Lehman looks to make her mark on Dist. 1
After primary, County Council Dist. 1 presumptive victor focuses on education, economy
Following her victory in Tuesday's Prince George's County Council District 1 race, Mary Lehman is turning her attention to learning as much as she can in her new position and moving the county forward with her new peers.
By press deadline Wednesday and with 90.9 percent of precinct numbers reported in, Lehman received 2,848 votes, or 41 percent. Her closest competitor, Laurel City Councilman Frederick Smalls had 1,874 votes, or 27 percent, according to unofficial results from 30 of 33 precincts. She is unopposed in the Nov. 2 general election.
The other three candidates in Tuesday's primary, all Laurel area residents, each had fewer than 1,000 votes as of press time. City of Laurel volunteer Valerie L. Cunningham had 923 votes, or 13 percent, labor organizer Samuel Epps 818 votes, or 11 percent, and software trainer Crystal R. Thompson had 401 votes, or 6 percent.
"There's a lot of work to be done in this county and I'm looking forward to it," said Lehman, who was endorsed by the term-limited incumbent, state's attorney candidate Thomas E. Dernoga. "I'm going to be doing as much learning and listening in the following months as I can."
Lehman, 46, said that hiring the best staff possible will be her immediate focus. One staff member will devote at least half of their time on education issues, as she did for Dernoga, Lehman said. She added that while she would be foolish not to seek advice from Dernoga from time to time, anyone who thinks she will be taking orders from him "doesn't know me."
District 1, which comprises Laurel, Calverton, Beltsville, College Park and Adelphi, is one of five council districts guaranteed to receive a new representative this election cycle due to term limits that prevent council members from serving more than two four-year terms.
"We have a clean slate now. We're all starting new together," Lehman said, noting that she was struck by the hopefulness of voters in spite of the economic downturn and persistent county challenges like improving education, attracting economic development and reducing crime. "The council has a completely different makeup and there's a new county executive. It's absolutely a new day and it's up to us what we make of it."
What they make of it, College Park blogger Fazlul Kabir said, rides in large part on careful, likely clever budgeting.
"The big challenges the new team will be facing all revolve around finding sources of funding," Kabir wrote in an e-mail message. "A more thorough audit of its existing budget will have to be worked out. Thus experience and knowledge in the county's inner working will be crucial for the new team."
Lehman said she is determined to prevent "at all costs," mandatory county employee furloughs, which have occurred the last two years to help overcome budget shortfalls.
Beltsville retiree Johnny L. Shephard said the county's revenue challenges were too daunting.
"I don't think it's going to make a difference," said Shephard, who identified protecting small businesses as a key to economic growth.