Voters in the town of Brentwood in northern Prince George’s County will be able to choose a mayoral candidate on May 3 for the first time in six years.

Rocio Treminio-Lopez ran unopposed in the past two elections but will be challenged next month by Tonya Harrison-Edwards, the town’s vice mayor and cousin of Del. Diana Fennell (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor.

The mayor serves a two-year term and president of the five-member town council.

According to the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, the mayor would receive a $6,000 annual salary.

“We aren’t in it for the money. We are in it because we want our community to thrive,” said Harrison-Edwards, 59, who’s been a member of the council since 2015.

Brentwood Vice Mayor Tonya Harrison-Edwards (Courtesy of Town of Brentwood

She chose to enter the race due to a lack of community involvement since the coronavirus pandemic affected the state of Maryland last year.

One example, she said, happened when she and two other council members seeking re-election, Marcus Monroe and Alicia Tarr, worked on a plan to obtain a $400,000 bond from the state to build a new town hall. The town hasn’t received official approval of the money.

“That’s what good leadership does. Dig in the trenches and get the resources for the community,” said Harrison-Edwards, who conducts human resources work for the U.S. Department of Labor. “If I lose the mayor race, then I’m off the council. We couldn’t go on this same route with this mayor.”

Blocking Federal Search for Undocumented Migrants

Treminio-Lopez acknowledged Harrison-Edwards sought to receive the money for the town hall project that began in 2009. However, she said when new council members get elected it can prolong certain projects.

“We had new council members that wanted to go back and see what has been approved and that delays everything,” she said. “I have to trust what has been initiated and that the right decision was made before I got there.”

Treminio-Lopez made Maryland history in 2015 as the first Latina ever elected as a mayor.

Since her time leading the town of 3,500 people, council enacted an ordinance in 2018 to make Brentwood a sanctuary city to ensure town employees don’t assist federal officials to detain undocumented immigrants. Those residents can now vote in municipal elections, she said.

Because of the pandemic, Treminio-Lopez said there’s a few unfinished projects she wants to complete such as working with state officials to plant trees along Route 1 near the Artisan apartments.

She awaits correspondence from the state to reimburse the town for constant upkeep of a grassy median on Route 1.

The 44-year-old wife and mother of four children works as a Latino business liaison for the county’s Economic Development Corp.

“The diversity is what makes the town beautiful. We can go from one Latino family to LGBT families to old-timers living in the town,” she said. “We are so colorful.”

Harrison-Edwards agrees about the town’s diversity, but seeks to bring more businesses to boost the county’s Gateway Arts District that also includes Hyattsville, Mount Rainier and North Brentwood.

She also wants to hire an engineer to conduct a study of the town that would include an assessment of street parking.

Harrison-Edwards is also married, but her daughter, Aneeka, died of COVID-19 in May 2020 at the age of 42.

“She was my only child. My daughter got me into local politics. She was on council and then vice mayor,” she said. “It is hard not having her here, but I know she would be very proud of me.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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