Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin is throwing her hat into the 2014 county executive race, joining an already crowded Democratic field.

Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large, and Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville, as well as former County Executive Doug Duncan are also running, with current County Executive Ike Leggett potentially joining them.

The Silver Spring Democrat, 55, said she has formed an exploratory group looking into her election bid. She also has had "serious discussions" with multiple community members, pollsters and media consultants about starting her campaign.

"I've been having some very positive conversations," she said.

Ervin was elected to the County Council in 2006 and is the first black woman to serve on the council. She also served on the Montgomery County school board in 2004 and was Leventhal's chief of staff.

If elected to the county's top post, she would be the first black woman to hold the position.

While Leventhal and Andrews have announced their candidacies, Duncan, 59, announced his intentions to a small group of supporters but has yet to come out publicly. Leggett, 68, said late last year he would reconsider whether he would run after the first of the year, but made no formal commitment.

Leggett said Tuesday he was focused on balancing a budget and lobbying for state transportation funding and would not take a formal stance on a potential run for a third term.

Ervin said she would run regardless of Leggett being in the race. She said the county needs a fresh candidate in the executive's office.

"I believe the message we need to send to the region is we're moving forward," she said. "We've been in a holding pattern for a while."

Since 2008, the county has seen declining state and federal revenues, experienced major budget cuts across all county departments and saw property values sink as the housing market crashed.

She said her goals for the county are to see more economic development and community engagement, as well as create more stability in the local economy.