TAKOMA PARK — The Takoma Park City Council seated more women than men on its dais Wednesday evening for the second time in its history.
“Tonight I think is a night to celebrate, celebrating the incoming council members and those who have been reelected to serve,” said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. “It is a new chapter in our city's history.”
Of the seven elected members, three women were elected to represent the city's residents.
In addition to Mayor Kate Stewart – who won her race after running opposed for the second consecutive election cycle – Cindy Dyballa defeated two candidates to succeed Tim Male in Ward 2, while Kacy Kostiuk and Talisha Searcy succeeded Rizzy Quereshi in Ward 3 and Fred Schultz in Ward 6 respectively.
Peter Kovar and Terry Seamens were re-elected unopposed in Wards 1 and 4 respectively while Jarrett Smith overcame a challenger in Ward 5.
Kostiuk and Searcy were both excited to begin their terms and optimistic about what they could accomplish.
“I am really excited to get started, I think this is a very exciting council,” Kostiuk said. “I think the big [issue] is community engagement; I think it can be done as a starting place and then working towards things that are more citywide.”
“I'm excited to have such great company with my current council members but such wonderful predecessors,” Searcy said. “For me, the big issue is get up to speed on Purple Line construction and trying to make sure we're communicating, within Ward 6, about the implications of the Purple Line.”
Stewart explained the new council had a loaded agenda in front of them.
“There are a number of challenges and opportunities we face,” she said. “First and foremost we have the library renovation, we had a report on our economic and strategic plan which the new council will dig into, and we'll move forward with the Takoma junction redevelopment project.”
Alongside the City Council, the newly-formed Youth Council was also recognized.
“They'll serve as an advisory council as many of our other councils do and I'm looking forward to see what ideas they have to what are some of the things that we can work on to engage young people in the community,” Stewart said.
As he watched his successor be sworn in, outgoing council member Rizzy Qureshi reflected on his time on the dais expressing encouragement in the political direction of the city.
“Takoma Park is one of the few municipality-elected bodies on the exact footing where we need to be overall,” he said.
Qureshi, a federal prosecutor who rents his Takoma Park home, added that affordable housing is vital to the city's economic future.
“City, county, state governments need to do more to invest [in affordable housing],” he said. “If the city could create mechanisms with partnerships with the state and county to invest in dilapidated homes and make them available at an affordable rate, I think that's a way you can generate revenue.”
Even though he will no longer serve on the Council, Qureshi vowed to remain involved in his community's affairs.
“I will not be a silent resident, I will be very active and will continue to look for opportunities to serve my community.”