The first time Ike Leggett ran for county office in 1986, he initially didn’t put his picture on the brochure. He’d been advised an African-American couldn’t get elected in largely white Montgomery County. He won that council race and is now in his third term as Montgomery’s first black county executive. The place he heads is far more diverse: urban/suburban/rural, with a multicultural population. Residents are likelier than ever to work as well as live there, and poverty and homelessness are no longer other people’s problems. Montgomery has expanded affordable-housing funding, added programs for immigrants, increased minimum wage, and created a program to hire people with disabilities. It’s home to some of our most affluent, but Leggett, who grew up in a shotgun house in Louisiana with 12 siblings, identifies with its needy citizens. During high school, his church spent months raising scholarship funds and presented $37 to be shared by Leggett and two others. “I’m still trying to live up to their expectations,” he says.
This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.