Friends, colleagues remember Garrott as
woman of conviction

Journal staff writer

In 1972, Montgomery County Council members Sid Kramer and Idamae Garrott were invited by
Metro officials to venture into what then was a tunnel so they could see the progress on subway

It had rained the night before, and the tunnel was flooded with three feet of water. The work site's
foreman gave Kramer and Garrott the option of coming back another day, Kramer recalled

``We're here, and we're going down there!" Garrott shot back, Kramer said, describing a telling
moment 30 years ago with the tiny woman whose passing Sunday inspired large tributes from
political friends and foes from all over Montgomery County.

``Of course, I could do no less than Idamae," Kramer said. ``I couldn't let this little lady say yes
and then I walk away. I had no choice. I went home afterward and poured the water out of my

It was this special brand of tenacity that friends and colleagues said

made Garrott equal parts woman of the people and tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners Democratic

Garrott, 82, died of complications from a broken hip she suffered in May. Viewings will be held
tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Hines Rinaldi Funeral Home in Silver Spring.

There will be a memorial service Thursday at 2 p.m. at Woodside United Methodist Church, also
in Silver Spring. Her Friday burial will be private, according to officials.

The Silver Spring resident was seen as recently as last year sitting quietly in her wheelchair as she
listened to the Montgomery County Council on which she once sat debate the long-proposed
Inter-County Connector, which she passionately opposed.

Audubon Naturalist Society conservationist Neal Fitzpatrick said a public hearing on the ICC on
June 1, when she was in the hospital, was the first time he had ever seen her absent from any sort
of hearing on the issue.

Garrott, a Democrat and fervent advocate of what has now become known as ``slow growth,"
was seen by Fitzpatrick and other county activists as the godmother of the anti-ICC movement.

During election years, including last year, she put together candidate slates, including people from
the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee all the way to the Maryland General
Assembly, based in part on their ICC stances.

Although some county business and political leaders considered Garrott an extremist who refused
to compromise on land-use issues, many of her candidates won, including the 1970
all-Democratic County Council she helped steer to election victory.

Among those members were Kramer, who was elected county executive in 1986, and Neal
Potter, who became county executive in 1990, after beating Kramer in a bloody primary.

Garrott was the lone returning member of the 1966 County Council, during which she often was
the one dissenting vote on planning issues. She was made council president in 1971, and presided
over the crafting of landlord-tenant legislation and the county's Adequate Public Facilities
Ordinance, which requires that transportation, education and other forms of infrastructure be in
place before a development is allowed to proceed.

Potter worked with Garrott during the 1960s, when he was president of the Montgomery County
Citizens Planning Association and she was head of the League of Women Voters.

Together, they fought against what they saw as overdevelopment of a formerly rural county and,
said political observer and Montgomery Journal columnist Blair Lee, ``helped make this a better

``We wanted to know the facts," Potter said. ``We felt we could protect things others could not."

Friends said Garrott retained that conviction despite losing bids for county executive and the U.S.
Congress and, beginning in 1978, 16 years representing Maryland Assembly District 19, which
encompasses Silver Spring.

Her tenure in Annapolis was evenly divided between eight years in the House of Delegates and
eight years in the Maryland Senate before finally retiring because of health problems.

``She had the uncanny ability to consider nothing too big or too small for her to tackle," said Del.
Adrienne Mandel, D-Silver Spring, one of several politicians and activists who considered Garrott
a mentor.

``She would intercept the governor at an event and invite him to her house to speak with her, and
then she would show up at a civic association meeting. This was recently, when she was retired,
so the energy just continued," said Mandel.

Garrott first became involved in local politics in 1952 when she and others founded the
Montgomery County League of Women Voters. Before that, the former Idamae Thomas Riley,
born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Prince George's County, taught government and history
for 10 years in Baltimore's public schools.

She married William T. Garrott, an Agriculture Department economist in 1948.

State Sen. Leonard Teitelbaum, who won Garrott's seat in 1994 after she retired, said she would
be a featured character in any Montgomery County history.

``When you write the history of Montgomery County for the last 40 years, Idamae Garrott needs
to play a prominent part in it," said Teitelbaum, D-Silver Spring.