By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, mgray@afro.com

The County seat of Prince George’s County will be looking for new leadership after the resignation of Upper Marlboro Mayor and President of the Board of Commissioners Tonga Y. Turner which takes effect June 30.

Turner is the first Black mayor in the town’s history and made the announcement that she was first resigning at a community meeting on Monday June 10, where representatives from the NAACP were in attendance.  Initially the outgoing mayor announced she was relinquishing her authority on June 21.

Upper Marlboro Mayor Tonga Turner resigned, claiming because she wanted more time to spend with her family, particularly after missing her 3-year-old son’s preschool graduation. (Courtesy Photo)

“The Town of Upper Marlboro has been plagued with a dark history and past,” Turner wrote in her resignation letter posted on the town’s website. “But my hope is that in the past two years under my leadership, each of you has seen the great promise for our future.”

However, NBC Washington spoke to several members in the community who spoke of incidents involving her tires being slashed and receiving threatening emails throughout her 18 months in office. According to one of her constituents, a former County commissioner who routinely attends meetings, was caught sketching swastika symbols on a notepad while she was speaking.  Those were made available to the TV station by resident Monica Wilson and used as part of the report which prompted her public announcement before assembled media members June 11.

“There have been some things that have happened during her year and a half as mayor that she did talk about at the town meeting last night,” Upper Marlboro town spokesman Ray Feldmann said on camera during the broadcast report. “There have been some incidents that she’s had to deal with, but those were not incidents that had anything to do with her resignation.”

Tonga claimed in her public address on the steps of the Town Hall the June 12 that despite those apparent racially motivated attacks against her, that the desire to spend more time with her family was the only reason she chose to relinquish her leadership position in what amounts to the capital of the County. The outgoing mayor said while also working a full-time job in addition to her mayoral duties, she was spending extensive time on professional responsibilities, which were affecting the quality of her family life.  Her tipping point was when she had to miss her 3-year-old son’s preschool graduation and came home around 9 p.m. to a disappointed family and didn’t realize she’d missed the event.

“I am not ending my term as the mayor of Upper Marlboro due to any racism or bigotry,” she said in her video statement on the town’s Facebook page.  “My decision was based on wanting to spend more time with my two small children who are under the age of 10 and my family period.”

During her truncated leadership Tonga had begun aggressively positioning the town’s revitalization by securing over eight hundred thousand dollars in grants, which was the largest amount of grant support ever received in its history.  She worked to pass several key pieces of legislation to support economic growth and development in one of the few areas of the County that was that wasn’t benefitting from private sector investments. Turner was proposing plans to expand the town’s limits. Upper Marlboro boundaries are reportedly one mile across and a half-mile-wide with just 675 residents according to the 2008 Census. Her administration had begun implementing changes to improve the Town’s beautification efforts, and was reportedly moving to strengthen partnerships with County, State and Federal stakeholders.

It was reported that her house is now for sale.