College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn elected for third term

Patrick Wojahn was reelected to serve his third term as mayor of College Park. (Elliot Scarangello/The Diamondback)

By Angela Mecca and Jillian Atelsek

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn was reelected for a third term Tuesday night.

He received 1,532 votes, according to the city’s Board of Election Supervisors, defeating Nikesha Pancho and Lalzarliani Malsawma. According to a recent finance report, his campaign had raised more than $14,000 — vastly more than the other two candidates.

“I’m feeling great,” Wojahn told The Diamondback after the results were announced. “I’m excited.”

So far, Wojahn has said, he’s proud of his work with on new plans for City Hall and his efforts to enhance College Park’s partnership with the University of Maryland. This year, his campaign focused on sustainability, resident engagement and community revitalization, which he said involves pursuing development projects to make the city more attractive.

Samuel Ramsey, a Calvert Hills resident, said he voted for Wojahn.

“I always vote for Patrick. I like this guy,” he said. “He’s good, he’s easy to relate to. And I think he’s got some sense, right. Yeah, he works hard.”

District 1 resident Craig Fryer also voted for Wojahn. He said he’s been impressed with how the mayor has worked to build a relationship with the University of Maryland — a “critically important” job.

Still, Fryer added, he’d like to see Wojahn do more for “some of our surrounding communities that aren’t often seen or heard,” like Lakeland — a historically black neighborhood east of Route 1.

Lakeland resident Will Sellers said he’s been concerned about the speed and amount of development in the city, and that he hasn’t seen much benefit to residents as a result of it. He declined to say who he voted for, but said it wasn’t Wojahn.

Pancho received 268 votes, while Malsawma received 164.

I would not say tonight was a loss for me,” Pancho told The Diamondback. “[The fact] that 268 people who just recently, in the last five weeks, laid eyes on me, voted for me — that’s an accomplishment.”

She’s already gearing up for the next mayoral race, she added.

“Now everyone knows who Nikesha Pancho is, and they know where I’m coming from,” she said. “And I’m not going anywhere.”

The campaign marked Pancho’s first time running for public office. She centered her platform around listening, saying the council hadn’t prioritized residents’ voices. If elected, she said, she wanted to push for policy that supported young people and homeless veterans.

Francis Ogbennah, a senior information sciences major, cast his ballot for Pancho, citing the recently passed “unruly social gatherings” ordinance as his main reason for doing so.

“I’m looking for a mayor and council member who would be . . . someone that we can actually talk to,” he said.

And District 2 resident Nalia Martin said that Pancho’s campaign style drove her to vote — something she doesn’t typically do. During the race, Pancho made a habit of riding her “little red scooter” door-to-door in the city, speaking with residents.

“She was actually willing to physically go out there and get things taken care of herself,” said Martin, a stay-at-home mom. “It was just the way she approached us and sat there and had a real, good conversation.”

Malsawma, meanwhile, ran for the position in 2017. She has lived in College Park for about 46 years and said she wanted to make the city a place “like none that’s ever been.” She was not immediately available for comment Tuesday night.

Throughout the campaign, Malsawma made repeated homophobic remarks. She said she was driven to run because she “disagree[d]” with Wojahn — who is openly gay — about his vision for the city. She said they don’t share the same values, referencing his sexuality.

Sitting outside of Ritchie Coliseum on Tuesday, Malsawma said she hoped to build “an identity for the city that everybody can embrace.”

“[LGBT people] are working towards being the government elite,” she said when asked about her past remarks. “It’s like a disproportionate representation of that community in the governance of the city.”

Angela Marusiak, a geology graduate student, called Malsawma’s conduct “super cringey, discriminatory [and] not something we want in this town.”

“I did not want her as mayor,” said Marusiak, who voted for Wojahn. “That was the main reason I voted.”

Jerry Sandberg, however, came out to vote to celebrate his right to exercise control in local government.

“If we want to vote responsibly federally, we got to start at the local level,” he said.

All of the council’s incumbent candidates were reelected Tuesday night. Wojahn said he looks forward to continuing his role on the council alongside the colleagues he’s known for years.

“We’ve found a way to work well,” Wojahn said, “and that’s not going to change.”

Staff writers Matt McDonald, Rosa Pyo, Sahana Jayaraman, Victoria Ebner and Eric Neugeboren contributed to this report.

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