Rousseau wants to give youth a 'voice at the table'

When City Council candidate Adrian Rousseau was defeated by incumbent at-large Council member Michael Leszcz in the 2011 City Council election, he said he was disappointed but not deterred.

Now, two years later, Rousseau is up for a rematch and is again running against Leszcz for the at-large seat.

"The first cause I decided to run for were the concerns of the community," Rousseau said. "Those concerns haven't been addressed two years later."

Rousseau, 50, said he is a lifelong city resident who is heavily involved with the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he volunteers as athletic director and coach. Rousseau said, if elected, he hopes to represent the youth of the community, whom he feels are under-represented.

"The current administration does not reflect what the city is," he said. "If you don't have kids on the streets that are the age of these kids, it's hard to understand what these parents are going through. I want to give our youth a voice at the table."

Rousseau, a Laurel High School graduate, is the father of three, ages 20, 19 and 13. He currently owns his own security business called OneShadow. According to Rousseau, the small business, which he operates from his home, provides security for individuals as well as consulting for businesses.

The Ward 2 resident said he is a grassroots candidate.

"I'm not a politician and never claimed to be," he said. "People speak to me and ask me to speak on their behalf for issues. That's what I'm doing, and that's why I'm running. As a council person, you have to be in touch with your community."

The Rev. Tony Igbenoba, pastor of Power of Liberty Ministries, which holds Sunday worship services in the Phelps Center, the building that houses the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, said Rousseau "loves the community. He's always there for the kids and would be a wonderful councilman for Laurel."

Rousseau said his main conduit to the community is the club, where he formerly served on the board of directors. He said he stepped down from the board following the 2011 election because he does not want his personal views and campaign to reflect on the organization.

However, Rousseau does not downplay the importance of the club to himself and the Laurel community.

"The club was a big part of my life when I was a kid, so quite naturally, it means a lot to me," he said.

Last month, a task force created by City Council mandate presented a series of recommendations to the council about the club. Among the recommendations presented by the task force, which Rousseau sat on as a club representative, were the creation of grant and loan programs the club and other nonprofits could apply to for capital and operational funding.

For Rousseau and other club proponents, the recommendations missed the mark.

"To me, two years later [the club] is still not being treated the way they could have been or should've been had I been elected," he said.

Although critical of the council's current level of support for the Laurel Boys and Girls Club and other youth programming, Rousseau said he likes the direction the council has taken as it relates to redeveloping the city, which includes the $130 million Town Centre Laurel project to be built on the site where the Laurel Mall formerly stood.

Rousseau added that he is supportive of a speed camera program in the city but would like it tweaked to focus more on safety.

"We need to reassess where we put those cameras and why," he said. "We have to ask how it's going to affect the community."

Rousseau said he supports fellow challengers John Matthews Smith [Ward 1] and Thomas Matthews [Ward 2], who are also pitted against incumbents.

Rousseau said he's known Matthews since childhood, and that the two are close friends.

"I think we connected with the fact that we see the change that needs to be. We all see we need fresh ideas and new ideas," he said.

This is part of a series of profiles on candidates in this year's City Council elections.

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