LAUREL – Ed Ricks let out an excited, “Whoa!” when he heard the initial vote count for the Ward 1 city council seat in Laurel on Nov. 3. The soon to be sixth-term city councilmen and council president had just learned that he was the leading vote getter in Ward 1 with 413 votes at […]
LAUREL – Ed Ricks let out an excited, “Whoa!” when he heard the initial vote count for the Ward 1 city council seat in Laurel on Nov. 3.
The soon to be sixth-term city councilmen and council president had just learned that he was the leading vote getter in Ward 1 with 413 votes at the initial count. Ricks and fellow Ward 1 incumbent city councilwoman Valerie Nicholas had defeated challengers Carl DeWalt and Jeffery Mills in the most contested city race in Laurel.
“The people feel our passion of serving them, in such a way that they understand the importance of us staying in office to see this through,” Ricks said.
“I’m really happy the election turned out the way it has. Valerie and I have put in a lot of time, the rest of the council has put in a lot of time, and the issues are very important to us. The hospital and the railroad station to name a few. It may seem small to some people, but it’s very large for this community.”
Last Tuesday was a good night to be an incumbent in Laurel, as all five members of the city council and the mayor were re-elected. Ricks and Nicholas in Ward 1, Fredrick Smalls and Donna Crary in Ward 2, Mike Leszcz in the city’s at-large seat, and Mayor Craig A. Moe. Leszcz and Moe’s seats were never in question as the two ran unopposed.
After the absentee and provisional ballots were counted on Nov. 4, Crary finished with 391 votes while Small received 365. That was enough to defeat challenger Mansoor Zia, who managed just 54 votes in the Ward 2 contest. Leszcz collected 1,095 votes in his unopposed at-large bid and Mayor Moe was the top vote grabber in the city with 1,124. The official results in Ward 1 were Ricks with 432, Nicholas with 422, DeWalt with 372 and Mills with 132.
DeWalt, a retired Laurel police officer, finished only 50 votes behind Nicholas for the second seat in Ward 1. On election night he was only 41 votes behind and promised he would run again in 2017.
“Forty-one votes, I could pick that up very easily,” DeWalt said. “I’m going to start a lot earlier for the next election.”
All five incumbents and the mayor were very happy to be re-elected as a team.
“I’m really happy about the outcome of the election. I think all of the incumbents deserve to be back in office. I look forward to working with them in the coming years,” Moe said after learning his entire council would be back for another two years.
Smalls said familiarity would help the council and mayor work on the issues facing Laurel.
“I’ve worked with these council members for a few years now. We know each other’s strength and weaknesses. We feed off those and so all of that turns out to be a benefit to the residents. I’m very, very comfortable serving with the other four members of the council,” Smalls said.
Nicholas echoed that sentiment.
“I’m just looking forward to working across the board with everybody and continue to make the city even better,” Nicholas said.
The election comes at a time when Laurel is facing some major changes. Each candidate specifically mentioned the pending closures of the Laurel Regional Hospital and the stop on the MARC train Camden line as important issues they want to address in the next term.
Crary lamented the fact that members were forced to spend time and energy campaigning at such an important juncture for the city.
“We have a lot to do and sometimes elections don’t come at the most opportune time,” Crary said.
Dimensions Healthcare Systems, which operates Laurel Regional Hospital, has already began closing some of the hospital wards including the Maternal and Child Health Care Ward on Oct. 11. Dimensions plans on reopening the hospital as an ambulatory facility in 2018. Healthcare workers’ union SEIU 1199 has filed suit in Prince George’s County Circuit Court seeking an injunction to stop the hospital’s closure.
A total of 1,206 ballots were cast in the election, continuing a downward trend in voter turnout in Laurel. According to information provided by City Clerk Kimberley Rau, there were 1,941 votes in 2011 and 1,139 votes in 2013.
Members of the Laurel City Council run for office every two years. The Mayor has a term for four years. The next citywide election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.