Prince George's County Executive Alsobrooks (center) is sworn in to begin her second term by Judge Tillerson-Adams (left) at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, on Dec. 5. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County Executive Alsobrooks (center) is sworn in to begin her second term by Judge Tillerson-Adams (left) at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, on Dec. 5. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

As Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks took the oath of office for a second term, four new members of the county council were sworn in to begin their terms of service at Upper Marlboro’s Show Place Arena on Monday.

These new members – Wala Blegay (D-District 6), Krystal Oriadha (D-District 7), Wanika Fisher (D-District 2) and Ingrid Harrison (D-District 4) – will change the face and priorities of the Council. 

“This last election was a call for a government that acts and a diverse council,” said Council Chair Calvin Hawkins (D-At Large) after introducing the new cohort of council members. 

Prince George’s County Council member Edward Burroughs III (center), surrounded by family and friends, is sworn in on Dec. 5 during a ceremony at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Hawkins has openly acknowledged that during the primary election, he heard concerns from many county residents regarding government transparency and accountability. 

Blegay and Oriadha bring a new kind of diversity– both are children of African immigrants, the firsts to serve on the Council. 

Having served as an at-large council member in Bowie, Harrison will now represent District 4 on the Prince George’s County Council. 

A Maryland State Delegate representing District 47B and the Prince George’s County House Delegation Democratic Caucus Chair, Fisher said she is “so excited to get to work for District 2.” 

Olson, a former Delegate, has returned to the seat following two terms of Council member Danielle Glaros. 

Blegay, Olson and Oriadha were supported by organizations such as unions and Progressive Maryland, while Fisher was supported by County Executive Alsobrooks and Harrison was primarily supported by the 23rd District Slate. 

Before the swearing-in ceremony began, advocate Rochelle Harrod spoke about the Prince George’s Commision for Individuals with Disabilities, founded in 1986, which provided interpreters and accessibility services for those in attendance.

Dr. Charlene Mickens Dukes, president emerita of Prince George’s Community College and a member of Wes Moore’s transition team, served as mistress of ceremony. When she began the procession, the DCFD Pipes and Drums played bagpipes and drums that continued as the council members took the stage with their loved ones. 

Prince George’s County Council member Krystal Oriadha (second from left) is sworn in on Dec. 5 during a ceremony at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as her family joins her on stage. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

The ceremony began with the entrance of County Executive Alsobrooks and her daughter. After acknowledging and honoring the numerous elected officials who were present and the outgoing council members, Clerk of Court Mahasin El Amin administered the oath of office to the incoming and returning council members. 

Council Chair Calvin Hawkins gave remarks, which he opened by acknowledging the presence of former County Executive Rushern Baker. He took a moment of silence for the recent passing of Delegate Tawanna Gaines and Sheriff Melvin High and thanked Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, who was in attendance, for providing counsel during times of turbulence. 

The Council Chair also talked about his recent trip to South Africa with members of Alsobrooks’ cabinet. Hawkins sat on a bench that South African leader Nelson Mandela once sat on and contemplated the potential and future of Prince George’s County. To build that future he envisioned, Hawkins requested that the FBI headquarters come to Prince George’s and for additional funding to improve local education. 

His remarks ended by asking the audience to grant grace, tough love and unwavering support to their loved ones in trying times. 

After Hawkins’ remarks, Dukes introduced Alsobrooks as “the first, but not the last” woman elected as County Executive and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta before Judge Sheila Tillerson Adams administered the oath of office for County Executive Alsobrooks. 

Alsobrooks thanked God, her parents, her sister, and in particular her daughter for her resilience and intelligence amid the pandemic. “You are truly the best team this side of Heaven”, she said about her colleagues on the County Council. “These past four years I’ve seen Prince George’s County rise to handle so much adversity and the power we share together is our pride.”

Alsobrooks used the Capitol Heights’ Van Horn house as a symbol of the long history of Prince George’s County, from a red plantation house on the hill to a stop on the Underground Railroad and hotel for Black Americans who were denied lodging. 

The event information provided to all attendees included a booklet of Alsobrooks’ administration’s accomplishments. A variety of first-term accomplishments include: $400,000 in Blue Line investments and new school construction, were shared during her speech. The former State’s Attorney deeply discussed her plans on criminal justice and her desire to address mental health by means other than incarceration. She promised the audience that she wouldn’t forget the rare opportunity to lead this proud county and her speech ended with a standing ovation from many in Show Place Arena.

Greg Amobi, a staffer with the County Executive, said that the historic swearing-in was “amazing.”

“County Executive Alsobrooks is an amazing woman and has done a lot for the community and with the team she has, it seems they will be able to do a lot more.”, he said. “I’m excited to see her on this journey.” While he does have strong regard for the County Executive, he does want to see the county government do more to amplify the voices of African communities.

Among those in attendance during the swearing in were Delegates Darryl Barnes (D-District 25), Nick Charles (D-District 25), Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) and Nicole Williams (D-District 22), Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis, U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and Mayors from several towns. Maryland State Sen. Ron Watson (D) attended as the special guest of his fiancée, Councilember Ingrid Harrison, and Congressman-Elect Glenn Ivey (D-Maryland) was the special guest for Council member Jolene Ivey. 

Tom Dernoga (D- District 1) was elected as Council Chair and Blegay as Vice Chair at the Gavel Exchange on Tuesday. 

Dernoga is the longest-serving active council member and previously served as Chair of the County Council during his first stint on the Council. The Laurel Democrat was first elected in 2002, served two terms, and returned to the Council in 2018. 

Dernoga, Ivey and former Council member Monique Anderson-Walker frequently voted as a bloc, particularly on development issues. With the new Council majority, Dernoga will be able to reform several processes. 

This new Council does not have any Latino representation for the first time in 16 years. Outgoing Councilwoman Deni Taveras, the newly-elected District 47 Delegate, said “I feel sad that my community doesn’t have the representation that it deserves.”

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