LAUREL — In its latest legislative session, Laurel’s city council convened to bid farewell to its former president and welcomed its newest member at the Laurel Municipal Center on Nov. 25.
In attendance at the 42nd Mayor and City Council Meeting were Mayor Craig Moe, councilmembers Keith Sydnor, Valerie Nicholas, Carl DeWalt, Michael R. Leszcz and former Council President Fred Smalls.
After councilmembers gave brief reports to open the meeting, Smalls delivered his farewell address to his colleagues and the public, announcing his departure from the city council after deciding not to run for re-election. Smalls’ tenure spanned nearly two decades.
“As many of you know, tonight is my last council meeting. I’ve served with pleasure and with honor the residents of this community for the past 17 years,” Smalls said. “It took me a lot to decide not to run this time,” said Smalls explaining the necessity of having to tend to “the demands of family and other issues.”
A longtime resident of Laurel, Smalls was a Ward 2 representative that was successfully re-elected eight times. He expressed heartfelt appreciation for supportive community members and colleagues.
“I just want to sort of take this time and thank Mayor Moe, my colleagues… all of the councilmembers that I have worked with, and all of the city staff,” Smalls said, as he acknowledged close friends in attendance and pointed out how he was the second Black councilman in the city of Laurel.
“I’m glad to have had the experience. I hope to, in some manner or another, serve in the future or continue serving in the future the residents of this city in other capacities,” he said.
“I wish the new council coming in…I wish you all well. There’s a lot of work remaining to be done, and I hope and I pray that this council works harmoniously for the good of the city,” Smalls concluded, after which the audience stood with applause.
After a brief special presentation by the Laurel Police Department and short-winded public hearings, City Administrator William Goddard was the first of several local officials who publicly recognized Smalls with heartfelt remarks and presentations.
Representatives from Laurel’s department of public works, department of parks and recreation, police department, zoning and planning department, the department of communications and the Maryland Municipal League furnished Smalls with various souvenirs, plaques, certificates and other tokens of appreciation expressing gratitude for the many contributions he made to the local community.
“Fred has served and is a wealth of knowledge at the municipal, county, and state levels of government. He has served very well, and we look forward to him staying very involved in the city of Laurel,” Moe said of Smalls.
“Fred Smalls is a giant of a man. He’s a husband, a father, a grandfather, a public servant, and most of all – a friend.”
The 42nd mayor and city council meeting adjourned immediately after Small’s special recognition and was followed by the first meeting of Laurel’s new city council.
The concise session mainly consisted of new city council appointments.
Moe began the meeting by administering the Oath of Office to the five councilmembers-elect.
Four of the five councilmembers were re-elected, including Moe, who defeated Jeffrey Mills in the mayoral race with an overwhelming majority of the votes (1,584).
DeWalt, Leszcz, Sydnor and new Ward 2 councilmember Brencis Smith ran unopposed. Councilwoman At-Large Nicholas will serve another two-year term after defeating Thomas Matthews in the general election on Nov. 5.
The council unanimously elected Sydnor as the next council president.
“I was born to serve. I served my country for 24 years with the United States Navy, and now I’m ready to serve the city of Laurel. So I’m looking forward to working with the citizens here for the next two years. Thank you,” Sydnor said in his inaugural address.
Though he will no longer serve on the city council, Smalls was appointed by Moe to fill a vacancy on the city of Laurel planning commission. Smalls gladly accepted the alternate position, Moe said.
Moe went on to appoint council members to various local committees, commissions and boards, including the environmental affairs committee, education advisory committee, the tree board and the historic district commission, among others.
After the appointments were approved, the meeting was adjourned. The second mayor and city council meeting will be held on Dec. 9.