Tag Archives: Bridget Hill-Zayat

Three Vie for Two Seats on Kensington Council

by a correspondent in Kensington

Local politics in Kensington typically is a sedate pursuit and contested elections tend to be the exception. This year, not only has the mayor’s race attracted competition but three candidates are seeking to fill two seats on the nonpartisan Town Council.

Incumbent Duane Rollins, mayoral candidate Peter Fosselman’s husband, is stepping down but Bridget Hill-Zayat is seeking reelection to a second term. She won a seat on the Council in 2018, after having lived in town just three years.

Councilmember Hill-Zayat and Mayor Tracey Furman clashed in 2018 over the Knowles Manor Senior Housing project. In letters to planning staff, Hill-Zayat noted inadequate parking and “our town’s intense dislike of this project” while Furman expressed support on behalf of the Town Council.

A group of Kensington residents appealed the Planning Board’s approval but settled after improvements made regarding parking and the traffic pattern. Nate Engle, a senior climate change specialist for the World Bank who has lived in Kensington since 2011 and active in that group, is now seeking election to the Town Council.

Also running is Jon A. Gerson, a former director of economic development in Montgomery County and longtime town resident. Gerson regularly attends town meetings and helped support the creation of a town dog park. He served on the Town Council in the early 1980s but remains best known as the former political director for the county’s teachers union (MCEA).

The Washington Post editorial board was then a fierce critic, accusing Gerson of demanding that endorsed candidates donate to MCEA’s campaign and that he “threatened to withhold the group’s political support” from anyone backing an MCEA-opposed school board candidate.

Others might simply place Gerson’s actions under the rubric of “politics” and point out that he was an effective advocate. Locally, he played a significant role in trying to clear a path for now Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher when he first ran for delegate in District 18 in 2006.

The last contested Council race in Kensington was in 2017.

Voting this year will be conducted by mail, but ballots also may be deposited at a drop-box at Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell Street. This represents a marked shift from the Town’s normal practice of voting in person during the evening on election day. The impact on turnout is unknown, especially among the town’s apartment residents who usually vote at low rates.

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Former allies now opponents in race for Kensington mayor

by a correspondent in Kensington

Two former political allies — Kensington’s top elected official and her immediate predecessor — are facing off in the Town’s nonpartisan mayoral election June 1.

The incumbent, Tracey C. Furman, is seeking a third two-year term against Peter Fosselman, who served 10 years as mayor before stepping down in 2016. At the time, Fosselman said he was excited that Furman, then a council member, was succeeding him. He said he had encouraged her to run for mayor, a part-time post.

Since then, their political friendship has soured over the conduct of Town affairs, including the pace and character of development in Kensington.

In a statement posted at the Town’s website, Furman takes credit for having “helped to attract nearly 20 new businesses” to Kensington. She also touts development activity in town that has coincided with her two terms, stating:

“When I took office, we were four years into a new Sector Plan without a single redevelopment to show for it.” Kensington’s sector plan was updated in 2012 after considerable wrangling. Furman has been closely allied with Councilmembers Darin Bartram and Conor Crimmins, whom she appointed to the Town’s development committee. Their terms expire next year.

Fosselman, as mayor, spearheaded approval of the sector plan. In a position statement at his campaign website, Fosselman pledges to adhere to the sector plan, “hold developers to their responsibilities for providing proper public amenities,” and “attract projects we envisioned,” as well as “seek fitting developers for our key intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Plyers Mill Road.”

A self-storage facility proposed at the southeast corner of that intersection drew considerable opposition in Kensington, which is bisected by the six north-south lanes of Connecticut Avenue. The Town government and the Montgomery County planning commission came out against the facility.

The candidates in Kensington’s first contested mayoral election since 2012 are long-established town residents. Furman has lived in Kensington 40 years and is facilities manager at the Methodist church in town. She likes to be called “Mayor Tracey” and often speaks about the importance of encouraging sense of small-town community in a densely populated area.

Fosselman, who ran unsuccessfully for state delegate in 2002 before winning election as mayor in 2006, began rising to local prominence years ago by operating a dog-walking service and gym in town. More recently, he has been a master plan ombudsman for the county. He is a past president of the Maryland Mayors’ Association and a former Maryland deputy secretary of state.

In 2018, Fosselman sought the Democratic nomination for the County Council’s District One seat but finished a distant fifth in an eight-candidate field.

Tomorrow: Kensington’s Council Race

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