Phelecia E. Nembhard isn’t new to the city of New Carrollton as a community organizer and former city council member.
But she experienced some firsts last month, when she was elected as the city’s first Black, first female and, at age 51, youngest-ever mayor.
An added bonus for the native Jamaican: the June 8 election also celebrated National Caribbean Heritage Month in June.
“My sister used to live here. When I would visit her, I just loved the neighborhood,” Nembhard, who moved to New Carrollton from Silver Spring 22 years ago, said Friday, July 24. “When I moved here, I just got involved with the neighborhood and everything that we’re doing. It’s been great.”
As part of her “community” platform, Nembhard will encourage residents to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously that will include distributing thousands of masks.
Earlier this month, she contracted a mild case of COVID-19.
“I had no taste. I didn’t have no fever, but I had chills and joint pains,” she said. “I had to quarantine in my room by myself. This thing is not a joke.”
Nembhard shared a home remedy which boosted her immune system thanks to a youth who sought community service hours.
“He sent me ginger, turmeric, lime and garlic. I was drinking that and it worked wonders,” she said. “That’s how community looks when you look out for each other.”
Nembhard said her husband and mother exhibited symptoms and await test results. Her daughter and granddaughter, who also reside with her, didn’t contract the virus.
After she took another COVID-19 test and it came back negative, she went back to work.
On Friday, she helped organize a food giveaway for seniors near her home with dozens of boxes of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
She said food has become one of the major needs for residents which became accentuated since COVID-19 began to flourish in March.
Although the mayor’s a part-time position in the city of nearly 13,000, Nembhard also uses her connections as a realtor and property manager to help bring resources to the city.
One of those collaboration moments shined through with County Council member Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park.
World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit organization co-founded by world-renowned chef José Andrés and his wife, has provided nearly 70,000 meals in Glaros’s district in more than three months.
Carrollton Elementary in New Carrollton houses one of the district’s biggest distribution sites that grew from 200 meals per week to 800 meals.
“I think she is a really strong example of passionate leaders who place community first,” Glaros said about Nembhard. “She is really driving by serving people and neighbors. I have hundreds of volunteers helping people out, but she is definitely one of the key [people] making things happen.”
In the meantime, Nembhard has other initiatives for New Carrollton such as programs for youth and seniors and increasing businesses to fill out empty storefronts and buildings.
What some people don’t realize the transportation hub that houses the New Carrollton Metro station, MARC train, Metrobus, Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines sits on unincorporated land. Although those businesses may show up as a New Carrollton mailing address, Prince George’s County controls and owns the property.
Nembhard also wants to help the Latino population and some residents who might be undocumented to help become citizens, which in turn, count toward this year’s census.
The 2000 census data shows the Latino population in New Carrollton at nearly 7%, whites at 21% and Blacks at almost 68%.
About 18 years later, census data shows the city’s population increased among Latinos at 22%. Whites fell to 14% and Blacks slightly decreased to 64%.
“I think the population in the city is probably bigger with some of those undocumented immigrants,” she said. “We can make sure they get married so they can be counted. I want to be a matchmaker. A guidance counselor. I want to be everything in the city.”