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Hyattsville City Council Seat Up for Grabs

Crime a Focus in Both Candidates' Campaigns
Hyattsville City Council candidates Shirley Bender and Timothy Hunt
Ward 3 residents of Hyattsville will decide Tuesday whether Shirley Bender, left, or Timothy Hunt will fill a vacant City Council seat. (Photos by Maryland Newsline's Kelly Brooks)

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The city of Hyattsville has a map of the wards.

By Kelly Brooks
Maryland Newsline
Monday, Nov. 9, 2009

HYATTSVILLE, Md. - Timothy Hunt is blunt about the challenges of running his second City Council campaign in less than a year.

To say that abandoning hopes for a Ward 3 seat never crossed his mind would be a lie, he said, "because it did."

But, he said, he felt compelled to run because he wants Hyattsville residents to get what they pay for, particularly in terms of community policing and proper code enforcement. And he wants policies that would tighten up city practices: While the city should provide some recreation, the community development budget is bloated, he said.

On Tuesday, Hunt, 36, a stay-at-home father, faces Shirley Bender, 62, a retired single mother, for the vacant Hyattsville City Council seat for Ward 3. Hunt-- who lives on Pennsylvania Street, just southwest of the University of Maryland campus-- narrowly lost a May 4 election for Hyattsville's other Ward 3 seat to Matthew D. McKnight. Hunt lost by 33 votes in that 386-vote election.

The seat he's now seeking has been empty since former Ward 3 Council member Anthony Patterson stepped down Aug. 31, more than two years into his four-year term. Patterson, a Government Accountability Office employee, said he spends about half his time traveling to Michigan and North Carolina to monitor the states' spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Spending that much time away from Hyattsville, he said, was not fair to constituents.  

Patterson called both candidates strong, but with varying visions for the community.

Bender, a former program assistant at the National Cancer Institute, said she wants to address crime and obtain better lighting in the neighborhoods. Her campaign brochure pinpoints additional concerns:  litter, neglected city trees, finding solutions to parking problems and enforcing speed limits.

"The whole thing is getting people involved," Bender said.

'She's a Little Woman, But She's Very Spunky'

Bender, a resident of Hyattsville for more than 15 years, said she does not like things unkempt.

She used to take it upon herself to pick up garbage off her street, she said. "All the taxes that we pay, sure enough, we want to keep everything up to par," she said.

As a former block captain, she said she enjoyed helping neighbors who had questions about Hyattsville city procedures, such as obtaining permits.

She has remained active in retirement by working temporary jobs and volunteering for organizations including Capital Hospice, the Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the American Association of Retired Persons, she said.

Now, she wants to get more involved with city politics.

"I love getting things done, and I like to help people," she said. "I want to set the tone."

"This is a challenge for me," added Bender, who lives off of Queens Chapel Road, just south of Prince George's Plaza.

Her daughter, Valerie Bender, said her mother is passionate about caring for others. Plus, "She's a little woman, but she's very spunky," she said.

Bender started working as a secretary at the National Institutes of Health in 1968, she said. She climbed through the ranks and eventually served as a program assistant in a lab at the National Cancer Institute before retiring in 2004.

'He Will Not Be a Rubber Stamp'

Hunt, the treasurer of the University Hills Civic Association, is not an ideas guy, he said.

"I'm not going to be playing with other people's money with my ideas," he added.

He said he's a pragmatist and is reasonably fiscally conservative.

He just wants solid services, he added.

"People want to get what they pay for, and that's one of my main focuses," Hunt said.

In 2001, Hunt and his wife, Karen, moved to their current home, then located in unincorporated Prince George's County. He became involved in city politics after Hyattsville annexed his area without a referendum several years ago, he said.

Eventually, a court decision negated that annexation, a referendum was held and residents then elected to be annexed, he said.

Hunt said he supported annexation, but not without the referendum. He served on the steering committee that brought together University Hills-area residents both for and against annexation, he said. Those efforts led to the revitalization of the civic association.

Hunt is a Maryland native and was raised in Prince George's County, he said. He has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from West Virginia University and now devotes much of his time to raising his 1-year-old and 4-year-old sons, he said.

After graduating from college, Hunt worked for a power company contractor doing GPS mapping of power circuits, he said. He hiked along power line routes, going from pole to pole, transmitting and recording data.

Tom Eichman, who has lived in University Hills for nearly 30 years, said Hunt has been like a monitor for the civic association, attending city meetings and bringing back information.

"He will not be a rubber stamp," Eichman said, adding Hunt also won't vote against something unnecessarily. "He'll do the research ... and then he'll express his opinion and vote the way he thinks."

Hyattsville residents who live in Ward 3 can vote in the special election from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at University Christian Church at 6800 Adelphi Road.


Copyright 2009 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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