time for the Montgomery County Council to call for a special election, the time is now. None of the eight members of the Council lives within the confines of County Council District 4; consequently, the voters of District 4 would be disenfranchised. The question arises, shouldn't the voters of District 4 be allowed to choose who continues the legacy of Marilyn J. Praisner? Absolutely. It's completely impossible for one who does not reside in District 4 to understand the needs, wants, and desires of its populace.

Following the State of Maryland's litany of job-killing tax increases, and higher Montgomery County property taxes looming on the horizon, it's absolutely critical that District 4 voters be given a choice of candidates. A large voter turnout on the February 12th primary will provide ample evidence that District 4 voters are eager to select their public officials.

Again, in the name of open democracy, I encourage the Montgomery County Council to immediately call for a special election, to put the decision making process where it belongs, in the hands of District 4 voters, and not in the hands of public servants masquerading as "king makers."

Mark D. Fennel, 2006 Republican Candidate for Montgomery County Council in District 4 and Mitt Romney for President supporter.

Posted by: Mark D. Fennel | February 1, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

As longtime resident of District 4, past president of my local civic association and current president of Allied Civic Group, I worked with Marilyn on a number of issues, including the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring. As others have noted, she was a hard worker with an amazing attention to detail and cared deeply about our neighborhoods. She will be greatly missed.

On another note, I am disheartened by the tackiness of Mr. Fennel's blatant politicization of her death, especially coming so soon after it occurred. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: Mike Diegel | February 1, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to pass along my sincere sympathy to her family & friends and hope God provides the comfort you need...peace!

Posted by: Mike | February 1, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I worked with Marilyn for many years through my homeowner association and civic work in Olney. We never had a finer representative in county government.

She was everything you could wish for in a council representative. She knew the issues and details better than anyone, was always approachable and you just knew she would do the right thing.

Her passing is a big loss for her family, and a big loss for the county.

Art Brodsky
Olney, MD

Posted by: Art Brodsky | February 1, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

mr.fennel have you ever wondered why so few Republicans WIN in Mo.Co. you are a lesson to learn from.
I did not always agree with the Praisner but I respect her commitment and her husband's to our community.

Posted by: dixie_diaz | February 1, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Just to put the issue raised by Mr. Fennel to rest, County law does require a special election to fill the vacancy created by Councilmember Praisner's death. The Council within 30 days must set a date for primary and final elections to fill this vacancy, and the primary election cannot be earlier than March 18.

We on the Council staff, who worked with Councilmember Praisner daily, will miss her acute intellect and personal warmth in equal measures.

Posted by: Michael Faden, Senior Legislative Attorney, Montgomery County Council | February 1, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I knew Councilmember Praisner quite well
and regarded her as a good friend.

She was a person who would not always
disclose which way she was leaning on a
subject when it came to pending business
before the County Council (she seemed to
approach such matters in almost a judicial
way), but was someone who could be counted
on to discuss matters (including matters
of controversy) in an intellectually
honest way. And she listened - even to
points of view that did not agree with

I cannot think of an elected official
that worked harder than she did - and
her integrity was widely known and

No other elected official in Montgomery
County knew the county budget better
than she did.

She was extremely helpful to me in
dealings with the Montgomery County
bureaucracy, and like the budget she
knew who to speak with in all parts
of county government.

She was warm in personal relations, and
did not allow disagreements on matters
of policy to get in the way when it came
to being friendly with people.

She and I disagreed on almost
everything involving the InterCounty
Connector (ICC), but that was policy,
and our other dealings were personal,
and our policy disagreements meant
nothing in personal terms. But speaking
of the ICC, those of us that favor it
must remember that she refused
to be the fifth vote to remove the ICC
from the Master Plan of Highways
after then-Gov. Parris Glendening
cancelled the 1997 Environmental
Impact Study.

I am going to miss her. A lot.

The person that takes her seat on the
Council is going to have some mighty
big shoes to fill. And I say that as
someone who has observed Montgomery
County politics for a LONG time.

Posted by: C Patrick Zilliacus - resident of E. Mont. Co. since 1960 | February 1, 2008 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Marilyn Praisner's legacy lives on and inspires all.

Karla Berg Walker
Former Calverton Resident
MCPS Teacher

Posted by: Karla Berg Walker | February 1, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Our county again mourns the loss of a political leader who worked tirelessly to improve her adopted community. Marilyn Praisner was a wonderful person who kept every witness, staff person, and colleague on their toes. She was engaged in numerous state and national organizations working on issues as diverse as public education and telecommunications. She will be extremely missed by all of us in and around public service. I greatly enjoyed our on-going joke that she was my political mother. She always started our phone conversations "hey son, its your Ma!" I will miss her advice, counsel, and occasional criticism. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family.

Posted by: Rich Madaleno | February 1, 2008 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for all the years of service to this county, Ms. Praisner. It will never be forgotten. Shame on you, Mr. Fennel

Posted by: Robert | February 1, 2008 10:25 PM | Report abuse

As the secretary of the Montgomery County Muslim Council, a county based civic organization, I would like to express my group's condolences to Ms. Praisner's family and friends. She was truly a great leader and public servant for the citizens of this county, and we all mourn her loss.

Posted by: Mustafa A Haque | February 1, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

I am a Republican who lives in the community, and I also give my condolences to those whom suffer lose.

But, Mr. Fennel is right and he is just trying to give a voice for those citizens that Ms. Praisener worked for with much effort, and he as a Republican needs to say what he wants and feel, for those like me.
Shame on you all who criticize the right of free speach for a wonderful citizen like him, and the voice of many people who want the best for our comunity.

Posted by: Katie Gonzales | February 2, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Our thoughts and hearts go out to you, your family and friends. You will live on in our memories and heartS for your compassion,hard work and devotion you showed us. Thank you for always being there for our community, Mongomery County NNO,MCNI.

Posted by: Susan H (R) | February 2, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

The reason why the Post wrote this article about Ms. Praisner is because she has been a political figure. Fennel is correct to shed light on the political process. He praised Praisner. Those who critique Fennel for doing so have a tax increase to ram down our throats that he would not support.

Posted by: Good for Fennel | February 2, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Since the late 1970s, many at the Montgomery County Civic Federation and later at the Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce had the pleasure of working with Marilyn Praisner. Like former councilmembers Idamae Garrot and Betty Ann Krahnke (both deceased), Scott Fosler, and executive Neal Potter, Marilyn was an elected official who invested much of her life in serving the public interest.

During their long public careers, some may have disagreed at times with their positions on issues, but I believe there can be universal agreement that these five individuals were Americans of extraordinary talent and character. Montgomery County and Maryland have been well served by their contributions.

Marilyn's passing marks the end of a generation of public servants who held themselves accountable for their decisions, had an extraordinary sense of fiduciary responsibility, and shared a long-term vision of the county that transcended parochial interests. It will be a long time before Montgomery County has a team of this caliber again.

Jorge Ribas, President & CEO
Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and
Past President, Montgomery County Civic Federation

Posted by: Jorge Ribas | February 2, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Why the criticism of Fennel? He praised Praisner and then raised the issue of succession. Precisely occured in today's article in the Washington Post. Should the Washington Post to, be shamed? This is the most extreme left wing council in the history of Montgomery County. If Fennel's not going to get out in front to prevent packing of the council by the left wingers in power, who is? Looks to me like a thinly veiled attempt at a political hatchet job by those who either are on the county's dole, or would benefit from the continuation of a democrat monopoly of power in Montgomery County. The only thing, I repeat, the only thing standing the the way of a property tax increase which would drive tens of thousands more residents comprising our tax base across the bridge to Virginia, is Fennel in office, if he choose to run, coupled with the passing of the Ballot Question (already complete) requiring 9 votes to override the Charter limit on property tax collection.

Posted by: Mary | February 2, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

We in Montgomery County have been blessed to have been served for so long by such a dedicated civil servant as Ms Praisner.

The political question should consist only of "where can we find a successor of comparable capability". In my humble opinion there are forums far better suited for that than this one, and far more appropriate as well.

Let's try to keep in mind the grief of the bereaved and let's all of us praise the woman, praise her service, and offer our compassion and sympathy for those left behind by the passing of someone who has meant so much to them for lo these many years.

We here in Aspen Hill certainly will remember her years of service and her dedication to her principles.

Posted by: Thomas Hardman | February 2, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I would like to thank everyone for their kind words about my mother. She loved this county and the people in it. Your well wishes and warm thoughts after her accident meant a lot to her just as they do to us right now.
Thank you!

Posted by: Alison Praisner Klumpp | February 3, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. Praisner was a fine woman and a dedicated civic leader for the residents of Montomery County's 4th District. Her insights, attention to detail, and leadership skills will be missed by us all.

Praisners's insistence that taxpayer funds be used wisely was aprreciated and often unique anoug council members. I always appreciated her propmpt, written replies to issue related letters which I had wrtitten to her over the many years of her service.

I second Mark Fennel's call for a special election to give the voters of the 4th District their collective right to choose her successor; a Special Election is the only acceptable means in which to do so.


William T. Patton, Jr.
Candidate for Montgomery Ounty Council, District 4, in 1998

Posted by: wtpatton | February 4, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I have no words to help console in this time of grief, only the promise of prayer that all who loved Mrs. Praisner will be comforted in their time of need.

God Speed Mrs. Praisner, you will be missed.

Bill & Kristy Kistner

Posted by: Bill & Kristy Kistner | February 4, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I can see Marilyn smiling as she predicted the political controversy that might ensue.
What would Marilyn do? She would probably listen and calmly put the gentlemen in their place with a very wise phrase that made everyone think.

Since I am not Marilyn I am going to say it,
RESPECT and HONOR Marilyn and her family by
letting them have a moment to catch their breath and letting them think of their mother, grand mother and wife. Her job was very important to her, give them this time as we in the community have taken so much of her time away from them.

Save the lobbying for Michael and give us all time to swallow the hurt of losing a friend. She will not be forgotten.

Amazing Grace is something we all can learn.

Posted by: Linda Panagoulis | February 6, 2008 6:17 AM | Report abuse

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