Seat Pleasant voters will face a familiar matchup at the polls Monday as they choose between the city's longtime mayor, Eugene F. Kennedy, and Eugene W. Grant, who opposed him in an unusually tight three-way race four years ago.
The 2000 contest resulted in a legal cliffhanger after Kennedy defeated the second-place finisher, Thurman D. Jones Jr., by one vote. Jones charged that one of his supporters had been mistakenly prevented from voting and demanded a runoff election, but he was ultimately overruled by the Maryland Court of Appeals.
This time, Grant, who came in third in 2000, is the only challenger, and Kennedy is hoping for a less controversial victory. "I'm optimistic that it won't be that close," the mayor said with a chuckle. "I always try to think positive."
Monday's election -- which also includes all seven council seats -- comes as the city of roughly 5,000 residents is grappling with about $50,000 in state cuts to its $2.2 million annual budget.
A largely working-class community, the city also suffers from the persistent crime plaguing much of the area of Prince George's that lies inside the Capital Beltway. Last week, a man and a woman were fatally shot on a Seat Pleasant street. Meanwhile, two city police officers involved in the shooting of a teenager last January remain on paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the incident. The teenager survived the shooting.
Grant contended that Kennedy has not demonstrated sufficient leadership in the face of such problems and has poorly managed efforts to bring more economic development to Seat Pleasant. "The city is falling apart administratively, physically and aesthetically," Grant said. "[Kennedy] means well, but he is not the person for the times."
In particular, Grant complained that Kennedy is not responsive to residents who report code violations or request speed bumps. "What I've heard from people is that they've written letters, gone to town meetings, and their concerns have fallen on deaf ears," he said.
Grant also called for the establishment of a finance committee within the council to evaluate how the city's funds might be reallocated in the face of state cuts -- a proposal that was considered but rejected by the current City Council. "I think they're fearful of what might be uncovered if they have a finance committee," Grant said.
If elected, Grant added, he would draw on his experience as the founder and head of Global Developmental Services for Youth, a nonprofit mentoring organization for teenagers, as well as his years as a vocal critic of the county police and his service on county police and corrections advisory boards.
"My years of activism in working in the community is one of my hallmarks," he said.
Kennedy has vigorously defended his three terms as mayor by pointing to a list of achievements during his last term, including obtaining state beautification grants for the city's Goodwin Park, installing a heating system in a building the city rents out for special events and hiring a paid employee to significantly expand a city after-school program that Kennedy said has been recognized as among the best in the state. Kennedy also noted that he hired a new police chief and moved the city's department into a better equipped, more centrally located building.
"I am campaigning around the continuation of the effort I have put forth to make Seat Pleasant a better and safer place to live," Kennedy said. "We have done a lot."
If elected to a fourth term, Kennedy said, he would work "diligently and aggressively" to form a partnership with local churches or private builders to erect a residence for seniors on land recently acquired by the city.
Kennedy, 74, said he retired as chief security administrator of the Lorton Correctional Complex in 1989. Grant, 37, said that until recently he was a security supervisor at Dulles International Airport, and currently works full time as president and chief executive of his nonprofit -- an unpaid position.
Seat Pleasant's mayor receives an annual salary of nearly $5,000. The city's seven council members -- including those holding two at-large seats -- are paid nearly $4,000 a year. The mayor and City Council members serve for four-year terms and are not barred from seeking reelection.
Both of the current at-large council members, Bettie J. Jeter and Kelly Porter, are seeking reelection. They face challengers Timothy Staggs and Elenora Simms. In Ward 2, incumbent Brian K. Shivers is up against Hubert L. Gallion Sr. In Ward 4, incumbent Charl M. Jones faces Frank J. Blackwell, who has been certified as a write-in candidate. And in Ward 5, John Morris is running against incumbent Charles Ruffin, who has been certified as a write-in candidate.
Council members Johnie L. Higgs Sr. (Ward 1) and Reveral L. Yeargin (Ward 3) are running unopposed.
EUGENE F. KENNEDY
EUGENE W. GRANT