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Alec Evans endured 15 months of 18-hour workdays to get Adrian Fenty elected mayor of D.C. Evans served as the Fenty campaign’s spokesperson and was always alongside the candidate. Message, strategy, outreach, whatever—Evans was in virtually every huddle in a campaign that won every city voting precinct.
And for all that, Fenty, on the morning of Oct. 23, fired Evans via telephone.
The news surprised many D.C. politicos, though it shouldn’t have. In sacking Evans, 27, Fenty stuck to the script that those close to him know all too well. The city’s next mayor will enforce a very difficult workplace standard: the one he applies to himself.
Fenty gets up each morning a little after 5 a.m. Three days a week he’s off on a 6 a.m. run. After that he goes to work, which doesn’t stop until around 10:00 p.m. Fenty’s staff members know that for their boss, serving as an elected official isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life. “I love what I do” is no trite exaggeration when Fenty is asked to explain how he maintains his frenetic pace.
From the outside, Evans seemed an unlikely contender to be thrown on the trash heap for failing to meet Fenty’s all-work-and-no-play demands. He comes across as smart, cocky, and nearly as tireless as the boss. Evans’ swagger was a key aspect of the Fenty brand.
He had every reason to believe he would be the public face of a youthful Fenty administration that is already turning heads in the newsrooms of national publications. Evans lined up spreads for his boss in a couple of glossy supermarket-checkout-lane magazines. And Fenty’s road to victory in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary election was paved with countless glowing media reports, most notably in the opinion-bending Washington Post.
Evans’ biggest mistake, say Fenty insiders, was taking a bit of a breather in recent weeks, following the flurry of activity stemming from the candidate’s stirring September win. For instance, he failed to attend a recent event involving Fenty and Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nominee Martin O’Malley. Fenty is also said to have been displeased that his press operation didn’t stir coverage for a recent fact-finding visit to Chicago, in which he met with education officials. A similar visit to New York City to see Fenty pal Mayor Michael Bloomberg attracted a throng of reporters.
Sources also say Fenty was chafed when Evans was unable to attend a few mandatory staff meetings.
During the course of the campaign, Evans was briefly absent from the action on account of a family emergency. The usual distractions of youth—Evans has a girlfriend—apparently also ran counter to Fenty’s demands.
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“What you have here is a [mayor-to-be] who doesn’t stop,” says former mayoral spokesperson and informal Fenty adviser Tony Bullock. Downtime is often an unattainable luxury. Fenty, says Bullock, “doesn’t suffer celebration.…I think you’ll find that a lot of elected officials are that way.” Bullock, who has worked for several hard-driving pols, says Fenty’s driven, demanding ways won’t draw much criticism. “The taxpayers have no problem with that.”
Only Fenty and Evans know all the facts surrounding the Democratic nominee’s first high-profile shitcanning. The Fenty camp is officially keeping the reasons behind Evans’ dismissal in the family, and Evans won’t discuss the details either. But one thing is clear: Evans’ untimely exit from the D.C. political scene sends a message that Fenty will demand that his people fork over their lives for his cause.
Over the past year, Fenty has fostered an underground legend as a man intolerant of failures by his staff. Despite Fenty’s easygoing and relaxed public manner, insiders have long whispered about their boss’ hot temper. The guy who demands accountability from the D.C. government isn’t just handing out a campaign line.
His quick hook for what some viewed as his right-hand man sends a message to the folks who’ll be invited to serve in a Fenty administration. Top-flight municipal managers tend to be middle-aged folks with families or at least a hobby. Spending time on such distractions could spell disaster when working for such a demanding boss.
Evans’ only on-the-record comments reflect the bitterness of a guy who has sweated through every suit in his closet while plying D.C. neighborhoods with his ex-boss. “It’s a shame to part ways so quickly after helping get someone elected,” Evans says.
THE WILLIAMS APPOINTMENT MACHINE
Shortly after the September primary election, Mayor Anthony A. Williams agreed to not make any more major appointments. It was a pretty straightforward commitment—decorum, after all, dictates that the lame duck not muddy the waters for the new fellow. Plus, Williams has never been big on rewarding cronies, anyhow.
Of course, following through on the no-appointment pledge would require a skill in short supply in the Williams administration: attention to detail.
Since Fenty won the Sept. 12 primary, the mayor has sent 26 nominations to the D.C. Council, including four recommendations for the powerful D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. “They were already in the pipeline to go to council following the council’s summer recess,” says Ron Collins, the appointed head of the mayor’s office on boards and commissions, who says he did not receive instructions to put the brakes on his work after the Fenty win.
The mayor’s decision—or oversight—in making the nominations could have gone unnoticed. Who would really get worked up about appointing Angelique Champena Bella to the Board of Massage Therapy? But Williams decided to nominate his press spokesperson, Vincent Morris, to the high-profile sports panel. The nominating letter signed by the mayor was dated Oct. 12.
Morris was the guy who provided good reason for the Fenty crowd to assume the next mayor would have plenty of open slots to bestow upon the faithful. On Oct. 5, Morris told the Washington Examiner that Williams had “agreed to hold off on most of the significant appointments as a gesture of courtesy toward the incoming mayor.” Morris’ fellow sports commission nominees—Mark Tuohey, Neil Albert, and Lloyd Jordan—will be surprised to learn that appointments to the sports commission are not considered “significant.”
Williams also kept the appointments train rolling for high-impact panels like the Taxicab Commission, the Historic Preservation Review Board, and the Police Complaints Board.
Williams’ chief of staff, Alfreda Davis, says the nominations went forward in the normal course of business. She has no plans to change things now. “[Fenty and Williams staff] discussed whether it might be better for the mayor to pull all of the nominations back in order for Fenty to weigh in,” Davis says. “I think we are just all mindful that the mayor does still have the right to appoint individuals.”
At Williams’ Oct. 25 weekly press conference, the mayor apparently gave up that right. Sort of. He pledged to withdraw all nominations made before an undisclosed cut-off date.
So why would the Fenty crowd get worked up about the mayor’s last-minute interest in boards and commissions? A sampling of his nominees reveals that some of the mayor’s people aren’t exactly Fenty loyalists:
•Lynne Breaux Cooper, Taxicab Commission. She’s head of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. The group endorsed Fenty opponent D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp.
•William Gray, Taxicab Commission. The 37-year taxicab veteran dropped $500 on the Cropp campaign. He’s still expecting to be nominated. “I haven’t been told any differently,” says Gray. “I would think that the outgoing mayor would probably put some favorites on.”
•James Kane, Historic Preservation Review Board. The Cropp campaign was $1,000 richer because of Kane’s support.
Fenty supporters shouldn’t worry too much about the mayor’s spending time trying to stack boards and commissions on the way out. Several council staffers say no committee chair has any intention of acting on the mayor’s recent nominations.
A quick glance at District 4 D.C. School Board candidate Jacque Patterson’s handbill might lead voters to believe he’s running as a big athletic supporter. As it turns out, he just wants people to pronounce his name correctly.
Across the top of Patterson’s campaign literature, superimposed behind his first name in purple, is the phonetic spelling of his name. “We put ‘Jock’ so people would know how to say it,” recounts the candidate.
When Patterson began his quest for the seat, he found many residents of Wards 7 and 8 were confused by his first name. “I’ve got calls saying ‘is Jackie there,’” says Patterson, who adds that one forum organizer thought he was a woman. “Obviously, French wasn’t taught very much in D.C. schools.”
The confusion is no big surprise to Patterson, who says his 15-year-old daughter, Jacquelyn Patterson, regularly has her name mangled. That’s right; her name is pronounced “Jock-Lynn.” —James Jones
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