The Montgomery County Council interviews candidates for Planning Board chair on May 2, 2023. Credit: Ginny Bixby

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 7:07 p.m. on May 16, 2023 to include additional information and context.

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday appointed Artie Harris to serve as chair of the county’s Planning Board. Harris is the vice president of real estate at Montgomery Housing Partnership.

Harris was appointed 6-5 over former County Council member and onetime county executive candidate Hans Riemer.

The council also appointed Josh Linden, a former transportation planner and an associate at Berk Consulting, to serve in the vacant commissioner role. Linden was appointed 7-4 over Carolyn Gallaher, a professor at American University School of International Service.

Both roles opened up after the entire Planning Board resigned last October, following controversies involving former Chair Casey Anderson and other members on the board. Anderson was recently cleared of allegations that he created a toxic work environment.

Gwen Wright was fired as Planning Board director in October, and the rest of the members resigned shortly thereafter. Wright is suing the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission to obtain records related to her termination. Tanya Stern has been serving in an acting capacity as director since October.


Harris, a Democrat, was nominated Tuesday by County Council member Natali Fani-González (D-Dist. 6) and seconded by councilmember Kate Stewart (D-Dist. 4)

“Mr. Harris is not looking for a headline. He is someone who wants to get things done thoroughly and make the community better,” Fani-González said. “He is someone who uses his intelligence and heart to achieve quality of life for people with every income level and for every walk of life.”

Fani-González, a former member of the Planning Board, said she had been impressed observing how Harris worked with parks and planning staff.

During an interview before the council earlier this month, Harris said he wants to prioritize equity at the core of effective planning.


“As a person of color, I feel strongly about bringing more focus on equitable growth in Black and brown communities,” Harris said. He said it’s important to not only focus on building affordable housing but create affordable communities for everyone.

He also said he wants to work toward restoring the public’s confidence in the Planning Board by “building a team of trust” and ensuring members of the board and staff can get to know each other, through a retreat or similar event, to put a unified vision forward.

Councilmembers Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5), Laurie-Anne Sayles (D-At-large), Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3) and Andrew Friedson (D-Dist. 1) voted for Harris.


Riemer, a Democrat, was nominated by councilmember Dawn Luedtke (D-Dist. 7) and seconded by council member Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large). He received votes from councilmembers Will Jawando (D-At-large), Marilyn Balcombe (D-Dist. 2) and Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large). Albornoz, Glass and Jawando all served on the council at the same time as Riemer, as did Friedson and Katz, who voted for Harris.

Peter Fosselman, a Democrat and Montgomery County director of regional services for Bethesda, was also a finalist for the position but did not receive a nomination.

The chair is paid almost $228,000 in a full-time role while the other commissioners are paid $30,000. One of Harris’ first big tasks will be hiring a new planning director.


Linden, who is an independent, was chosen for the commissioner seat out of a field of eight finalists. Only Linden and Galleher received nominations from councilmembers on Tuesday.

Linden was nominated by Friedson and seconded by Balcombe. Albornoz, Katz, Fani-González, Friedson, Glass and Luedtke voted for Linden.

“I believe that Josh Linden is someone who will help us to seize opportunities and to help us guide them to fruition. As a member of the planning board, Mr. Linden will bring a holistic mindset with significant relevant policy experience regionally and unmatched knowledge of best planning practices from other jurisdictions throughout the country,” Friedson said during his nomination of Linden on Tuesday.


Friedson also cited Linden’s experience working with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board and Portland, Oregon’s Bureau of Transportation.

Galleher was nominated by Jawando and seconded by Sayles. Mink and Stewart voted for Galleher.

Earlier this month, the council narrowed down a list of 10 applicants for chair to three finalists and eight of 24 applicants for were considered for the commissioner seat.


Harris will replace temporary Planning Board Chair Jeff Zyontz, and Linden will replace temporary Planning Board Commissioner Roberto Piñero, who are both serving through early June.