Senator Nancy King is a Member of Senate since September 5, 2007 and serving as Majority Leader, 2020-present. She was a Member of House of Delegates, represented District 39 from January 8, 2003 to September 5, 2007. She was a Member of Board of Education, represented District 1, Montgomery County, 1994-2002. Senator King born in Niagara Falls, New York. She moved to Montgomery County and actively participated in community service. She was president and coordinator, Gaithersburg Meals on Wheels, 1982-92. She was member of Board of Directors, Montgomery Village Foundation, 1991-96. President, Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), 1993-94. John R. Hargreaves Distinguished Legislative Fellow, Salisbury University, 2018. She is married. She has three daughters and two grandchildren.
Nagender Madavaram: You have been in public service for longtime. You are Majority Leader in the Senate. You chaired many legislative committees and passed many bills successfully. How do you feel about it?
Senator Nancy King: Well, I’ve been in public service for longtime. I’m just starting my 21st year. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. I think especially in the last few years, we’ve really accomplished a lot for Montgomery County. That’s what I’m there. You know, I started out my career on the Board of Education. I served for eight years and my heart lies with the education of our kids. I’ve also been able to accomplish a lot of other things. Along the way, it’s been so far a good ride and I’m not ready to give it up yet. So, as long as I have the energy and the interest, I will work.
Nagender Madavaram: You served on the Kirwan Commission. The commission made good suggestions for improving education at early childhood. Do you think the recommendations of the commission are implemented?
Senator Nancy King: Well, it’s all still pretty new. I think, one of the things that has come out of it that is helping Montgomery County especially, right now, we want teachers to be paid more. We need to pay teachers, at least partially what they deserve. I think they deserve a whole lot more than they’re getting. Currently, if they’re living by themselves, they have to have another job because they can’t afford to live on what they’re making. I think they need to be able to have a more livable wage. That’s one of the big things in the blueprint. We have a lot of special needs children and Montgomery County has done a great job over the years. People are moving to the county from all over the country for our special education services. That’s not a joke. So, I mean that the blueprint has a lot of work to evolve. I’m just working with the State Department of Education and the local school board to make sure that all happens.
Board of Education:
Nagender Madavaram: You worked in the Board of Education. The board is managing around $3 billion budget but they don’t have good salaries to spend more time on their job. What do you think?
Senator Nancy King: Well, here’s my opinion on the Board of Education since I was there for eight years. The Board of Education, to me, is a policymaking board. They are not the ones that implement the policies. The Superintendent and the employee implement policies. There are a lot of meetings. The board members have to go out to each cluster and each high school. When I was on the board, we had 158 meetings per year. That’s a lot. It’s really hard to have a fulltime job and take time off from that job to do the meetings. That is a huge issue but I don’t know that it should be a fulltime job.
Nagender Madavaram: Most recently you co-sponsored the Climate Solutions Now Act. What benefits the act will bring to the environment?
Senator Nancy King: Well, I think it is critical to do something now. The bill, we had in last year went a little bit too far. There is a huge urgency to do something right away. I think we’ve got to take it in smaller steps in order for people to go along with it. Montgomery County is really doing well on the idea of transit and less cars. That’s going to be done slowly because people are not willing to give up their cars and especially in my part of the county. It’s not convenient to take transit and trains. I do think there’s an urgency on the climate issue and that’s why I supported it. It was a very, very complicated bill, hard to understand every single one of the issues that came along with it. The bill mentioned about electric vehicles and homes without gas. They want to have electric appliances and heater in homes. We discussed with the electric companies about power grid. The current grid capacity is not big enough to take on that job. They can’t take that much power surge. I think everybody’s got the right intention and the right idea, but I think we really need to be sure we’re not making mistakes as we’re making this climate policy. Montgomery County has quite a few electric school buses already.
Nagender Madavaram: Traffic is main problem in Upper County. New communities were built in the area but infrastructure was not developed to meet the demand.
Senator Nancy King: I have been criticized for my stand on 495 and the American Legion Bridge. I understand that a lot of the residents in down county and there are quite a few here too that don’t want to see us to do anything on 270 and 495. I hear from people, who are sitting in traffic on those roads, asking to do something. I’m not a transportation person. I don’t know the exact answer. I just know that doing nothing is not an option. Whether we have to put more lanes or extend the metro up to Frederick. There are a lot of different things. People were against the toll lanes on the Intercounty connector now that is a well-used road. You get through so much faster and easier by taking the intercounty connector. I think that they’ll find the same thing out if there were toll roads on 270 and then again everybody doesn’t have to take the toll roads. You can take the regular roads. I think traffic will be easier for people who are not paying tolls. So, I just think something drastically has to happen.
Another thing is the American Legion bridge, I don’t care what hour of the day and night you go on the American Legion bridge the traffic slows down on the bridge. We have to do something for that as the traffic is just getting worse. I am just not a believer that we’re going to be able to tell people they have to get out of their cars. It’s just not convenient for my part of the county.
Nagender Madavaram: There is strong opinion in Upcounty that other parts of the county are opposing expansion of 270 in fact, they don’t even use the road. Upcounty people are facing the problem, but decisions are taken by other parts of the county. Is it right?
Senator Nancy King: You are exactly correct and some of the loudest voices about the traffic on 270 are people that are older than me and don’t ever even drive on 270. They just really don’t want to see any change. I’m talking to employers on a regular basis. They told me that they can’t attract new employees to their companies because nobody wants to move here and face the traffic. So, I really believe something has to be done. Let me just get on my soapbox for a minute here. One of the reasons why we don’t get a loud voice from the Upcounty is that our people don’t vote. If you look at the votes that came in the primary, back in July. Our people don’t vote. If you look at the number of people that voted in my district compared to all the rest of the county. We’re like at the bottom of the heap. People just don’t come out and vote. They don’t express their opinion but people in Takoma Park, Silver Spring do. They vote and they make a loud noise, that’s what happens. We have talked for many years about how do we get people in this district or in this part of the county to come out and vote to show an interest. They just don’t.
Nagender Madavaram: We are seeing some issues in the public safety. There is demand for defunding police but it is not possible. What do you think about those issues and how we can solve them?
Senator Nancy King: I have so much respect for the police. It’s a pretty thankless job for somebody to take. I watched the news of Prince Georges County over the weekend. I think Montgomery County got the same kind of issues. We have the same young people that are committing these crimes over and over again. All we do is slap their hand and put them back out on the street to do more. There’s always the question about, you know, how much of a punishment do they need. We don’t want to put them away forever. We don’t want to ruin their life, we don’t. I agree with that but I don’t know how to stop these young kids from committing these crimes over and over again and getting away with it. That’s the frustration I hear out in the public. Why are the same kids doing the same crimes and getting away? They know they can get away with it. They can do whatever they want.
I thank goodness, I’m on the budget committee and not on the Judicial Committee. There has to be something that stops people from doing things that they’re not supposed to do.
Nagender Madavaram: House Speaker and Senate President salaries are less than the Montgomery County Council member. They’re not getting good salary. Technically, jobs of Delegates and State Senators are parttime but they do work more than 90 days.
Senator Nancy King: I think we all need to pay a decent salary. I have a small consulting business. I can do on my own time. It’s very hard, especially for new young legislators, to get elected and have a fulltime job that allows you to take three full months off to do the session. We’ve got committee meetings, site visits and a lot of different meetings for the rest of the year. I don’t think you can’t live on what we make during the session.
Nagender Madavaram: Covid slowed down economic growth in the county. What suggestions you make for economic development of the county?
Senator Nancy King: Well, number one is the transportation. I think Montgomery County has gotten better about it. I still hear some complaints every once in a while. It’s very hard to get a business started here. Just with all the different steps you have to go through to get to that point. It’s sometimes perceived in the business community as not being very business friendly, too hard to get a building permit, too hard to get things done, even just to get started. I think Montgomery County has gotten a whole lot better about that. I’m sure there’s still some improvement could be made.
Nagender Madavaram: Workforce development is a challenge in this region. There is scarcity for professionals in IT and biotech.
Senator Nancy King: Well, Montgomery College and Universities of Shady Grove are really helping to put qualified people in those technical fields. Hughes Network is constructing a building right on the Montgomery College campus to be able to train people to work in their field. So, students will be right there on the job at Hughes and that’s just one place. I think that some of the big companies are getting more and more creative as how to get qualified people for their companies. They might have to train them from school themselves. We have Montgomery County Workforce Development Board to train plumbers, electricians and other crafts. Universities of Shady Grove is one of the best kept secrets that we have. I look at these success stories that come out of there. I’m on the Board of Advisors for that schools. I am amazed at the 12 qualified students that come out of Universities of Shady Grove. They don’t have to really leave home to get their education and get the diplomas.