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Longtime Prince George’s council member Davis resigns

Looking ahead to life after politics, he says, ‘It’s just not me to wait’

Prince George’s County Council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) in 2019. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
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Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) will resign from the Prince George’s County Council on April 15, marking an early end to the final term of one of the council’s longest-serving members.

The council will select someone to fill the seat held by Davis, who has served since winning a special election in 2011. His seat, along with the 10 others on the council, is on the ballot this year, with the primary to be held July 19 and the general election Nov. 8. Davis, who declined to comment on his plans, said he decided he had accomplished what he wanted to on the council and was ready for a change.

“I have always done things on my own terms,” Davis said in an interview. “So when I see a natural break, I take it.”

Davis, who served as council chair in 2016 and 2017, has pushed throughout his tenure for development in this Washington suburb and has been a strong advocate for Prince George’s in the broader region. He said highlights of his council career were the recent rewrite of the county’s 50-year-old zoning code and improvements to the county’s health-care landscape, including the opening last year of the regional hospital in Largo.

“His slogan, ‘Doing big things on purpose,’ is really fitting,” said council member Dannielle M. Glaros (D-District 3), who served for two years as the council’s vice chair alongside Davis.

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Davis’s leadership was especially important as the county launched a strategy focused on affordable housing and during negotiations about the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, Glaros said, noting that, especially in the early days, there were points where it looked as if the deal could have fallen apart.

Davis’s stances have also sometimes made him a polarizing figure on the council and in the community. In 2019, for example, he supported bringing an Amazon warehouse to Westphalia Town Center, saying it would be a catalyst for growth in the mixed-use development in Upper Marlboro, which had struggled to attract retail and office tenants. Outraged residents were sharply critical of Davis, saying they were promised a grocery store, not a warehouse. The plan never came to fruition.

Davis also faced widespread opposition in 2020 for his support of a charter amendment that would have allowed the council to raise a cap on the homestead tax credit — which Davis argued was necessary to bring revenue to the county — and his support this year for a controversial redistricting map. Both efforts ultimately failed.

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Council member Mel Franklin (D-At Large) credited Davis with helping transform Prince George’s over the past decade from a bedroom community into an economic destination.

“Council member Davis was not afraid to push the envelope, even when it wasn’t popular,” Franklin said. “But he and the council listened and changed course when we needed to.”

Davis said he has always done what he thinks is right for residents, despite the criticism.

“Leadership is not always comfortable or easy,” he said. “I was elected and led through God’s voice to governance. He said, ‘Prepare to govern.’ So I took that role and responsibility when I walked in.”

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The candidates who have registered to run in District 6 include Wala Blegay, Barbara Holt Streeter, Belinda Queen, Denise G. Smith and Nakia R. Wright. All are Democrats, and in deep-blue Prince George’s, primaries are usually decisive. Davis said he has not decided who to endorse.

Davis was a Head Start program manager and led the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund before he won the 2011 special election to fill the seat vacated by Leslie Johnson, the wife of former county executive Jack B. Johnson (D), after she was arrested on corruption charges. Davis was then elected in November 2014 to serve his first four-year term and won a second term in 2018.

His current term would have expired Dec. 5.

Asked why he did not wait to finish the end of his term, Davis said he decided there was not much more he could accomplish with his remaining six months. He wants to focus, he said, on his next professional steps — which will likely not include politics.

“And it’s just not me to wait,” he said. “It’s not Derrick Leon Davis.”