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.