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Terry Golden likes to make lists. In 1985, when he took over as the administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), he brought an inventory of 10 things he wanted to accomplish, including one that led to the first ban on smoking in federal buildings. He even had these goals printed out on a card that he passed out to agency workers. By the time Golden stepped down, in 1988, he could check all the items off.

When he became president and CEO of Host Marriott Corp., in 1995, he brought a plan to build up the 2-year-old offshoot of the Marriott Corp. By the time he left, in May 2000, the company had tripled in size and doubled its earnings.

“Concrete goals. Definitive outcomes—that’s Terry,” says D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

The goals that Golden sets for himself, however, are not the laundry-list variety. Trivialities such as “Upgrade office computers” or “Make sure budget records are in order” don’t make the cut.

For Golden, lists express ambition. These days, he is chair and CEO of Bailey Capital Corp., his own real-estate investment firm, but he makes time for his true vocation. As a roving bigwig in the District, Golden, 58, has set out to remake entire neighborhoods and overhaul an ailing urban school system. He doesn’t quite put it that way himself, of course. He might say, “The District should be an example of a city that takes care of its own,” or “Every child should have an quality education.” But in his head, he’s always thinking about how many steps lie between here and there.

“He’s really a visionary,” says a former GSA colleague. “He thinks long-term. He can figure out how to put pieces together….If he wants it done, get out the chisel and put it in marble.”

There’s a place in the nation’s capital for former CEOs who want to add civic boosterism to their list of lifetime achievements. It’s called the Federal City Council, a secretive group that since 1954 has been harnessing the energies of people just like Golden, who currently serves as the group’s chair. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group—a self-described “catalyst for progress”—consists of 170 of the city’s business, professional, and educational leaders. Membership is by invitation only, and the members pay hefty dues to belong.

Past Federal City Council leaders have included publisher Austin H. Kiplinger and former Sen. Robert Dole. The title gives Golden an official platform from which to dabble in District affairs. But even without the title, Golden would still have the ear of the D.C. Council, members of Congress, and federal-agency officials. Mayor Williams listens to Golden before anyone else, according to Wilson Building sources.

Golden’s appeal to the power set starts with credentials: He holds degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Notre Dame and MIT, and an MBA from Harvard. He’s also a former national managing partner of Trammell Crow Residential, a major housing developer.

But what really separates Golden from your average meddling mogul is his franchise as the local establishment’s go-to guy, the person D.C. political and business leaders turn to when they want things done. In his various incarnations, Golden has attached his name to just about every watershed development project in the city over the past 18 years:

* The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The Federal City Council had pushed for a trade and cultural center since 1980, to no avail. Then, in 1987, Golden, as GSA administrator, shepherded legislation authorizing the project through Congress.

* The new convention center. When the D.C. business community encountered resistance to this multiblock building, it drafted Golden, then CEO of Host Marriott, to keep the project on track. He came through by convincing city hall, Capitol Hill, and Wall Street to back it.

* The MCI Center. In 1994, Golden and two other local businessmen negotiated on behalf of the city with Capitals and Wizards owner Abe Pollin to build an arena downtown after Pollin refused to deal directly with the city.

At this point, Golden would be justified in heading to his house on the Chesapeake Bay and sailing off into the Delmarva haze. But, instead, he’s getting up before dawn and arriving at his 15th and M Streets NW office by 7:30 a.m. There, he keeps his to-do checklist for the District of Columbia.

Remake Ward 8.

As Alabama Avenue SE rises toward Good Hope Road SE, in the Congress Heights neighborhood, the boarded-up remains of the Stanton Dwellings public-housing project give way to the frames of unfinished town homes. The new houses are part of Henson Ridge, the latest mixed-income community in D.C. to be created by federal HOPE VI funds. The new 56-acre complex will replace both the Frederick Douglass and the Stanton Dwellings. The first tenants are scheduled to move in by the end of the month.

They probably will not know who Terence Golden is, but they may appreciate his attention to detail. Golden was a member of the steering committee that oversaw the development—a position that he secured for himself after playing a part in getting the HOPE VI grant. Steering committees generally confine themselves to big-picture stuff such as the relocation of residents and the demolition schedule.

But Golden bored in on the minutiae. In meetings with residents, architects, and developers, he made suggestions on the details of the new development, including how the front porches would look and how much brick the walls would have. Tweaking things like the shutters and shingles, Golden says, “doesn’t cost any more and makes the place more attractive.”

Vicki Davis, president of Mid-City Urban LLC, the developers of Henson Ridge, says the pros deferred to Golden because they knew that he had built thousands of such houses back in the ’70s and ’80s, when he was a top executive with Trammell Crow.

Golden’s credentials won him fewer allies among the residents. When he first became involved in the redevelopment of Stanton-Douglass, in 1997, tenants questioned his motives. At heated community meetings, people asked him why he was there, what his angle was on the deal. (Golden says he has no financial stake in the deal, and that the only District property he owns an interest in, besides his Spring Valley home, is the Willard Inter-Continental hotel.)

Former Stanton-Douglass Dwellings resident and fellow steering-committee member Sheila Robinson sums up the reactions: “The thing about people who have money and power, especially in low-income communities—it’s like that’s your boss, even when they’re not.”

Robinson says her neighbors fell roughly into three camps on Golden. There were the people who didn’t know who he was. There were the people who didn’t want him because “he meant big money was moving in and taking over.” Finally, there were those who “felt, big money or no, it was better to work with people than completely be on the outskirts of the process.”

Golden first showed up in Congress Heights in 1990, as an emissary of the Federal City Council. The trip represented a reach of sorts for the group, which until then had not worked extensively in Ward 8. Golden’s partner for his forays east of the river was the late Washington Post Co. Chair Katharine Graham.

Golden and Graham started out raising funds to open two early-childhood-development centers. At the time, there were only 66 licensed child-care slots for infants and toddlers in all of Ward 8. The first center opened inside a refurbished building in 1993; Graham assembled a some of the private money for it through her family foundations, recalls Barbara Ferguson Kamara, executive director of the D.C. Office of Early Childhood Development. The high-powered duo hit up wealthy acquaintances and corporate foundations to build a larger brand-new center that opened in the mid-’90s.

But as Golden and Graham went about their charitable projects, they realized that the neighborhood needed something more than a day-care center here and there. Crime was persistent. Housing conditions were deteriorating thanks to the age of the buildings and years of neglect.

So the moguls decided it was time to rebuild the entire neighborhood.

At the time, David Gilmore, then-D.C. Housing Authority receiver, was considering applying for federal HOPE VI funds for several sites in the District. Golden and Graham convinced him to put the Stanton-Douglass Dwellings at the top of the list.

To get the HOPE VI application going, Gilmore set up a community-development corporation that included residents and developers. Golden, who served as the body’s chair, lobbied federal and local officials to support the Stanton-Douglass bid. His initial efforts were a bust. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rejected the first application. The D.C. housing authority, with help from the Federal City Council, tried one more time, and in 1999, HUD awarded the District $29 million to turn the Stanton and Douglass Dwellings into a mixed-income community.

After the funding was secured, Golden stayed on to see the project through. He showed up for steering-committee powwows, the developer’s charettes, and community meetings. No matter how many times someone accused him of being an up-to-no-good moneybags, Golden took his licks and came back for more. After a while, he earned a grudging respect from some of his critics.

But Golden’s sabbatical from angry questions may be coming to an end. Former Stanton-Douglass residents wishing to move back to the property in January learned that a lottery would determine the order in which they will return. “You’ve got to find some objective, fair way for people to come back,” says Larry Dwyer, the housing authority’s HOPE VI coordinator.

But having waited for a few years to return, some of the residents see the lottery as a new obstacle to their return. They are deeply suspicious of the process and the people who originally sold the project to them. “Terry Golden belongs to Marriott,” scoffs Elaine Carter, a former president of the Stanton Dwellings Residents’ Council.

Oust School-Board President.

In the summer of 2000, when Peggy Cooper Cafritz was first running for school-board president, a few of her supporters told her to call Golden. “I was told he was someone I should meet,” Cafritz recalls.

Golden has been a major player in D.C. public schools since he plunged into education reform in 1988. Back then, he had lived in D.C. for four years and had just stepped down as head of the GSA. He had pushed education reform in Texas, but he didn’t have a platform from which to meddle in District affairs. So, with the blessing of the schools superintendent, Golden decided to create one: the D.C. Committee on Public Education, or COPE. Over the years, Golden has had his share of disagreements with superintendents over issues such as privatization and the school budget. But the result was always the same: They left, and he didn’t.

Cafritz knew enough of the back story to take her funders’ advice. She paid Golden a visit at his office. The two talked briefly about the education system. At the end of their conversation, Cafritz recalls him saying, “My, your standards are higher than mine. You should be fine.”

After Cafritz won her election, she says, she would occasionally meet with Golden to catch him up on what was going on. And Golden offered more than chitchat. He came with thoughts about how to reform the school system, such as hiring new principals and having a private accounting firm take over the schools budget office. Cafritz says she was more open to some suggestions than others.

Their relationship soured after stories of infighting between Cafritz and the board trickled back to Golden. “I don’t want to speak for the mayor or the council,” he says. “I’ll put it this way: There had been a lot of conversations about the difficulties being experienced” at the school board among Wilson Building intimates and members of the business community. From everything he heard, Cafritz was a “disruptive force,” he says.

In Golden’s eyes, the job of school-board president was not unlike that of chair of a corporate board. It entailed advancing a common agenda—not repeating the endless bickering that had paralyzed the school board for so long.

So last April, Golden summoned Cafritz to his office. Their recollections of the encounter differ slightly, but the gist is the same: Golden tried to fire her.

“He said that my last 18 months had been a waste. He said, ‘We’—the imperial ‘we’— ‘don’t think you have the qualities or skills to lead the school board and that we have decided that you should step aside.’” When Cafritz pressed him on who exactly had lost confidence in her, Cafritz says that Golden replied, “The business community and people in the mayor’s office,” but he refused to name names. Cafritz says she left soon after, but not before telling him that she wasn’t stepping down.

When asked about “the imperial ‘we,’” Golden says that he was speaking mainly for himself, as opposed to the mayor or other local potentates. “I talked to her before anyone because I didn’t want her to think I was talking about her behind her back,” he says.

After the confrontation, Golden conferred with the mayor, who had endorsed Cafritz in her 2000 run. “He wanted me to support another candidate [in 2002],” says Williams, but the mayor took a neutral stance.

About the same time, a friend of Golden’s was talking with former D.C. Councilmember William Lightfoot about possible challengers to Cafritz. “Me and my big mouth said I would be willing to run if the mayor endorsed me,” says Lightfoot. “Next thing I know, I got a call from Terry.”

Despite Lightfoot’s unparalleled record of political dithering, Golden phoned Lightfoot as soon as he got word of his interest. By then, Golden’s gambit had leaked into the news media. Cafritz denounced it at the time in the Washington Post as “testosterone run amock.”

Lightfoot says that he left the behind-the-scenes campaigning to Golden, who, in turn, would call him from time to time to update him on the mayor’s thinking. Lightfoot says they also chatted a couple of times about issues that Lightfoot needed to bone up on for the campaign trail.

Williams saved Lightfoot the trouble of cramming on standardized-test scores and enrollment figures. In the end, he didn’t budge from his noncommittal stance, and Lightfoot bowed out. Last November, Cafritz ran unopposed and won 96 percent of the vote.

Since the incident, Cafritz and Golden have run into each other a couple of times. They try to remain cordial. “I don’t want to prolong the feud,” says Golden, who recently scheduled a meeting with the school-board president. Golden says he realizes that Cafritz is probably “frustrated” with him. He says he didn’t mean anything personal by his comments.

That doesn’t mean that he regrets trying to force her out. “I admire Peggy Cafritz. She’s a person with high standards. She has high expectations for children. She’s put a lot of personal energy into making that happen,” he says. “The point I was making at the time was, I didn’t think she had the necessarily qualities or skills to bring the school board, mayor, and city council together and have them focus on a unified education plan for the city and the children.”

He adds: “It was neither the first nor the last disappointment I’ve had.”

The Cafritz screw-up highlighted the perils that await a career businessman wading into the field of politics. Golden is used to leveraging his connections and clout to close real-estate deals and improve schools. He has less experience dealing with a less pliable institution: the ballot box. No matter how powerful you are, you can’t just order an elected official to leave office. Your first step has to be finding an ambitious, qualified opponent. “You can’t beat someone with no one,” says political consultant Tom Lindenfeld.

Golden’s friends spin the incident as an example of a straight shooter speaking his mind. “While other people sit and figure out politically the implications of A vs. B, his instinct is to deal with people face to face,” says one source close to Golden.

In the end, though, the Cafritz fiasco stands as a blemish on Golden’s legendary record of imposing his will wherever he sees fit. “I fully respect people having to work on things, but there is a process and a procedure. You have to work with the people impacted,” says Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. “It came across as a dressing-down to the school-board president.”

“I thought it was inappropriate. He represents the business community. He doesn’t have kids in D.C. public schools,” says school-board member William Lockridge. “It shows the kind of influence he wants to have. He wanted a candidate more open to the business community.”

Both Lockridge and Cafritz have said they suspect that Golden was just trying to find a way to privatize public education. As far back as the early ’90s, Golden suggested private management of low-performing schools, a method he once called the “guts of real reform.” Then, in 2000, after lobbying by Golden, Williams asked the school board to consider letting a private company manage some of the worst-performing schools. Later, Golden took up the idea with Cafritz as well, says the school-board president.

Golden has also been a big backer of charter schools, which he believes give public schools much-needed competition. Even so, he says he “doesn’t want to be cast as being against public schools or as someone who wants to do them in.”

Instead, Golden has worked with Superintendent Paul Vance on such projects as recruiting senior staff and drafting a business plan for the school system. Golden sat on the interview committee that hired Vance, and he and Vance still meet periodically, says the superintendent.

“[Golden’s] stomach is always churning,” says Federal City Council Executive Vice President Kenneth Sparks. “He’s always worried some kid out there is getting screwed out of an education.”

Fix Special Education

In April 2001, Eric Price, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, set out from his office at Judiciary Square for St. Coletta of Greater Washington, a school for developmentally challenged children, in Alexandria, Va. D.C. Office of Planning Director Andrew Altman had been out at the school a week earlier. The school had invited the two District government officials, but they had extra incentive to go: Golden had asked them to.

Price had dealt with Golden before, over economic development and planning issues. But St. Coletta was another matter. Price says that before his trip to St. Coletta, he had never discussed anything education-related with Golden. “I didn’t quite know what to expect,” Price says.

When Price arrived, school officials whisked him on a tour of the facility. During the walk-though, Golden remained mostly silent, looking on as Executive Director Sharon Raimo touted the school’s individualized approach to teaching its students. St. Coletta backers pitched a proposed D.C. campus as a way out of the city’s decade-long crisis in special education. The District shells out about $40 million per year for transportation for kids whom the public schools cannot adequately serve.

Price came away convinced that if St. Coletta could secure a foothold in the city, the school would be able to serve many District children closer to home and thus help the school system control its spiraling transportation costs. The city wouldn’t have to pay to build the school; St. Coletta would raise the funds to cover the cost of construction. All the District would have to do would be to come up with a suitable site.

In fact, a few District officials had already been helping the school scout for a location for four years, says Raimo. Twice, however, neighborhood opposition had shut St. Coletta out of sites near the Capitol. The tour stiffened the resolve of city officials to keep the search moving.

Golden had pushed tours for District honchos with a hunch of how they would affect the Williams administration. A visit in mid-March 2001 had made an impact on him. He says he had gone reluctantly, at the urging of his friend George Ferris Jr., chair of the financial services firm of Ferris, Baker, Watts, who happens to be a St. Coletta donor. When Golden saw the school, he was so impressed, recalls Raimo, that he wrote a check before he left.

Golden had latched onto another cause, with all the attendant implications. In the months that followed, he chaperoned Raimo to meetings with various D.C. councilmembers. If Raimo was scheduled to meet with other District officials, he made sure to call ahead to let them know she was coming, says Raimo. When St. Coletta officials began interviewing potential architects for the new school, Golden sat in on every meeting, says Raimo. For a time, visitors to his office saw plans of the school on his floor.

Architect Michael Graves, known best for his Target teakettles, walked away with the commission after he, too, took the time to visit the Alexandria campus. “[Graves’] eyes filled up. He picked up the kids—he held them,” recalls Raimo. “Terry was really concerned that the architect get the mission of the school…. [Graves] impressed us as having his heart in it.”

During the spring, Golden was talking to Vance, who was working on a five-year plan to be released in June 2001. When Golden learned that the plan was going to include a proposal to bring private providers to open satellites in the District, he acted quickly. In May 2001, he arranged a tour of St. Coletta for Vance Chief of Staff Steve Seleznow, Deputy Superintendent for Special Education Anne Gay, Chief Academic Officer Mary Gill, and D.C. Department of Health Director Ivan Walks. Walks says he hadn’t even heard of the school until Golden called him asking him to visit.

By then, Ward 6 D.C. Councilmember Sharon Ambrose had suggested to Raimo a four-acre site for St. Coletta on the campus of D.C. General Hospital and the D.C. Jail, known in planning parlance as Reservation 13. In June 2001, St. Coletta officials trekked out to Reservation 13 with Golden, Walks, Price, and Altman, and liked what they saw. They wouldn’t have to demolish any buildings or wait for the city to. And it was near the Stadium-Armory Metro station. Taking possession of the land, however, would prove trickier than city officials anticipated. School attorneys learned that the land belonged to the federal government.

So St. Coletta needed someone with real-estate experience, power, and contacts to broker a deal. The school didn’t need to look far for someone with those attributes. Golden obliged by negotiating the transfer of all of Reservation 13’s 67 acres from federal to District control for no consideration. Once the District had control, the city could then lease the four acres to St. Coletta, and at the end of the lease, the District would own the building. In March 2002, Raimo and D.C. City Administrator John Koskinen inked a memorandum of understanding outlining the deal. And in January, the D.C. Council approved the draft master plan for Reservation 13, including the city’s planned 99-year lease with St. Coletta.

Raimo credits Golden with the school’s change in fortunes. “He’s a rainmaker, a single-handed crusader,” she says. “He’s tireless. He absolutely never gives up.”

District officials couldn’t be more pleased with the deal. It helps Vance get a handle on runaway special-education transportation costs. The transfer of Reservation 13 fits into the mayor’s Anacostia-waterfront development plans. And the D.C. children who attend St. Coletta will be able to go to school closer to home.

One constituency, however, isn’t so grateful for Golden’s efforts on behalf of the public good: Capitol Hill East residents.

Some homeowners aren’t thrilled with the pollution and noise that will accompany the daily parade of school buses through their streets. Others are unhappy about the parking spaces they anticipate they will lose to the roughly 150 school employees. Even the much-touted “landmark” design of the building, which was previewed last year at community meetings, has its detractors. Michael Graves “should stick to teapots,” gripes resident Beth Purcell.

But what really bothers people is that city officials presented the plan as a fait accompli. Capitol Hill Restoration Society President Rob Nevitt says he and other residents first heard about the new addition to the neighborhood after a February 2002 meeting where Altman spoke. “People wondered, How did Raimo get this early bite of the apple?” says Nevitt.

Last May, Purcell and a few other residents confronted Raimo and Altman at a community meeting wearing black T-shirts depicting St. Coletta as a pig gorging on “the District pie.” The anti-St. Coletta crowd had also made matching handkerchiefs. Raimo dubbed them “the piggy people.”

Golden accompanied Raimo to a few stops on a meet-the-neighbors tour. The city’s political and business elite would hardly have recognized him, though. In high-level meetings, he’s known for his outspokenness. But at a May 2002 community meeting, Golden was reserved. He offered some remarks on behalf of St. Coletta. But the few who recognized him don’t even recall him speaking. “He stayed for about an hour, hour and a half,” recalls Capital Hill resident Frank Zampatori. “Then he left without saying a word.”

If Golden had had to persuade the piggy people, he would have tried. But he didn’t have to. The deal was done. “I’m much more effective the less I’m in the spotlight,” he says.

Save Greater Southeast.

Late last year, Golden sent the mayor a letter officially offering to help sort out the mess created by the November 2002 bankruptcy of Doctors Community Healthcare Corp., which owns and operates Greater Southeast Community Hospital. The hospital is the centerpiece of the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, which cares for those city residents who can’t afford private health-care coverage.

Golden sent the letter on behalf of the Federal City Council. His counterparts with the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce did likewise. Golden says he acted at the request of local hospital executives, who had been regaling him with horror stories about overcrowded emergency rooms, ambulance-service backups, and, of course, higher costs.

“All of the major hospitals in the city are providing care to the indigent. Every hospital in the city is being taxed because of the bankruptcy of Doctors,” says Golden. “We all have got to be concerned about what’s happening. It goes back to ‘Why is the Federal City Council here?’ We have to do our part to be supportive.”

Leave it to the bottom line to get business people out to the front lines. Golden says he and other city business leaders didn’t feel the need to chime in on D.C.’s health-care drama until now. They weren’t about to chain themselves to the doors of D.C. General Hospital, which closed despite virulent public opposition in November 2001. “The mayor is moving in the right direction” with the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, he says. “He just rode the wrong horse.”

In the bankruptcy of Doctors, Golden sees a fresh start where most residents and city officials see a disaster. “The mayor made a poor choice in letting Doctors operate Greater Southeast,” he says. “Fortunately, now we have to opportunity to bring in a quality operator…someone independent and accountable to the city.”

In other words, it’s another job for Mr. Fix-It.

Golden has some thoughts about what should happen next, and he’s happy to rattle them off. Step 1: “Bring in a quality operator [for Greater Southeast].” Step 2: “Build a trauma center on that side of the city.” Step 3: “Bring in another company to manage accounting and bill-paying [for the alliance].”

So far, Golden has been concentrating his efforts on the Wilson Building. In recent weeks, he’s been calling Koskinen to talk about Greater Southeast’s financial straits. “He’s anxious about it,” says Koskinen. “But there’s not much we can do until we see how the bankruptcy plays out.”

Schmooze the Mayor.

Golden has enjoyed good relationships with the past three mayors. But he’s particularly close to Williams.

The two men have much in common. Both worked in federal Washington before they dived into District politics. Both rose to prominence at a time when the financial control board was running D.C.

One major difference is that Golden was used to being a bigfoot in municipal politics before he moved to D.C., in 1984, to be an assistant secretary in the U.S. Treasury Department. Back in his native Dallas, he was a member of a group similar to the Federal City Council called the Greater Dallas Planning Council. Soon after he arrived in D.C., he so impressed Federal City Council leaders with his work on the International Trade and Cultural Center that they embraced him as one of their own.

By the time Williams took office in 1999, Golden had long since cemented his reputation as one of the District’s premier power brokers in the private sector. And much of his power derives from diplomacy.

“Terry doesn’t expect to walk into the mayor or the city council’s office and say, ‘Here’s what the business community wants. Do it,’” says Board of Trade President Robert Peck. “He will say, ‘Who do we need to talk to? Who do we need to convince?’”

“It’s not like it was years ago, when business would run roughshod over the community,” Golden says. “We’ve changed our priorities over time. Rather than being the prime drivers of priorities…we’re taking our cues from the mayor.”

Williams describes his relationship with Golden as “a close partnership.” He says their friendship is what sets Golden apart from other business-leader types who offer him counsel, solicited and otherwise. “When you’re friends, it’s easier to bridge differences,” notes Williams. “I call on [Golden] for advice and consultation on everything.”

Williams says he and Golden have had their share of disagreements. For example, he says he supports a new central library, whereas Golden doesn’t. And when Golden has an opinion, he can be relentless. “He’s very persuasive and demanding,” says Williams. “He can definitely bear down on you.”

Golden’s call-em-like-he-sees-’em act has left some mayoral underlings with the distinct impression that Golden is calling the shots for Williams. “Guys like Golden dictate,” says one former Wilson Building insider. “The mayor would be afraid to talk to them if they were mad at him.”

Of course, the blood pressure of mayoral aides spikes at the suggestion that the mayor isn’t in charge. “The mayor is the mayor,” says deputy chief of staff for policy, Gregory McCarthy. “He doesn’t get dictated to.”

The way Williams tells it, Golden doesn’t need to be pushy. “I agree with most of what he says,” says the mayor. CP

Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Charles Steck.