When Andrea Harrison won a special election to become the Prince George’s County Councilwoman for District 5, she held a seat her father once held and was fast-tracked into leadership positions. However, as she prepares to face Nakia T. Ngwala, Harrison still must prove she’s the right candidate for the position.

“I am the candidate that has the knowledge, the leadership and the commitment to do things for the residents here,” Harrison said. “I know how to get things done. I know where to go and who to talk to.”

Harrison’s boast is an answer to Ngwala, her opponent, who has publicly voiced her concerns with the district’s progress. Ngwala is president of the Ardmore-Springdale Civic Association (ASCA) and an at-large board member of the Enterprise Woods HOA in Springdale. With a strong background in community activism, Ngwala said she sees things that are wrong that many don’t. She’s ready to change that around.

“I’m running on based on the issues going on in the community,” Ngwala said. “I’m running on smarter education, smarter public safety and smarter economic development.”

The candidates have fundamentally different views on those three issues. Ngwala believes they should be addressed in that order while Harrison believes balancing the three concerns is key.

“The commercial real estate development will help to increase our tax base so that we will have more resources and so that we can do more with our public safety and all of the other quality of life issues that residents are looking for,” Harrison said. “Many people will try to compare us to Montgomery County and say, ‘Why can’t we do what Montgomery County does?’ Well, Montgomery County has a very large commercial tax base.”

Ngwala still believes that the county needs to increase its commercial tax base, but she thinks it needs to be careful about how it goes about doing it. Both candidates are Springdale residents and are aware of the proposed shopping center, Bellehaven Plaza, which is slated to be built near Charles H. Flowers High School. With the Vista Gardens Marketplace, Woodmore Town Center nearing opening and Landover Gateway in planning stages, Ngwala wonders why Bellehaven Plaza is necessary at all.

“We have enough shopping. Why are you going to put another shopping center across from Charles Herbert Flowers High School,” Ngwala asked rhetorically. “If this commercial development does come up, it may cause more student truancy, more loitering and more traffic.

“I would think that as far as our government is concerned; they should be more responsible.”

Ngwala calls herself the “people’s advocate” and touts her connection to the community as a reason why she should be the new District 5 councilwoman.

“I just have a passion for what I do,” she said. “I have a love of people and I believe everyone does have a voice. If we can somehow use the voice of our people, we could change the county.

On the other side, Harrison, executive secretary of the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO), says her leadership experience should trump anything. She said the fact that her colleagues on the Council recognized her should let people know what type of person she really is.

“My colleagues have even recognized my leadership abilities in the few short years that I’ve been on in that they unanimously elected me to be the vice-chair of the County Council,” said Harrison. “In addition I was nominated by my colleagues to be the vice chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).”


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO