By Lydia Hurley
On June 13, College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir and the city council swore in Alan Hew to fill the District 1 council seat that had been vacant since March.
Originally from Hawaii, Hew moved to Maryland in 1989 and started at the University of Maryland (UMD) in 1991. He graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management, with an emphasis on environmental education and parks management. After living in Adelphi for 14 years, Hew and his wife Judith moved to College Park in 2005.
In his youth, Hew grew up surrounded by civic-minded people; his uncle served as a councilmember, and his father was an assistant to the mayor. Hew valued community engagement but didn’t expect that he would also one day serve.
Hew’s interest was sparked when he volunteered as a co-chair of the College Park Animal Welfare Committee, which he joined in 2008, the year it was founded.
“I’ve always been a supporter of the animal welfare efforts. Support all cats and dogs, they all need good homes. So it gives me much pleasure and happiness to adopt locally,” he said.
Hew and his wife live in College Park with their three cats, which they adopted from Beltsville Cats, an organization that works closely with the city’s animal welfare committee. They rescued their third cat when its family lost their home to a house fire.
Hew has served on the College Park Committee for a Better Environment for more than a decade. He chaired the recently created Bee City USA Committee, which works to create pollinator gardens and educate the public about the importance of pollinators.
“Alan is a man of many talents, boundless energy, and community service. Right away, you will see he is not a person that sits quietly in the back. For instance, he put his talent as a specialist of insects to work by joining in to the pollinator project for the city of College Park,” wrote Joel Carlson, in an email. Carslon and Hew are friends.
In 2012, Hew spearheaded an initiative that led to the creation of green space instead of town homes at the Monument Village apartment complex on Baltimore Avenue. Not long after, former councilmember Marcus Afzali, who was stepping down from the city council, encouraged Hew to run for his seat. Hew initially responded that he was unfit for the role, saying he wasn’t a politician and hadn’t studied policy.
“[Afzali] told me, ‘No, but your heart’s there. You understand how the city works, through working through that development and working on your committees. That’s what it takes to serve, and you’ve done that.’ And so I said ‘All right, I’ll go for it,’” Hew recalled.
Hew ran for city council and won. He represented District 4 from 2013 to 2015, when redistricting made him a resident of District 1.
“My first term was challenging, but a learning experience. It taught me … how to accomplish things, how to work with your residents, and a responsibility to work with the councilmembers and a mayor to get the best outcome on various issues that we faced,” Hew said.
Hew has also served on the Good Neighbor Day committee as head of an initiative to create a garden of edible plants along the trolley trail as a part of the city’s beautification project. Sean Phelan, a close friend and neighbor of Hew’s, worked with him on the project..
“I started volunteering with him on that. And when I got active with the College Park American Legion, and we had this big field, Alan helped me create a pollinator garden for bees there,” Phelan said in an interview.
“I really enjoy helping others. My background growing up in Hawaii has the saying, ‘talk story,’ which means to sit down and listen and just connect. I enjoy meeting new residents and talking story with them,” Hew said.
Phelan and Hew also bonded over their love of pets, and homebrewing beer and mead, a hobby they also share with Carlson.
“Most people may not know it, but Alan is a talented homebrewer, and we shared a common interest in brewing our own beer. He was an important member of the local homebrewing club and I got to know him through their events,” Carlson said.
Carlson described Hew as a “people person who is always interested in meeting everybody at a gathering, getting to know them and their interests.”
Hew’s priorities in serving District 1 include promoting and participating in community outreach, working for responsible development and collaborating with his fellow councilmembers to address residents’ concerns.
“There are often times where [the] council may have an idea about how to resolve an issue, but it creates a huge challenge or burden on our staff. So finding that balance and understanding how the process works to accomplish our goals … is one of the big things I’ve learned,” he said.
Hew is eager to see North College Park become more fully integrated with the rest of the city and is particularly interested in how development impacts neighborhoods.
“As we improve, we need to do it right. We cannot be dictated by developers and what they want to see. We need to work with them,” he said, adding, “What’s best for our city well into the future?”
Hew plans to run for another term and will be campaigning in his district in the run-up to the Nov. 5 election.