Incumbent, youth advocate contest Laurel’s at-large council seat -- Gazette.Net


Laurel’s Nov. 5 elections will feature a 2011 rematch in its at-large council race between two long-time public figures and newcomers entering the Ward 1 and Ward 2 races.

John Mathew Smith is challenging incumbents Valerie Nicholas and H. Edward Ricks for one of the two Ward 1 seats while Thomas Elwood Matthews looks to take one of the two seats from Ward 2 incumbents Frederick Smalls and Donna Crary.

Eight-time incumbent Michael Leszcz hopes to once again emerge victorious over the challenge of Adrian Rousseau, who volunteers at the city’s Boys & Girls Club as athletic director and mentoring director.

The filing deadline for Laurel’s council elections, which are held every two years, passed at 5 p.m. Tuesday. In the ward races, the top two vote-getters in each ward win the contested seats.

Leszcz said if reelected, he would continue to oversee economic redevelopment and street repairs in Laurel as well as working to ensure fiscal responsibility.

“We need to manage growth, quality growth that Laurel citizens are looking for,” Leszcz said. “The key is to make sure we continue in the black. We need to make sure we’re operating within our means, and make sure people continue to enjoy living in Laurel.”

Rousseau said he felt compelled to run for office to address the need for activities for city youth, and said it would be one of his goals to bring the Boys & Girls Club into the city’s annual budget.

Laurel spokesman Peter Piringer said the city supports the club with in-kind services and grant assistance.

Rousseau unsuccessfully ran against Leszcz in 2011, getting 41 percent of the vote.

John Mathew Smith is a retired press photographer who moved to Laurel in 2006 with his fiance. He said he has never before sought public office, but felt the need to work to improve Laurel.

He said he’d like to raise awareness of animal issues and abolish the $30 annual dog park fee, and would also like to revisit the red light and speed cameras.

“In addition, I want to bring in some fresh ideas and thinking outside the box,” said Smith.

Nicholas will be seeking her second full term.

“I want us to continue to rebuild Main Street, and to bring in new businesses to the area,” she said.

Ricks will be seeking his second consecutive term, and sixth overall, having served four terms from 1980 to 1988.

Ricks said that, if reelected, one of his goals would be to seek more funding for the Capital Improvements Plan budget, which funds infrastructure, maintenance and repairs, including vehicles for the police department and other city agencies and gutter repairs on Montgomery Street.

“Our CIP is a good CIP, if a bit underfunded,” he said. “I want to see if we can find a way to add some more money to it.”

Crary will be seeking her third term on the council. Crary, elected in 2008, said she will also work towards ensuring that new developments are environmentally friendly.

“Everything we do, we need to make sure that we’re looking towards more sustainable development for the future,” Crary said.

Smalls said that his goals for a sixth term includes economic development, enhancing city services and improving public safety, particularly around Laurel’s parks, three of which were the targets of arson earlier this year, through additional police presence and other means.

“Because of the arsons that have happened, it is important to me to heighten safety in our parks,” Smalls said,

Matthews did not return calls for comment by deadline.

Laurel’s mayor is elected to a four-year term. Mayor Craig Moe’s current term expires at the end of 2015.