UPPER MARLBORO — Following the resignation of Tonga Turner at the end of June, Wanda Leonard was elected to serve as mayor of the Town of Upper Marlboro in a special meeting on July 1.
“I am humbled and honored to have been elected as the town’s new Mayor,” Leonard said following her election last Tuesday. “My goals are two-fold. I certainly want to continue the great work started by my predecessor, Tonga Turner. I also want to continue to move Upper Marlboro forward with my own vision of what we can become by working together.”
Before being elected as mayor, Leonard has served as a commissioner for the Town of Upper Marlboro for the last 18 months alongside Town Commissioner Linda Pennoyer.
Leonard has an extensive background in public service. Before serving the Town of Upper Marlboro, she was a member of the Maryland Municipal League’s Hometown Emergency Preparedness Ad hoc Committee as well as a member of the Prince George’s County Municipal Association. She was also a part of the Prince George’s County Municipal Elected Women Association.
Community outreach has been a significant aspect of her career as she was a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children in the District of Columbia and a board member for Family Advocacy and a Donate Life Ambassador with Washington Regional Transplant Community.
She has been very involved with public safety being an alumnus of the Prince George’s County Police Citizens Academy, was a Prince George’s County police volunteer in police services and served as president of the Greater Upper Marlboro Maryland Community Emergency Response Team. Additionally, she was a member of the Clinton, MD CERT team and the Prince George’s County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89.
An army veteran, Leonard holds a bachelor of arts in business administration from the University of Columbia.
Turner was the first African American mayor of the Town of Upper Marlboro and served in her role since January 2018. She announced her resignation in a letter to the town on June 11 and officially resigned on June 30. She wanted to be able to spend more time with her husband and two small children as well as dedicate more time to her full-time job.
“I have brought the town of Upper Marlboro as far as I can carry it and that decision has been made again in consideration to my family,” Turner said in a press conference on June 12, where she also clarified that she was not resigning due to racist acts against her as the public first believed. “Those constituents and all of them which I love dearly, and I’m sure they will appreciate my ability to be transparent.”
During her time as mayor, Turner had been a victim to several racist acts against her such as people calling her the n-word and having her tires slashed, according to Town Spokesperson Ray Feldmann.
Before her resignation, she had invited the Prince George’s County NAACP to a town hall meeting in an attempt to help the town move forward from its past racial issues.
“Folks, it’s time to do better, and I change us as individuals to shape a better narrative for ourselves and our community,” she said at the June 12 press conference.
Leonard now becomes the second African American mayor in the town’s 313 years of existence.
Her election as town mayor leaves a vacancy for a town commissioner to serve alongside her and Pennoyer. To fill the vacancy, the town will hold an emergency election to vote for a new commissioner who will also serve until January 2020.
According to the town, the emergency election will take place on Aug. 5 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Upper Marlboro Town Hall. Candidates have to have resided in the town for at least two years immediately preceding the election, must be a qualified voter and must be at least 25 years old. The candidate filing deadline was July 8.