Laurel’s Ward 2 council incumbents have said cooperation on the City Council is the key to its success, but a candidate seeking one of the Ward 2 seats says a little disagreement could be a good thing.
Political newcomer Thomas Matthews is challenging incumbents Donna Crary and council president Frederick Smalls for one of the two Ward 2 council seats up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election.
Matthews, 52, described himself as a “watchdog and advocate” for Laurel. He said he attends most Laurel council meetings.
“I never hear about the council having any arguments, any disagreements. It tells me this is like a brotherhood, like a club,” Matthews said. “I feel as though they have been together for too long a time.”
Laurel’s council seats are open to election every two years, but this is the first time there have been challengers in the Ward 2 race since 2006.
A lifelong resident of Laurel, Matthews is a tractor-trailer driver and an assistant funeral director in training. Matthews said he would be a voice for Laurel youths, including financial support for programs at the city’s Boys & Girls Club. A city task force recently recommended the creation of a commission to provide city funding for recreational nonprofits in need, such as the Boys and Girls Club.
“It was important in my life, and I want it to be available for the youth today, but I don’t think the city has been treating them fairly,” Matthews said.
Smalls, 63, said that the council does disagree at times but finds ways to work together.
“We have five very opinionated council members, plus a strong mayor, and we do not always agree. The key is, we all have an interest in moving our city forward,” Smalls said.
Smalls said one of his goals is to maintain and improve public transportation in the city.
“I’ve talked with many residents who would like to see an enhancement of our public transit,” Smalls said.
Smalls, first elected to the council in 2002, works as deputy secretary of operations for the Maryland Secretary of State, and also serves as chairman of the Laurel Municipal Hospital board.
Smalls cited Laurel’s community garden as an example of collaboration. Smalls worked with the mayor, city staff and volunteers to bring the garden to fruition this year.
Crary, 54, a Laurel attorney, said one of her goals is to work with the council on allocating $350,000 for park security upgrades.
A string of playground fires that hit Laurel in March provided some impetus in bringing the idea before the council, but the need for more security in the city’s playgrounds has been on her radar for years, she said.
“I guess, being a woman and going around to some of our parks has just made me more aware,” Crary said.
Crary, first elected in 2008, said her involvement in the Maryland Municipal League has made her glad for the level of cooperation in Laurel.
“I think we’re very lucky. Even though we each have our own pet projects, we all come together to do what needs to be done,” Crary said.
Laurel Ward 2 voting opens from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center, located at 7901 Cypress St. Early voting is held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Laurel Municipal Center for both wards.