In the coming years, the Laurel City Council will be relied upon by the community to successfully navigate a broad range of challenges, particularly related to development, both in and out of the city.
In selecting who to endorse for the upcoming election, we sought to envision the right mix of representatives to maintain stability and continuity, as well as present counterpoints and fresh ideas that will lead to a stronger consensus, not discord.
The new council will have to prepare for — and not resist — the massive 64-acre, mixed-use development likely coming next to Laurel Park racetrack. It must meditate on the short- and long-term effects of the Maglev high-speed train being fast-tracked by the state. It must continue to try and nurture Main Street. It must remain mindful of the environment as growth accelerates, while considering the effect of all these challenges on transportation, parking and plain, old livability in Laurel.
Tackling these issues will help Laurel determine its own future, rather than being steamrolled by external forces. Here are our picks in the upcoming City Council election:
At large: Mike Leszcz has a long track record of service, with deep institutional memory and a broad palette of community involvement. He has a bottomless knowledge of local government and a strong understanding of how development affects city tax revenue. We like his steady hand.
Ward 1: Edward Ricks hadn’t served on the council since 1988 when he returned in 2011. Clearly, he, too, has deep institutional knowledge. Ricks helped lead the fight to keep Laurel’s historic MARC station open when the Maryland Department of Transportation sought consolidation of the Laurel stop outside the racetrack. He also has the support of Mayor Craig Moe, whose leadership of Laurel has been exemplary. Carl DeWalt has been knocking on the door for a while, and we believe it’s time he got his chance. A Laurel police officer for 28 years as well as a long-serving volunteer with Maryland Special Olympics, the Laurel Board of Trade, Lions Club and Fraternal Order of Police, his commitment to the community appears unquestionable. We admire his attention to veterans, retired law enforcement, equitable hiring and safety.
Ward 2: Like Ricks and Leszcz, Fred Smalls has been a fixture for years in Laurel government, rising through the PTA and his homeowner association to develop a comprehensive understanding of how the city works. In the past, he helped developers with zoning in the creation of Towne Centre at Laurel and lately has kept a close watch on housing preferences among millennials and their penchant for downsizing and apartment living. He is a gentle, authoritative presence and a consensus builder. Newcomer Keith Sydnor has projected a fresh voice at candidate forums, and we see him bringing healthy, new energy to the council. A U.S. Navy veteran and longtime youth football coach, Sydnor worked as a union organizer who has sought to increase job training programs and promises to carry that work forward. He has stressed the revitalization of Main Street, and vows to make sure community voices are heard when decisions are made.