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City of Laurel election preview: Learn about the candidates for mayor, City Council

On Nov. 5, the city of Laurel will hold its general election for mayor and five City Council members: two from Ward 1, two from Ward 2 and one at-large.

Candidates in Ward 1 are currently serving in office and running uncontested. Candidates in Ward 2 are also running uncontested, though Keith R. Sydnor is currently in office and Brencis Smith is a new candidate.

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Mayor

Craig Moe

Mayor Moe is seeking his fifth term as mayor. At the Laurel Board of Trade Forum, Moe said he “was always fighting for Laurel,” and that he kept the government “open, accessible and transparent.”

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Jeffrey Mills

Age: 47

Education: Some college for business and leadership at local community colleges

Residence: Has lived in Laurel since 2010

Why seeking office: “My dad always told me, if you see a problem, you have the power to solve that problem,” Mills said. In previous elections, he has run for City Council.

Mills has several plans he would like to put in motion if elected including helping police officers with their pension, retirement and competitive wages; affordable housing; safe infrastructure and improved landscaping.

“People are asking for a change,” Mills said. “That is what I am bringing.”

Council member at-large

Thomas E. Matthews Jr.

Age: 58

Education: Mortuary classes

Residence: Has lived in Laurel all his life

Why seeking office: “I am running because I want to bring a change to government that has been in place too long,” Matthews said.

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Matthews would like to see the city provide more support to the Laurel Boys & Girls Club. He would like to bring accountability to the hiring and promoting of city employees, and he would like to see a police officer dedicated to Main Street.

“I feel I am a good candidate to serve the people,” Matthews said.

Valerie Nicholas

Age: 55

Education: Some college, fellowship at Harvard

Residence: Since 2001

She has served as a council member for Ward 1 for four terms, a period of eight years total.

Why seeking office as council member at-large: “I want to continue to serve the people and to continue to help people,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas would like to get a handle on the city’s crime, as she has seen an increase. She would also like to increase home ownership through home affordability.

“I look forward to being elected and continue the great work we’ve been doing,” Nicholas said.

Council member Ward 1

Carl DeWalt and Michael R. Leszcz are current council members and running unopposed.

Council member Ward 2

Keith R. Sydnor is a current council member and running unopposed.

Brencis Smith

Age: 30

Education: Washington Adventist College

Residence: Has lived in the city for five years

Why seeking office: “I feel like I can be the person who can help with change,” Smith said. “I am running because I ... just want to help people.”

Smith wants to make Laurel’s schools better.

“I don’t feel parents should have to send their children to private or charter schools to get better opportunities,” he said. “I am an independent thinker and someone who likes to tackle problems.”

Smith is a new candidate for Ward 2 council member and is running unopposed.

Laurel Board of Trade Forum

On Oct. 15, the Laurel Board of Trade hosted its candidate forum, with candidates for mayor, council at-large and Ward 2 in attendance.

The evening was a mix of candidates stating their concerns and plans in response to the questions asked, while also defending or questioning the others about their responses.

A question about providing first-class health care to residents after Laurel Hospital almost closed a few years ago saw Mills attack Nicholas.

Mills accused Nicholas, who works for Laurel Hospital, of withholding information.

“She was on council when the hospital closed,” Mills said. “Moe admitted he had no idea. How in the world?”

Nicholas informed the audience that employees of the hospital did not know about its possible closure. She said, as an employee, she had to excuse herself from the council in all discussions involving the hospital.

Moe credited the current administration for keeping the hospital open.

“I’m convinced that the hospital would have closed and the property sold off,” Moe said. “What saved it were the officials in this room and the community coming together.”

Issues in Old Town and on Main Street, including lack of parking spaces, lack of signage, speeding and attracting businesses, were also topics of discussion.

“I’ve never known Main Street to be vibrant,” Matthews said. “We need to bring in new ideas.”

“Main Street is a challenge for any government,” Moe said. “There are grants in place and a tax credit program. There has been activity.”

All candidates believe that the Laurel Police Department is an important asset to the city and that affordable housing is an issue, though Moe stressed that it is an issue because of “where we are and the market here” in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Voting information

Early voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Laurel Municipal Center, 8103 Sandy Spring Road.

The general election will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5.

Ward 1 residents will vote at the Laurel Municipal Center, 8103 Sandy Spring Road.

Ward 2 residents will vote at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center, 7901 Cypress St.

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