Alan Hew, 45, has served on a number of College Park committees, including co-chairing the Animal Welfare Committee and serving on the College Park Day Committee, but said taking his seat on the College Park Council on Tuesday night was a new experience.
“I’ve been involved in the community, doing similar roles to what a council member does, but sitting up here for the first time was a real change for me all of a sudden. I felt the biggest sense of responsibility, an awareness. I’ve been working in the community, but now I am in a much larger role than I had,” Hew said.
Hew (Dist. 4) and P.J. Brennan (Dist. 2), both newcomers who were elected in the Nov. 5 elections, were sworn into office Tuesday. Both attained their seats in noncompetitive races, filling the seats vacated by Marcus Afzali and Robert Catlin, respectively.
Brennan, 32, moved to College Park with his husband in 2011. However, he was also a resident of College Park as an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, from 2001 to 2003.
“I’m really excited by the change I’ve seen since 2001 when I was here. The University of Maryland was an island, and the city of College Park was the water. Today, it’s totally transformed,” Brennan said.
Brennan has served as a member of the city’s Certified Maryland Sustainable Green Team, a board of city staff and community members responsible for developing plans and policies toward making College Park a more environmentally friendly community.
Brennan said he has received a lot of guidance from Catlin.
“I definitely know I have some big shoes to fill, and he’s given me a list of things to do, so I know just how big those shoes are,” Brennan said.
Catlin, 59, a self-described “policy wonk,” said he first ran for office in 1997 on a whim and found himself on the council for 16 years, longer than anyone else currently on the council.
“Over the span of a two-year term, or a four-year term, which is what most councilmen serve, you don’t really see a whole lot of progress. But when you’ve been here 16 years, you can say, ‘I’ve seen progress.’”
Catlin cited the Ikea home decor and furniture store, The Courtyards at University of Maryland apartments and the city’s many farmers markets as some of the developments he has seen come to fruition during his tenure.
Catlin said he plans to wrap up various projects and fix up his house before moving to his home state of Ohio.
Afzali, 29, said he chose not to run after four years on the council so that he could move closer to his work at the T. Rowe Prince investment firm headquarters in Baltimore.
When Afzali was first elected in 2009, he became the youngest serving member on the council in at least two decades and possibly longer, Catlin said.
Afzali offered a few words of wisdom for the newcomers: “Go for a beer after meetings with your fellow council members. They may disagree, but everyone wants to do what’s best for the community. So every now and then, get a drink with someone you disagree with.”