Takoma Park elects new council and mayor
Former Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart presided over her final city council meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, to swear in the newly
elected members and welcome new Mayor Talisha Searcy.
There were plenty of tears and laughs at the meeting, as departing Councilmembers and the mayor said goodbyes and thanks to colleagues and supporters.
Councilmember Searcy took the time to thank her colleagues before being sworn in as Mayor Searcy. “This has been such a collaborative group of people where we may not all agree, but everyone is so solution-oriented that we advance issues in a way that benefits the entire community.”
She also took time to thank Mayor Stewart. “I am so grateful for your mentorship and your tutelage and just really helping me along the way,” she said. “I will truly miss you as mayor, but I definitely look forward to working with you in your new role as County Councilmember of District 4. Thank you all so much.”
Stewart also thanked her supporters, family and colleagues in city government: “First, thank you, so much to everyone, the whole community. I want to start with our city staff, you are all remarkable people. The deep caring you have for our community is astounding to me and I just want to thank from the bottom of my hear, each and every one of you. To my friends and community members who came out tonight. I so appreciate all of your support over the years. To my family, I started this when my kids were in middle school and now one is pretty much done with college and the other is in college. This has always been a family affair. In particular, I want to thank my husband for always being there, even at 3 and 4 a.m. And I want to thank my mother-in-law who has always been a huge source of strength in my life and an inspiration and for making sure my family is fed and I’m taking care of myself.”
Takoma Park residents went to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to vote on a new mayor as well as who would be representing them in the city’s six wards.
Of Takoma Park’s 11,743 registered voters, 5,844 residents 16 years old and above came out on Election Day or voted by mail to cast their ballots for local elections for a total turnout of 49.77%. There were 734 ballots cast in-person on Election Day, 2,771 mail-in ballots received before Election Day and 2,251 mail-in ballots received on or after Election Day.
With 2,974 votes, Searcy was elected as the city’s newest mayor, replacing Stewart, who was elected to a seat on the Montgomery County Council in the new District 4. As for the new council, Shana Fulcher will represent Ward 1, Cindy Dyballa for Ward 2, Randy Gibson for Ward 3, Terry Seamens for Ward 4, Cara Honzak for Ward 5, and Jason Small for Ward 6, according to the city’s Board of Elections.
The regular terms for councilmembers and the mayor is two years. The next citywide election will be in November of 2024. Takoma Park is divided into six wards. The mayor is elected at large. City councilmembers are elected by ward.
Takoma Park uses ranked-choice voting, meaning residents rank candidates in order of preference instead of choosing just one.
The first candidate that receives more than 50% of the vote is then the winner. Rankedchoice voting is meant to ensure that winning candidates have support of the majority of voters. It can also reduce negative campaigning as candidates may benefit by encouraging voters to rank them as a second choice in the event a voter’s first choice does not receive a majority.
Members of the community filled the city auditorium for the swearing-in ceremony, with some paying tribute during public
comments to their departing councilmembers.
Susan Rosenblum, a resident of Ward 3 since 1995, spoke in praise of former Councilmember Kacy Kostiuk, who did not seek reelection for her seat, saying she’s “an example of how leadership does not necessarily mean the loudest voice in the room. Kacy listens, does research, and pushed the issue forward until It’s resolved.”
Robert Lanza, a resident of Ward 1 since 1998, came out to thank Peter Kovar, who was elected to the city council in 2015 and is now retiring. “I want to particularly thank Peter for his office hours, I greatly appreciated you taking the time to talk with your constituents about issues and your decision making,” Lanza said. “Thank you for your service and congratulations on your upcoming retirement.”
Troy Jacobs, of Ward 5, spoke to thank former Mayor Stewart, as well as Kovar, Kostiuk and outgoing Ward 5 Councilmember Jarrett Smith. “Fortunately we live in a jurisdiction where we respect the outcome of votes, strive to bring voice to government and build a more progressive Takoma Park. I thank you very much and look forward to working with the new city council. We’re very excited about it.”
Kelly Gibson of Ward 1 came out to speak highly of Stewart, who was first elected as Takoma Park’s mayor in 2015. “She’s immediately impressive but that’s just the special thing about her and who she is,” said Gibson. “I believe her style of leadership is what makes successful government bodies. Women lead different. We create space for differing opinions, we stay at the table, we don’t back down, we don’t make people feel bad for their different opinions and we never shut them down. Kate is the true illustration of that leadership and I believe Talisha will be as well, I’m very proud of that.”
The other outgoing councilmembers also took the opportunity to give their thanks to their families, the community and their colleagues.
“I’m so grateful to everyone in Ward 3 for the opportunity to serve in this role,” said Kostiuk, who also thanked her family for their support. “It’s been a real honor to represent you and get to know you and be a small part of your life for the past five years. Please, keep in touch with me, I’m still your neighbor, and I look forward to seeing you on the other side.”
Councilmember Kovar also thanked the council, voters, and residents of Ward 1. “Everyone was so welcoming and willing to give me the honor and privilege of representing them, which was incredibly touching,” he said. “We had a relationship that went on for seven years. I also want to thank my colleagues and staff, who were really good at helping me, but also talking me out of bad ideas.”
Stewart also took time to thank the council: “To my colleagues, you all have been so incredibly wonderful. Peter I know of few people who are so unwavering in how they fight for their constituents and their friends and you have been a model of that. Cindy your commitment to climate change and always asking the questions that need to be asked and index cards are things I will miss. Kacy, your patience, smarts and deep kindness are so unique and I’m truly going to miss working with you so closely. Councilmember Seamens, you have been a rock over the years and your search for justice and fairness in our community is something we’ve all benefited from. Talisha, your advice, collaboration and thoughtfulness has been something I’ve so much leaned on over the years.”
Stewart ended her farewell to the council by quoting one of her favorite authors Jacqueline Woodson, “The revolution is like a merry-go-round, history always being made somewhere. And maybe for a short time, we’re a part of that history. And then the ride stops and our turn is over.”
“So, Mayor-elect Searcy, it’s your turn to get on this merry-goround. And with that, I adjourn this city council,” she said to applause. Searcy was then sworn in by Karen A. Bushell, Clerk of the Montgomery County Circuit Court. The new mayor then swore in the next Takoma Park City Council.
She then gave her first words as the new mayor of Takoma Park. “First I want to thank the residents of Takoma Park. I deliberated a lot before putting my foot into the fire, I should say. I look forward to serving our entire city. I believe very strongly that we are all called together for a reason and it’s to lead this great city into its next phase of existence.”
This article was featured in the December 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.