By Melanie Dzwonchyk and Joe Murchison
City councilmember Keith Sydnor was elected Laurel’s mayor on Nov. 7, coming out on top in a field of five candidates.
In the city council races, Carl DeWalt and James Kole were reelected in Ward 1, and Kyla Clark and Jeffrey Mills won the two seats in Ward 2. Christine Johnson was the winner in the citywide race for at-large councilmember. DeWalt and Kole are incumbents and the other three winning candidates are first-time councilmembers.
A 20-year Laurel resident, Sydnor has represented Ward 2 on the council since 2017. He had careers in the U.S. Navy and Reserves, and in state and federal justice systems as a correctional officer. He has worked as a substitute teacher for Prince George’s County schools since 2020. As council president, Sydnor helped the city navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
With his election, Sydnor becomes the first African American to serve as Laurel’s mayor. He is the city’s first new mayor in 21 years; outgoing mayor Craig Moe did not seek reelection.
“I’m overwhelmed, excited,” Sydnor said on election night. “I want to thank the citizens of Laurel for voting for me and trusting me to be the leader of their city.”
At his victory party, Sydnor congratulated the council winners.
“The campaign is over with,” he said. “I look forward to working together with them.”
DeWalt, a retired Laurel police officer, has represented Ward 1 on the city council since 2017. As a councilmember, he has advocated for rent control and unionization of the city’s Department of Public Works employees.
First elected to his Ward 1 seat in 2021, Kohl supports increased sustainability initiatives and fiscal responsibility. He works as a manager with a landscape company in the District.
Ward 2 gained two new councilmembers. Clark is a certified court appointed special advocate for children in Prince George’s County foster care. She has served on the Laurel Environmental Affairs Committee and city’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities.
“I’m excited,” she said of her win. “With this victory, and assuming the crucial responsibility of representing the constituents of Laurel, I am ready to work tirelessly to make Laurel an even better place to live, work, and thrive. The future of Laurel is bright, and I am excited to see the positive changes that we will bring to our community.”
Mills has lived in Laurel for 13 years and operates the CDL Book Club on Main Street. He ran as a team with two other candidates who were not elected.
After winning, he said “I feel good, honored, ready to work. I rooted for the whole team, but we work with those who have been elected.”
Johnson, who won the at-large seat in a field of three candidates, was among the first-time council candidates this year. She is an administrator at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. She formerly worked the front desk at the municipal center and has lived in Laurel for 21 years.
Johnson said her win “was a humbling experience for me” and showed her that “the citizens of Laurel have faith in me. They believe I will not only take the position seriously, but I will be able to work with the administration to get things done.”
Jasjit Gabri, who voted at the Robert J. DiPietro Community Center, said she voted for Sydnor for mayor.
“At the core of this [election] is integrity,” she said. “[Sydnor] has an impeccable moral compass. He’s perfect for the job. … He has an immense passion for giving back to the community.”
City councilmembers serve two-year terms; the mayor’s term is four years. The City of Laurel Board of Election Supervisors will present the official results at a special mayoral and city council meeting Nov. 9. The newly elected mayor and councilmembers will be sworn in on Nov. 27 in the council chambers.