Thomas Matthews says that growing up in the 1960s in Laurel's historically black Grove community, the Laurel Boys and Girls Club was instrumental in his life.
Now, as Matthews seeks a seat representing Ward 2 on the Laurel City Council in the Nov. 5 election, the 52-year-old said he has not forgotten where he came from.
"I have been an advocate for the Laurel Grove community over the years. There have been a lot of issues, and I've been the one who goes to the city to speak on behalf of the residents," Matthews said. "I think I can do the same thing in Ward 2."
Matthews, who works as the assistant director for Howell Funeral Home in Jessup, said he is running on a two-pronged approach, advocating for both seniors and youth in the community.
"What I'm hearing from the residents is the youth and the seniors need to have a stronger voice in the community," Matthews said.
Matthews is running against incumbents Fred Smalls and Donna Crary for one of two seats in Ward 2. Matthews and longtime friend Adrian Rousseau, an at-large candidate also running on advocating for youth, are on the same ticket as Ward 1 challenger John Mathew Smith.
All five incumbents are running together as Team Laurel.
"I attended the Laurel Boys and Girls Club at a very young age, and it paid dividends later in life," Matthews said. "I feel the local government and city officials are not giving the kids a fair shake, not giving them all they can give so they can be successful. The Boys and Girls Club is needed."
Matthews said youth "is number one" for him in terms of issues, but that he also wants to see increased transportation and safety initiatives for senior citizens.
"We have transportation, but it could be better," Matthews said. "We need to tap into whatever resources to make that available for our seniors."
While Matthews concedes the current council has done "a good job" with economic development, specifically the development of Towne Centre Laurel, he said there needs to be change.
"They are out of touch with the people in the city," Matthews said. "Change is good. If you've been together too long you get too comfortable and you forget about the people."
Matthews, whose campaign slogan is "Determined, Decisive and Dependable," said he is the person that can bring that change.
"Everything about me says 'I am Laurel,'" Matthews said. "I have a love for the people. I've seen the city for 52 years. I've seen it at its worst, and I've seen it at its best. I know I can make a change."
City resident Bernice Brooks, who said she has known Matthews since birth, said he is well informed and knows the city well.
"He is a community man," Brooks said. "I think he would be very good and would recommend him."
This is part of a series of profiles on candidates in this year's City Council elections.