The county's Planning Board, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Credit: Steve Bohnel

The Montgomery County Council voted for James Hedrick, Shawn Bartley and Mitra Pedoeem to fill three seats on the county’s Planning Board. Two of the votes were split, including one vote that needed to go through two rounds to break a tie vote.

The county’s Planning Board makes decisions regarding future development in the county, including housing, economic opportunities, and parks. Some of its most prominent jobs in the coming months will be implementing Thrive Montgomery 2050, the update to the county’s general master plan, and searching for a new planning director, who heads the county Planning Department’s staff. Tanya Stern has been serving in an interim role since Gwen Wright was fired last year.

Hedrick, a senior housing analyst at the Federal Housing Finance Agency in Washington, D.C., won one seat over four other Democrats:

  • Raj Barr-Kumar, a local architect at Barr-Kumar Architects Engineers PC in Washington, D.C.
  • Cherri Branson, an interim Planning Board member, former director of the county’s Office of Procurement, and former interim County Councilmember.
  • Brian O’Looney, an architect for Torti Gallas + Partners in Washington, D.C.
  • Alexander Ratner, federal policy manager for American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in Washington, D.C.

Council Vice President Andrew Friedson (D-Dist. 1) nominated Hedrick while County Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At-large) nominated Branson. Hedrick was selected in an 8-3 vote. Jawando, Councilmember Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5) and Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles (D-At-large) were the three members that voted for Branson.

The vote between Shawn Bartley and David Winstead—the two Republicans vying for one seat—was perhaps the most dramatic. Both are longtime attorneys in the county, with Bartley serving on the state Board of Education and on the county’s Primary Care Coalition. Winstead serves as secretary of Chevy Chase Village’s board of managers and served as Maryland’s secretary of transportation from 1995 to 1998.

Councilmember Dawn Luedtke (D-Dist. 7) nominated Winstead for the opening, while Councilmember Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large) nominated Bartley. In the first round of votes, Luedtke, councilmembers Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3),  Natali Fani-González (D-Dist. 6), Marilyn Balcombe (D-Dist. 2), and Friedson  voted for Winstead.


Albornoz, Sayles, Mink, Jawando and County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) voted for Bartley. Councilmember Kate Stewart (D-Dist. 4) abstained in the first round, resulting in a 5-5 tie.

Stewart said from the dais and in an interview that social media posts from Bartley were concerning in prior years. On Twitter, Bartley called a Democrat an “oxymoron” and referenced U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as a “Quimosabe,” an apparent mocking of her Native American heritage.

“When someone holds or wants to hold a position in our community where you’re being given great power and responsibility, you also have a responsibility to lead by example,” Stewart said in an interview. “And having social media posts that are derogatory and negative does not lead by example.”


After the 5-5 tie vote, Stewart then switched her vote to support Bartley, making it a 6-5 tally and giving him the Planning Board seat.

Stewart said she did not contact Bartley about the posts before the vote, because she wanted to base her decisions based on answers and information given during the council’s interview process. She added that she hopes Bartley acts in a more professional manner moving forward.

The reason she ended up picking him in the second round over Winstead is because of his diverse skill set and “totality” of career experience when it comes to the job, Stewart said.


Lastly, Pedoeem, the county’s former director of Permitting Services, bested three other unaffiliated candidates: Paul Gaiser, a local architect; Donald Silverstein, a local engineer; and Leanne Tobias, a local real estate and land use consultant. She was appointed in an 11-0 vote.

All three candidates will serve varying terms, beginning on March 6, pending County Executive Marc Elrich’s approval. Bartley will serve through June 14, 2024; Pedoeem will serve through June 14, 2025; and Hedrick will serve through June 14, 2026. They will be replacing Amy Presley, David Hill and Cherri Branson, respectively.

The latter three have been serving alongside Planning Board Chair Jeff Zyontz and Planning Board commissioner Roberto Piñero, who are both serving through early June. All five are temporary appointments in the wake of incidents that engulfed the Planning Board and Planning Department, leading to the resignation of all its members last October.


First, former Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson was found to have violated county rules by having a full bar in his office. Then, he was alleged to have used vulgar language in the workplace, which Anderson denied.

Not long after, the Planning Board met in closed session and fired former Planning Director Gwen Wright. The County Council then asked all five Planning Board commissioners to resign, and they did so in October.

Scott Peterson, a spokesman for County Executive Marc Elrich, said that Elrich has 30 days to consider whether to veto the council’s appointments, once he receives notice of their action Tuesday. If he vetoes any picks, the council can override the veto with nine votes, according to state law.


It was unclear what actions Elrich would take, as of Tuesday evening.