For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, the College Park mayoral race has two candidates — Mayor Andrew Fellows, now nearing the end of his second term, is being challenged by former council candidate Robert “Bob” McCeney — and both say their primary focus is on city relations with the University of Maryland, College Park.
McCeney, 48, a Montgomery County middle school science teacher, has run unsuccessfully for City Council five times — in 1989, 1991, 1993, 2009 and 2011.
McCeney said that by running for mayor, all College Park residents will have an opportunity to choose the direction for their city, something which hasn’t happened since the last contested mayoral race in 1989.
Fellows, 54, said the city has made great strides in developing a close relationship with the university during the past two years.
“I feel really positive about it. I feel the expansion of the Student Code of Conduct last spring is an example of the city and university working together to improve public safety,” Fellows said. “Similarly, I feel the development of College Park Academy is an example of the city and the university working together to improve education.”
In May, the University of Maryland Senate voted to expand the Student Code of Conduct to include off-campus behavior and expanded the University of Maryland Police Department’s jurisdiction to include several neighborhoods with high student populations.
College Park Academy, a charter school collaboration between the university and the city, opened this year in neighboring Hyattsville, following complaints from College Park residents who did not want the new school in their neighborhood.
Fellows said the council has done a lot to reduce friction among city groups, and that the creation of a task force composed of council members, university officials, longtime residents and landlords to seek solutions to city challenges has done a great deal to heal past rifts.
“It’s a great tone of civility we’ve developed over the past two years,” Fellows said.
McCeney, a city resident since 1968 and former code enforcement officer, said the city has at times hurt its relationship with the university as the council is overly influenced by residents who resent the presence of college students in the community.
“They’ve tried to make inroads, but ... I think they need to do a little bit more,” McCeney said. “You can’t just view the university as an intrusion into College Park, and there are many people who do so. There would be no College Park without the University of Maryland.”
McCeney also said the city needs to do more to encourage public safety such as creating a police auxiliary program, to walk through neighborhoods.
“They could do a lot of the tasks that don’t require a law enforcement officer,” McCeney said. “They would be supplied with radios to contact police if something happens, so the police could intervene.”
The last time College Park had a contested mayoral race was in 1989 when incumbent Anna Owens defeated challenger Craig Little. Polls for College Park’s Nov. 5 elections will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.