Two of the eight council districts in College Park have contested races for the city's voters when they go to the polls Nov. 3, and the city is guaranteed a new mayor, the first woman to hold that position in the city's history.
In the six other districts, council candidates are seeking election unopposed.
Anna Owens, 62, a three-term council member, is running unopposed for mayor, to replace Alvin Kushner, who has held the job for six years. Kushner, 60, in turn, is running unopposed for the seat Owens is leaving, the same one he held for five years before he was elected mayor.
Owens said she recently retired from a secretarial position at the University of Maryland to devote more time to the post of mayor, which has no veto power over the council and can vote only to break a tie.
Kushner declined to comment on why he chose not to run for mayor.
In one contested race, Glenn Brown Jr., 33, house director for the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, will vie with Kristin McNamara, 25, a management analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency, for the District 3 seat vacated by one-term council member William Salmond.
Salmond, director of the University of Maryland's legal aid office, opted not to run again because the 20-plus-hour-a-week job "extracts a terrible price personally and professionally."
Bruce Houdesheldt, 32, a real estate broker with Larry Hogan and Associates of Landover and a former aide to county council member James Herl, will vie with Sherril Murray, 38, a federal government clerical worker, for the seat in District 8 vacated by one-term member Barry Wood.
Wood, 36, is pastor of the Solid Rock Church. He said he will not seek reelection because he is busy with his congregation, building a church at Good Luck Road and Kenilworth Avenue.
One of Owens' toughest tasks, according to council member Mike Jacobs, will be presiding over the council as it sets a position on the Calvert Road realignment needed to make way for Metro Green Line construction.
The county is seeking to build a four- or five-lane federally funded highway from Good Luck Road to Rte. 1 at the University of Maryland campus, but city officials have objected to the route because it would slice through a corner of the historic College Park Airport and would disrupt homes and businesses.
While the Calvert Road issue will eventually be settled, Owens said, student housing is the most pressing problem facing candidates this year.
"For years, students have been hassled and residents have been hassled," she said.
She said the residents habitually complain that students have crowded into the city, bringing noise, litter and parking problems the city cannot accommodate. Students counter that residents are intolerant of their life styles and deny them representation on the council yet benefit from the revenue they bring to the city.
"There is not going to be a stop for that until we get a master plan for student housing," Owens said. Based on a state-mandated housing study to be released in the next few weeks, Owens said the council should make recommendations to the county for new zoning laws designating off-campus student housing areas.
Owens has long advocated increased communication between residents and students. In 1983, she sponsored an amendment to the city's charter, later overturned in a referendum, that lowered the minimum age requirement of candidates for city office from 25 to 21.
This year the amendment resurfaced and passed, enabling a student to petition to run. But 23-year-old Michael Hoge, a senior at the University of Maryland, was disqualified from the race because his nominating petition contained fewer than the 25 required signatures, according to Barbara Schaeffer, supervisor of elections.
The incumbent council members running unopposed are Jacobs, in District 1; Joseph Page, in District 2; Dervey Lomax, in District 4; George M. Parsons, in District 6, and Joseph Cotter, in District 7.
Also on the ballot are three proposed charter amendments, which were defeated in a special referendum vote last December. The council authorized them for the ballot again this year.
The first asks voters to raise the pay for council members from $1,500 to $2,500 annually and the mayor from $2,400 to $3,500. The second places an automatic cost-of-living increase on the salaries "to take the issue out of the political arena," he said. The third question asks voters to decide whether to allow the council to hold executive sessions in accordance with state open meeting laws to discuss bond sales, land acquisition, litigation and personnel matters.