Helen M. Wilson, mayor of Upper Marlboro since 1976, was born and bred on politics and horseracing.

"I've always been interested in politics because around my house, there was always talk of the Democrats and the Republicans and who was going to win an election," says Wilson, who has lived in Upper Marlboro more than 50 years.

"When I came to Marlboro, the politics and the racing mixed because my husband was a thoroughbred horse trainer and my father-in-law was on the town commission."

Soon, Wilson, now 69, became involved in both. From 1952 until 1972, she was assistant to the president of Marlboro Race Track, where she played a major role in planning both racing events and the annual county fair, then held at the track. She also volunteered a great deal of time to several local Democratic and women's clubs.

Before long, Wilson knew practically every name and face on the streets of Upper Marlboro. And hers also became a well-known face. Over the years, several people tried unsuccessfully to persuade her to run for town commission.

In 1976, she was appointed to fill a vacancy left by the death of a commissioner. She won election to the commission in 1977 and 1979. On both occasions, the three-member commission has in turn elected her mayor. She is the only woman ever to serve on the commission.

Since taking office, Wilson has worked to revive Marlboro's business district and to bring back some of the luster that once made it southern Maryland's social and economic center.

It is still the county seat, but not much goes on in this sleepy hamlet of 400 residents, one policeman and two traffic lights. Often there are more people in the county jail than in the town.

"I love the town of Marlboro and its people and I want to do what I can to revive it," says Wilson, who has four married children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. "I get a real kick out of my work, even though my husband thinks I'm always looking for problems."