TALE OF TAKOMA: The mayors of Takoma

PHOTO: Mayor Miller (1954-1972) welcomes the city’s first exchange student from Jequie, Brazil in 1963. Photo courtesy Historic Takoma.


Bruce Williams is one of 22 who have served as Mayor of Takoma Park in the last 125 years. When he steps down from the Mayor’s chair this November, Williams will have been Mayor for eight of those years. First elected to the Council in 1993, he served 14 years (7 terms) under Mayors Ed Sharp and Kathy Porter before assuming charge of the Council.

Mayor Bruce Williams, election night 2011. Photo by Bill Brown.

Only two other Mayors match or exceed Bruce Williams’ record of public service. By far the longest-serving Mayor was George Miller. Appointed to a vacant Council seat in April 1953, he was elected mayor the following April and served an astounding 19 years until his unexpected death in July 1972. He spent his last years overseeing the construction of the city hall at Maple and Philadelphia Avenues, only to die before the building was officially dedicated. That building forms the central core of the current city hall and community center.

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Appointed to succeed Miller, John Roth served as Mayor for 8 years. Added to his 14 prior years on Council, he ties with Bruce Williams for total years of public service, and both trump Miller’s 20 years.

Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, Town Founder  This less formal image of Gilbert perhaps better reflects the visionary who successfully launched a suburb by his own efforts. Since 1883 he had added 13 more land parcels, comprising 1000 acres in all, and setting out the town boundaries still recognizable today. Shortly after his re-election as mayor in 1892, however, he stepped away from political life to oversee construction of his 160-room hotel in North Takoma.

B. F. Gilbert, Takoma Park’s founding developer and first mayor. Photo courtesy Historic Takoma.

From 1890 through 1954, beginning with Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, 14 men served as Mayor. The two who served longest were Samuel S. Shedd, from 1894-1902, and local merchant Oliver Youngblood, who spanned the war years of 1940-1948. Takoma Park assumed City status in 1948 and instituted a more professional government. Following the long-serving Mayors Miller and Roth, five more have held the office: Sammie Abbott, Stephen Del Guidice (who left for a seat on PG County Council), Ed Sharp, and Kathy Porter, the first woman to hold the office, and Williams.

With Williams officially retiring, Seth Grimes and Kate Stewart, both currently serving on Council, have announced their candidacies.  Election day is November 3rd. The election schedule is here.

BruceWilliams01Related article: Takoma mayor not to run

Mayor Bruce Williams announced his decision at the July 20 city council meeting.

final_invite_kickof-detail Related article: GRANOLAPARK: One candidate and counting

This is going to be one hell of a city election.



About the Author

Diana Kohn
Diana Kohn is president of Historic Takoma, Inc., which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the heritage of both Takoma Park MD and DC. Diana is co-author of Images of America: Takoma Park, a photo history of the town.