By Joe Murchison

Two city councilmembers have launched campaigns to be elected Laurel mayor, and and two others are considering running. The election will take place on Nov. 7.

First-term councilmember Martin Mitchell (AtLarge) launched his campaign at a rally in front of the Laurel Municipal Center on April 20.

City of Laurel Councilmember Martin Mitchell (AtLarge)
Courtesy of Martin Mitchell

Third-term councilmember Keith Sydnor (Ward 2) signed his registration papers and put up his campaign website the first week of May. 

City of Laurel Councilmember Keith Sydnor (Ward 2)
Courtesy of Keith Sydnor

Council President Brencis Smith (Ward 2) and former councilmember Frederick Smalls both said they were considering entering the race. The filing deadline is July 21.

This year’s mayoral election will be the first in 21 years without an incumbent as candidate. Long-time Mayor Craig Moe announced his decision not to seek a sixth term earlier this spring.

Mitchell, 32, is a public affairs consultant. He said clients have included organizations pushing for a state referendum to legalize recreational marijuana (successful in 2022) and advocating for legalizing assisted suicide (so far unsuccessful). 

He is a lifelong Laurel resident who attended Laurel High School and graduated from Bowie State University. He was a nationally competitive wrestler in both high school and college, and has coached and mentored wrestlers at Laurel High and the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Martin also served as president of the Prince George’s County Young Democrats, and as chairman of the NAACP’s Maryland State Conference PAC. 

Mitchell noted in his launch speech, “Laurel is 153-years-old, and has never had a black mayor. … I’m going to change that.”

He cited his efforts to pass a rent-cap law in the city and his support for collective-bargaining rights for the city’s public-works employees as examples of his advocacy for working families. ”Mitchell also said he wants to expand community policing to achieve a more collaborative partnership between police and residents. He also mentioned his vision of bringing a boutique hotel to the city.

Sydnor, 54, retired from 12 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy and 22 years as a corrections officer for the state of Virginia, the District of Columbia and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He grew up in Petersburg, Va., and graduated from Virginia State University. His military service, including 12 years in the Navy Reserves, took him to six continents and included tours in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

He moved to Laurel in 2003, and currently works as a substitute teacher at Laurel High and other local schools. He was president of the city council from 2019 to 2020. He is a member of 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County and mentors young people through the organization.

Sydnor said his law-enforcement experience spurs him to support crime-prevention efforts aimed at youth, such as a pre-apprenticeship training program focused on construction trades for which he secured funds. He organized the city government’s first job fair, first criminal-record expungement workshop and first Kid Fit Day to promote physical fitness. He also championed designating Juneteenth as a city holiday and renaming Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day.

Brencis Smith and Frederick Smalls, both potential candidates, said they wanted to hear more from their constituents before deciding whether to enter the race.

“If the constituents want me to do that [become a candidate], I will do it,” Smith said. He is a financial analyst for an engineering company in the District and is serving his second term as councilmember and second term as its president. 

Smalls said, “I’m getting calls regularly from supporters … encouraging me to run.” But he added that he was leaning away from running because of a lack of motivation he previously felt about the race. Smalls was a city councilmember for 17 years, from 2002 to 2019. He currently serves as Maryland’s assistant secretary of state for administration and finance and was formerly board president with Laurel Regional Hospital.