By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
The capital of Prince George’s County has found its next mayor after the untimely resignation of her predecessor. Wanda Leonard officially replaced Tonga Turner, who resigned last month to spend more time with her family and to focus on her professional career outside politics.
Leonard was elected as President of the Board of Commissioners, which is the official designation for the position of mayor in the Town of Upper Marlboro, during a special meeting July 1. Leonard has served as a Town Commissioner for the past 18 months and becomes only the second African American woman to be elected in its 313 year history.
“I am humbled and honored to have been elected as the town’s new Mayor,” Leonard said in a public statement after she was sworn in.
Leonard previously ran for public office in January 2018 after realizing that Upper Marlboro needed visionary leadership and fresh perspectives to transform a town which has seen businesses leave and has been mysteriously absent amidst the economic revitalization that is occurring throughout the County. She also plans to focus on what town residents need to enhance their living experience, and what matters are truly important to the community.
Her predecessor began with the same plans to restore the town’s economy and develop its brand to make it more attractive to corporate partnerships. Upper Marlboro is the home of the Prince George’s County government. The town also hosts the county’s municipal courts, and the public school system. When Turner announced her plans to relinquish the position in early June she took pride in her accomplishments during her truncated leadership. In her resignation letter the former mayor cited her achievements that include securing $800,000 in grants for the town, economic growth legislation, and restructuring during her two years in office.
Tonga had been subjected to various racial attacks although she said that wasn’t the reason for her resignation. However, it was well documented through various accounts that some of her constituents used racially incendiary words in email attacks. The tires on her car were reportedly slashed and a former town commissioner was caught by a resident drawing swastikas on a notepad during a town meeting.
“My goals are two-fold. I certainly want to continue the great work started by my predecessor, Tonga Turner. I also want to continue to move Upper Marlboro forward with my own vision of what we can become by working together.”
Leonard graduated from the University of the District of Columbia earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration with an emphasis on management and a minor in finance. She is a United States Army Reserve veteran and has an extensive record of public service.
The new mayor of the Prince George’s County seat has been a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children in the District of Columbia. She has also served as a member of the board for Family Advocacy and a Donate Life Ambassador with Washington Regional Transplant Community. In addition Mayor Leonard is an alum of the Prince George’s County Police Citizens Academy and a Prince George County Police Volunteer in Police Services. She also served as president of the Greater Upper Marlboro Maryland Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Leonard is also described as a seasoned leader in the healthcare industry.