TALES OF TAKOMA: Mayoral history

PHOTO: Benjamin Franklin Gilbert, Takoma Park’s founder and first mayor. Photo courtesy Historic Takoma.

TALES OF TAKOMA • BY DIANA KOHN

For 125 years Takoma Park’s mayor’s gavel has been handed down from founder Benjamin Franklin Gilbert through a succession of mostly men. On Monday night Kate Stewart was sworn is as our 22nd mayor, the second woman to serve. Stewart came to Council as Ward Three representative succeeding the much-missed Kay Daniels Cohen.

For most of those years, the winning candidate for mayor has, more often than not, never served as a Council member. Of the 12 mayors prior to 1948 – only three (Stephen Williams, Henry Taff, and John Adams) were on Council before becoming mayor.

The year 1948 marks Takoma Park’s switch to “City” status as part of a concerted effort to
professionalize city operations. The next two mayors, John Post and Ross Beville, each had served a term on Council before stepping up. Then along comes George Miller with no Council experience, who ended up with the longest run as Mayor, from 1954 until his death on July 17, 1972.

143-Gracinha - Mayor

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

John Roth had extensive Council experience before taking over on Miller’s death. In 1978, he defeated citizen activist Sammie Abbott by eight votes in the city’s closest-ever election. Sammie prevailed two years later, serving three terms until being ousted by Stephen Del Guidice in his first run for city office. When Del Guidice left for Prince George’s County politics, it paved the way for our most recent trio of Mayors – Ed Sharp, Kathy Porter and Bruce Williams, who each had several years of Council eperience prior to becoming mayor.

This year we also considered the question of altering the city voting date to align with state and federal elections. It is worth noting that before 1980 Takoma Park elections were in fact held in May (or sometimes June) of even-numbered years. The off-year elections began only in 1980.

The Takoma Park Library website has a list of mayor and councilmembers from 1890 to 2009.

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.

1 Comment on "TALES OF TAKOMA: Mayoral history"

  1. Bruce Williams | November 21, 2015 at 6:05 am |

    Actually, 4 of the mayors prior to 1948 served on council first, and 12 of the 22 served on council first.

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