UPPER MARLBORO — Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford met with Mayor Tonga Turner and members of the Upper Marlboro Board of Commissioners to discuss the future of the city economically and developmentally on July 12.
Rutherford was making stops in several cities throughout the county that day and Turner, six months into her term as mayor, and other town officials were excited to have him come by so they could show him what Upper Marlboro had to offer and discuss with him their plans for the future.
“I, along with the Board of Commissioners, was excited about the opportunity to show them the new path that the town is going to be taking and to hear his thoughts about how the governor and himself would be able to partner and support us within that path,” Turner said.
When Turner was elected into office in January, she noticed that the town seemed to have fallen behind in development in the downtown area. For the past 60 years, nothing much has changed regarding growth.
“When I inherited that role in January one of the things that stuck out to me was our lack of engagement with our county and with our state elected officials, and that lack of engagement has truly been a crippling effect for the town’s progress,” Turner said.
During the meeting, they discussed with Rutherford on opportunities at the state level that the town can use, state dollars in the form of grants that the city can apply for to support its economic development and historic preservation and growth concerning annexation. The hope is to expand by bringing in more people from the greater Upper Marlboro area.
“We got our issues in front of the lieutenant governor and showed a side of Upper Marlboro that is rarely seen,” said Board of Commissioners Member Linda Pennoyer.
The town has a very rich history dating back to the 1700s, primarily African American history. As the first African American mayor of Upper Marlboro, Turner wants to make that history known.
“I don’t think many people even know how rich of a history Upper Marlboro has,” said Historical Liaison Tanja Hammond. “With Mayor Turner being our first African American mayor, it is important. And also with the town being 65 percent African American, it’s important to let all the heritages speak.”
As part of the meeting with Rutherford, the group went down to a historical American gravesite to talk about the African American people who were buried there and how they could make such an essential aspect of the town more known to the county.
Most people associate Upper Marlboro with the courthouse and think “you don’t come to Upper Marlboro unless you’re in trouble,” Hammond said. She wants to be able to give Upper Marlboro a voice and spark positive interest in the town.
“The town is in a new trajectory,” said Pennoyer. “It is one we haven’t taken before. I’m very excited to see where we will go. Mayor Turner has a plan to go forward and put the town in the same light it was in years ago.”
While Turner wants to emphasize honoring the history of Upper Marlboro, the other half of her platform is to look towards the future. She wants to see an Upper Marlboro that contains a bustling family-friendly environment where people can walk and shop in their own community, where small and large businesses can thrive equally, a safe and environmentally friendly community and a community that reflects diversity in race, culture, and religion.
Part of getting there, she said, is forming partnerships wherever possible with anyone who is willing to help out, such as Rutherford, as well as work with other elected officials to move the town agenda forward.
“I am not going to play the political game of aligning myself with people just to align,” Turner said. “I am going to partner with anyone on either side, republican or democrat, who is interested in moving our town forward.”
The end goal is to showcase Upper Marlboro as a town of excellence and as the capital for Prince George’s County by building and repairing relationships where there were none and taking advantage of opportunities for development that the town may have missed in the past.
“With me being the first African American mayor, I think we are breaking all the barriers, and I want to continue to lead in that way, to break all the barriers that have been a barrier for us in this town.”