Juan Stewart Jr., longtime resident of District 7, said he wants to help his community prosper. In order to do that, he has decided to seek the Democratic nomination for the District 7 Prince George’s County Council seat in 2018.

Juan Stewart says he wants to improve the lives of central Prince Georgians. (Courtesy photo)

“I’m running for the county council because it has a lot of power,” Stewart, 29, a resident of Capitol Heights, Md. told the AFRO. “District 7 has neighborhoods with differing income levels. There is Capitol Heights with its low-income and working class residents to Hillcrest Heights, Md., which is solidly middle class, and they both are on Southern Avenue.

“As the county council member, I can help bridge the gap in the district.”

District 7 is located in the western-central part of Prince George’s County and it borders the District of Columbia’s northeast and southeast quadrants. In addition to Capitol Heights, it includes District Heights, Md.; Hillcrest Heights; Marlow Heights, Md.; Seat Pleasant, Md.; Suitland, Md.; Temple Hills, Md.; and portions of Forestville, Md. and Oxon Hill, Md. District 7 is 91 percent Black, the highest percentage by district in the county, according to the 2010 census.

Karen Toles has represented District 7 on the Prince George’s County Council since 2009 and cannot serve a third term by law. Toles has indicated that she is interested in one of the new two at-large seats that will be contested in 2018.

Former Capitol Heights Mayor Darrell Miller, political activist Bruce Branch and Rodney Streeter, who used to work for Camille Exum when she represented District 7 on the county council, are also candidates for the District 7 seat.

The Democratic primary will take place on June 26, 2018 and the winner will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election. The winner of the Democratic primary will in all likelihood be the next District 7 county council member because the Republican and Independent presence in the district is miniscule.

Stewart is a 2006 graduate of Bladensburg High School and Georgetown University. He works as a data scientist for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and is a solar power entrepreneur. If he wins, this will be the first time he has held elected office.

Stewart said he attends church regularly at Union Temple Baptist Church in the Southeast D.C.

Stewart said that his priorities are accountability and accessibility, youth engagement and community development. His platform includes economic development and food security.

“I want to help people get homes and seniors to stay in their homes,” he said. “There is the issue of increasing property taxes. You have an increase in property taxes but you don’t get anything for those taxes in terms of government services.”

Stewart said he wants to improve government services to the residents of District 7. Food equity, he said, is a big issue in the district.

“For example, there is no full service grocery store in the Capitol Heights and Seat Pleasant areas,” he said. “Off of Addison Road, you have homes that are worth up to $500,000 but the people there have to drive three miles to get to a grocery store and that’s not right. When you build a community, you need a grocery store, a school and a church.”

The Safeway in Addison Plaza in Seat Pleasant closed in July 2016 and its closure has generated a great deal of concern. Stewart said “the community should have been engaged in that process.”

Stewart said he wants to help improve the county’s public education system, saying that “some of our kids may not want to go to college.”

“We need for them to take up a trade,” he said,” and teach them life skills.”

Stewart is an active member of the Bradbury/Boulevard Heights Civic Association, a community organization in District 7, and has done volunteer work with Capitol Area Food Bank, the Food Justice Coalition and the Food Equity Council. He recently interacted with the Mission of Love Charities in Capitol Heights that tries to meet the needs of struggling Prince Georgians.

Belinda Queen, a longtime activist in Prince George’s County and a member of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee, told the {AFRO} that she doesn’t know Stewart personally but has watched him campaign over the months and is impressed with what she has seen.

“He has been to a lot of community meetings lately,” she said. “It is good to see young people stepping up to the plate and want to make a difference.”

Queen said Stewart isn’t a seasoned activist, though, and therefore should be measured in his approach to talking to people about issues. “He, like a lot of other young people, need to understand what the community needs,” she said