Ryan Spiegel knew he had a lot to learn when he first took a seat on the Gaithersburg City Council back in 2007.
He recalled, “I took the time to listen and observe, to understand what makes for a successful approach to governance and to build relationships with other councilmembers and community leaders because in the end, running a strong city is about human relationships.”
Now one of a handful of candidates vying for three council seats in the Nov. 5 election, Spiegel has upped the ante. “I also try to share my experience with newer councilmembers, so that we can all be successful together,” he said.
Spiegel’s years of experience in “working on my relationships with community activists, state and county leaders, and residents has allowed me to enjoy a level of trust and communication to get things done for Gaithersburg,” he observed.
The variety inherent in the councilman’s work appeals to him—”the very broad array of issues to learn about and challenges to face. One moment, you are working on transportation networks and the next moment, you may be tackling housing financing issues. You gain a bit of expertise in a wide swath of topics that allows you to help people in many ways.”
Spiegel also appreciates the process of the work, citing “creative problem solving” and “vetting ideas with colleagues and the public, building consensus and trying new things.”
Perhaps the greatest satisfaction, he said, comes from “seeing the concrete results of hard work, that often extends over years, to get something big accomplished. Seeing something go from a twinkle of an idea to a finished solution that is actually improving the quality of life for our residents is an amazing thing.
“And knowing that you played some small part in making that happen is a special feeling,” he said.
As for his council work to date, Spiegel is proudest of “innovative policies and programs that are not always headline-grabbing but help many people over time.” For example, the Bank On Gaithersburg financial education and empowerment initiative he started 10 years ago “has grown into a national model through which we help hundreds of lower-income people improve their credit, open their first bank account, purchase their first home (and) apply for tax refunds.”
Spiegel described the initiative’s “ripple effects” as “profound: upward economic mobility for disadvantaged people who otherwise face incredible obstacles, less need for government spending on safety net assistance, more private spending in the local economy, even reduction in crimes of opportunity when cash is replaced by direct deposits on payday.”
A more recent “first-of-its-kind” program Spiegel introduced helps the city’s condominium associations certify for compliance with the Federal Housing Administration.
“It was a creative way to address a problem caused by federal regulations at the local level, so that more affordable housing could enter the market and respond to demand and sellers could also access their equity. It’s a win-win,” he explained.
“More generally,” Spiegel said, “I am also very proud of the consensus-driven and nonpartisan approach of our mayor and council, the fiscal responsibility we have shown with zero debt and a low tax rate, our bustling economy anchored by dozens of biotechs and supported by our creative incentive programs, and the way in which we welcome and celebrate the diversity in our city.”
Gaithersburg, he added, “is unique among cities in the region for its support of a network of services to those in need of food, housing, healthcare, jobs and childcare via city grants. We have proven that you can have a strong economy, great constituent services like snowplowing and recreation classes, and yet still take care of those in our midst who are struggling.”
In his next term, Spiegel said, “I am looking forward to overseeing the completion of our new police station, a new 10-acre park on the site of the former CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), the full buildout of Crown and the economic redevelopment of Kentlands and Rio. I also hope to make more progress on the needed redevelopment of Lakeforest Mall.”
He also seeks “to expand our already robust environmental programs. For example, I’ve been exploring ways to place solar cells on municipal buildings, and new technologies that eliminate the need for any infill in artificial turf fields.”
Proving that a councilmember’s work is all-encompassing, Spiegel added, “I want to keep advocating to, and working with, MCPS to address overcrowding in our city schools. And I want to keep working with my colleagues and with our citizens to innovate in addressing needs for affordable housing, traffic relief, bicycle/pedestrian connectivity, expanding parks and recreational programs, and continued economic development.”
Resting on laurels is unacceptable to the University of Maryland and Stanford Law School alumnus. “There is always more to do,” Spiegel said. While calling that “a terrific opportunity,” he acknowledged the challenge of balancing his multiple positions: He is a councilman, an attorney at the law firm of Paley Rothman, the new president of the Maryland Municipal League—and what he considers his “most important role: father and husband.” Fortunately, he noted, “my family is very supportive of my calling to public service.”