BY REBECCA BENNETT — The City of Hyattsville is holding a special election to fill a vacant seat left by former Councilmember Clay Williams (Ward 5) in late June. According to the city charter, a special election must be held within 75 days of the vacancy. Ward 5 residents can vote at Magruder Park from 9 a .m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Candidate registration closed on Aug. 7. Eight people have registered to run for the vacant seat: Ruth Ann Frazier, Antoinette C. Grace Mbarga, Susan B. Miller (withdrawn), Fred Rogers, Rommel A. Sandino, Roman A. Santillan, Patricia A. Stamper and Eric Roger Tagne. Read more about them in our special election guide.
“I’m thrilled to see that kind of excitement and activity,” Williams said about the number of people running to replace him on the city council.
“I think it’s fantastic that so many people have registered to run!” Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said. “If anyone could ever want to begin to discount Ward 5 for low civic engagement or voter turnout, this is proof that you can’t.”
“Change is coming to Ward 5,” Councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5) said, who recently won re-election in May 2015 after being elected in 2013 to fill a vacant seat. “In addition to new levels of civic engagement from residents, there is extraordinary interest in West Hyattsville metro development as expressed by WMATA and the property directly adjacent, we are implementing the findings of the West Hyattsville Lighting Study, and we are preparing for the [Hyattsville City] Police Department move to 3505 Hamilton Street.”
“I envy [the candidates] in that [the winner] will be joining a great council in an exciting and dynamic time, and I know they will help Hyattsville realize its full potential,” Williams said.
The efforts of individuals really matter in local government,” Williams said. “Be it as a councilmember, as a committee member, a community group member, or a voice from the podium, your input matters.”
“Listen to residents and let those concerns drive legislation. … Be willing to work for the good of city as opposed to an individual ward, which may often mean compromise and long term results.” Solomon said are some of the lessons he has learned serving on the council. “Work well with city staff, they are really the lifeblood of all the progress and change residents desire.”
The total cost of this special election to replace Williams on the council, according to Reams, will be approximately $7,500, which includes equipment rental, technician, supplies and outreach communications.
As to why Williams didn’t step down earlier, he told The Hyattsville Life & Times in June that during the recent election cycle, he expected to run for re-election in 2017. When he was presented with the job offer in North Carolina, he said, “Between the obligations and the opportunity it was too much to pass up.”
“When candidate registration opened, I was well settled in my job and there was no reason to think anything was changing in our lives,” Williams said about why he didn’t resign when he applied for the out-of-state job. “Not until voting had already begun was this development even a possibility. Not till the election was over was it a certainty.”
As for Solomon’s advice to those running to fill the vacant seat: “Get out and meet your neighbors. Nothing is more important than giving the community an opportunity to meet with a candidate face-to-face and understand vision and perspectives on progress.”
The deadline to register to vote or submit an address change is Aug. 21.
The winner of the Ward 5 special election will be sworn into office at the Sept. 21 Hyattsville City Council meeting.