In an interview with The Post the day before he traveled to India in December, Gandhi said he had no plans to resign, although he acknowledged the toll that the job had taken on him. “People like me come and go,” he said. “I have no illusion. Even though I have a five-year tenure, and I have spent 12 years here and four mayors, God, I take one day at a time. You cannot take these things for granted here.”
Jim Dinegar, chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said he was not especially surprised that Gandhi is leaving — particularly given this week’s surplus announcement.
“I guess if I’m in his shoes, it’s, ‘Here’s a $400 million surplus — thank you very much, don’t forget to tip your waitress,’ ” he said.
But several people said the week appeared normal for Gandhi, a native of Gujarat, India, who has moonlighted as an author of Sanskrit poetry and an actor who has portrayed Mahatma Gandhi.
Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said Gandhi walked into his office about 10 a.m. Friday and said he “wanted to take it easy, spend time with his friend doing poetry, and has no plans to take another job.” Gandhi would be open to sitting on a corporate board, according to Evans.
Evans said that there “is tremendous concern” among city and business leaders about “who’s next” but that he is optimistic Gray will conduct an inclusive, nationwide search for Gandhi’s replacement.
Gray — who despite occasional disagreements with Gandhi developed a rapport over their commitment to fiscal rectitude — said in a statement he was “sorry to see him go.”
“Without his leadership, the District would not have experienced the extraordinary fiscal turnaround that we have seen in the last dozen years,” Gray said. “Our city owes him a great debt of gratitude.”
Gray’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said it was “too soon” to discuss a replacement. Others in the John A. Wilson Building were not so reticent.
“We need someone with enormous skills,” said Evans, noting that the council needs to confirm a nominee before Gandhi’s scheduled departure date.
Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), Gandhi’s most frequent critic on the council, said that Gray and other District officials need to aggressively recruit a replacement.
“There was a time when we would put a help-wanted sign out and pick from the people who showed, but I think the city has to be more self-respecting,” Catania said. “We need to go after people who are excellent, who are demonstrated leaders . . .”
Last year, Catania was the only council member to vote against Gandhi’s reappointment, expressing doubt about his revenue projections and truthfulness. But in an interview Friday, Catania said Gandhi will likely be remembered as an effective public servant who helped stabilize city finances.
“People generally forget the bad over time,” Catania said. “I think Dr. Gandhi’s tenure will be one that is generally seen as a net plus for the city, and I think he deserves that.”
Debbie Cenziper and Tim Craig contributed to this report.