Council reviews year, plans continued revitalization
Fiber optics, blight removal among Indian Head triumphs
As members of the In- dian Head town council gear up for the new year, they looked back at their first full year in office which included some pitfalls and a few accom- plishments.
The town has seen the demise of local retail and service businesses but, with the council’s new revitalization plan and ef- forts, the desired growth is slowly progressing.
In May 2015, Mayor Brandon Paulin was elect- ed mayor at the age of 19, making him the youngest mayor of any Maryland municipality. Ron Sitoula was elected as the first Nepali vice mayor to be elected in public position outside of Nepal, and a first non-native to be elect- ed to the council. Council- man Curtis L. Smith is the first African-American man to be elected in the history of the town.
Paulin said since the new council has taken office, it has seen new faces around town and has gotten people excited about being in Indian Head.
“It’s been a fun, informative year and I have learned more than I thought I would have,” Paulin said. “We became a sustainable community, we finished the Indian Head fiber optic cable initiative, and we tore down three buildings — blight removal. We’ve started to engage property owners like the Ely family. Although it is not as progressive as we would like for it to be, we started that dialogue that wasn’t there before. We’re giving people hope for Indian Head.”
“It has been a challeng- ing year but rewarding to impact people’s lives in a positive direction,” Smith said. “We promised innovation, we promised trying to gain efficiencies, and I think we real- ly worked to implement those things.”
Smith said in the last couple of years the town has had banks, car dealer- ships and grocery stores leave Indian Head. The council is pursuing bring- ing those amenities back and has developed a potential strategy to do so.
Sitoula said he realized that two years is a very short period of time to accomplish long-lasting change in the town. In the next two years, he said he hopes the council will knock out some more of the items listed on the town’s revitalization plan and focus on moving them along.
“The people wanted to see new changes and new initiatives,” Sitoula said. “What the people can’t see is the changes we have also made on the inside by making an effort to streamline processes. There are some laws we disagreed with and we took things like that away to save money for the town. We did a public presentation of the budget to explain the audit report and [Smith] has been bringing in dif- ferent entities from the county to do presenta- tions at town meetings.”
Paulin said Naval Support Facility Indian Head is rapidly expanding projects, the council has dig- itized the town’s records, the town is obtaining online bill-pay for its residents and now the town is utilizing social media. Paulin has also started a Mayor Youth Advisory Committee with local youth planning more activities geared toward youth and families in the town.
Paulin, Sitoula and Smith each bring something different to the table and the team is putting plans in motion to make Indian Head a local tourist attraction and walkable community. The council said with Paulin leading the town, no hope is lost.
“Paulin was born and raised here and he is truly invested in the town,” Sitoula said.
“Millennials give us the inspiration that all hope isn’t lost and to not be stifled in thinking that they can’t do things because of their age,” Curtis said.
Paulin said he has seen how the town has progressed from years ago to now.
“I remember how dev- astated people were when the grocery store left and when contractors pulled back into the base. It’s good to be apart of reversing the trend in Indian Head and making an impact,” Paulin said.
In the near future, the council hopes that there will be no vacant buildings — only prosperous businesses in town, beautiful tree scapes and no boarded up buildings. In addition to the town being focused on highlighting its assets — water, parks and history — Smith said he hopes the town council will help families become stronger.
“Although I am an advocate for business and entities coming into the town, we need to help our families afford these things, and qualify for the jobs that come into town, preparing people for college, exposing them to these resources, being good stewards with the town’s dollars, providing more home ownership, walkable community and events in the community,” Smith said.
The council said the town is a gem with people not yet recognizing its value. But when all is said and done they are doing the best they can for its citizens.
The Indian Head town council’s Mayor Brandon Paulin, Councilman Curtis L. Smith and Vice Mayor Ron Sitoula are ready to continue their efforts to revitalize Indian Head.