In the last 10 years, Susanna Cristofane has become as much a symbol of Bladensburg as the 200-year-old homes sprinkled throughout the town. s
Cristofane, who has lived in Bladensburg almost all of her 77 years, first won election to the City Council in 1953, in the days when the number of women elected officials in Prince George's could be counted on one hand.
Two years later she was elected secretary-treasurer of the Prince George's Municipal League, a job she still holds. After nearly 20 years on the council, she replaced the outgoing mayor of Bladensburg in 1974 and has since won re-election three times.
She started out as a civic activist, becoming highly visible in the Department of Agriculture Extension Service, the county historical society and the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. She still likes to think of herself as a civic activist and not a politician.
"I don't call this politics, I consider it trying to see who can do the most for the town in the shortest period of time," said Cristofane, who uses her lively blue eyes and hands to get her message across. "I am sure there is a better reward than to work hard, do a good a job and be complimented."
When asked how she gets along with her all-male City Council, Cristofane says with a chuckle, "I guess they are stuck with me. When I was first elected to the council, the then mayor said, 'I don't know what I ever did to deserve this'."
Even as she approaches 80, Cristofane drives around town planting flowers, and back in her office she spends her days hunting federal and state grants to revive this 126-year-old town, the oldest in Prince George's.
Cristofane, whose husband is a retired attorney, does no consider her age a handicap and has never backed away from hard work. This summer, when her car had a flat on the way to a municipal convention in Ocean City, Cristofane was about to fix it when another Prince George's municipal official picked her up.
The service station that fixed her flat charged her $7.50, and the first thing she did when she got to her destination was complain about the price to her fellow mayors from Prince George's.
Asked how long she planned to continue in public office, she said, "I think you should do what you like best as long as you have no physical or mental disabilities. I will rethink it all before next year's election, but I've got some senior citizens in Bladensburg who would dance you young people under the table."