In Prince George's, Top Aide Gets Top Billing
In her first official speech after being elected chairman of the Prince George's County Council yesterday, Marilynn M. Bland (D-Clinton) reserved her highest praise for a man who has become a familiar presence to anyone who has watched the council in recent years: Her chief of staff David J. Billings III.
Before Billings, Bland had a reputation for leading a turbulent district office. In her first two years on the job, she dismissed three employees, accusing some, according to the workers of the time, of "insubordination." She hired her brother as a legislative aide, though he abruptly quit not long after.
But there has been little turnover or talk of tumult since Bland brought in Billings, who had been largely retired, to serve as her chief of staff. At yesterday's council meeting, Bland said that Billings, who also serves as one of six archbishops of the Holy Christian Orthodox Church, a communion of about 1,000 churches worldwide, has been "God-sent," working for her first as a volunteer and later as a paid staffer.
"Now, I must pause to say that I'm a firm believer that God has a plan for each of our lives," she said. "I think [Billings] planned to give me maybe two weeks, he said he would sit down with me for about two weeks and give me some direction...But I can truly say that when I say that God sent, I mean that. Because when he came, he volunteered in my office for two years. Not only did he volunteer, he refused to accept a paycheck, because he believed that God sent him also."
Some of Bland's constituents believe Billings exercises too much control over her decision-making. He often fields questions from the public for her, even at public events where she is also present, they say. He also often negotiates with other council members on her behalf.
But Billings steady hand has also been credited for bringing stability to Bland's work. He is sure to exercise wide influence during her coming year as the council's leader.
December 3, 2008; 1:39 PM ET
Categories: Rosalind Helderman
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