Life in mayor’s shoes

Brian Myers
senior features editor

Although no mayor has ever bought McDonald’s for the entire Clemson football team, this figure still fulfills an important leadership role. In the unique case of College Park’s mayor, Patrick Wojahn, he has to take both a city and the prestigious University of Maryland Campus into governmental consideration.

In the case of College Park’s mayor, his primary role is in presiding over the legislature while the city manager handles daily operations. “A lot of people don’t understand that it’s only a part-time job for me since I have another job working with Rails-to-Trails conservancy, and that’s just one misconception,” Wojahn said. “My nieces always tell me that I need a sash like the mayor of Whoville.”

Born and raised in northeastern Wisconsin, Wojahn discovered from a young age that he wanted to be involved with the principles of law. He completed undergraduate coursework at University of Wisconsin – Madison and moved to the DC area to attend law school at Georgetown University. “My dad was a CPA, and he told me that I would do well as a lawyer after noticing how good I was at arguing with him and my mom,” Wojahn said.

After one of the most competitive elections in the city’s history, Wojahn was declared mayor of College Park in 2015, notably becoming the first openly gay man to fill the position there. Four years later, he says he takes pride in the simple things, like fixing a pothole or getting a street paved as well as bigger picture components of the city, like its relationship with the university. “The relationship between the city and UMD is stronger than it’s ever been,” Wojahn said. “We currently have several shared initiatives with them, including one to build a new city hall and another to revitalize campus and residential life on the main street.”

Although it’s in the city’s name, being mayor of College Park is not always a walk in the park, and Wojahn has had to remain unswayed by intimidating voices of opposition who come against his desire to properly and inclusively represent everyone in the city. Whenever he finds himself dealing with difficulties like fear of failure, malicious online posts directed toward his personal life, or losing support over a belief, he takes solace in having his biggest support system for the past 18 years, Dave Kolesar. “My husband, Dave, is the one I vent to when I’m stressed about things,” Wojahn said. “He’s not the political type, and he keeps me grounded with a snarky sense of humor, which is refreshing.”

On a regular basis, Wojahn must employ his acumen related to law, business and social work in order to solve problems for his constituents and negotiate initiatives in city council. The occupation can be taxing with its long hours, including breakfast and dinner meetings, but he is ultimately happy and comfortable with his position as mayor of College Park. “Sometimes I feel like I need to clone myself because I’m all over the place,” Wojahn said, “but I’d rather be doing this than a 40-hour-a-week job.”

As a student during the 1990s, Wojahn was a teenager who was able to enjoy less pressing priorities like listening to Radiohead while building a well-rounded character by participating in a range of activities while maintaining good grades. To the high schoolers in his 2019 audience, Wojahn encourages them to focus more on how a career path reflects their passions and hobbies rather than the luxuries they can buy with the corresponding salary. “You can have the lowest-paying, hardest-working job, but still love going to work every day,” Wojahn said.

Primarily, Wojahn’s role is in presiding over the legislature while the city manager handles daily operations. “A lot of people don’t understand that it’s only a part-time job for me since I have another job with a nonprofit organization, and that’s just one misconception,” Wojahn said. “My nieces always tell me that I need a sash like the mayor of Whoville.”

Born and raised in northeastern Wisconsin, Wojahn discovered from a young age that he wanted to be involved with law practice, taking this determination to Georgetown University for law school. “My dad was a CPA, and he told me that I would do well as a lawyer after noticing how good I was at arguing with him and my mom,” Wojahn said.

After a severely competitive election, Wojahn was declared mayor of College Park in 2015, notably becoming the first openly gay man to fill the position there. Four years later, he says he takes pride in the simple things, like fixing a pothole as well as bigger picture components of the city, like its relationship with the university. “The relationship between the city and UMD is stronger than it’s ever been,” Wojahn said. “We currently have several shared initiatives with them, including one to build a new city hall and another to revitalize life on the main street.”

Although it’s in the city’s name, being mayor is not always a walk in the “Park”, and Wojahn has had to endure hardships in his desire to properly and inclusively represent everyone in the city. Whenever he finds himself dealing with difficulties like fear of failure, malicious online posts directed toward his personal life, or losing support over a belief, he takes solace in having his biggest support system for the past 18 years, Dave Kolesar. “My husband, Dave, is the one I vent to when I’m stressed about things,” Wojahn said. “He’s not the political type, and he keeps me grounded with a refreshingly snarky sense of humor.”

On a regular basis, Wojahn must employ his acumen related to social work in order to solve problems for his constituents and negotiate initiatives in city council. The occupation can entail long, taxing hours, but he is ultimately happy and comfortable with his position. “Sometimes I feel like I need to clone myself because I’m all over the place,” Wojahn said, “but I’d rather be doing this than a 40-hour-a-week job.”

As a student during the 1990s, Wojahn was a teenager who was able to enjoy less pressing priorities like listening to Radiohead while building a well-rounded character and maintaining good grades. To the high schoolers in his 2019 audience, Wojahn encourages them to focus more on how a career path reflects their passions and hobbies rather than the luxuries available with the corresponding salary. “You can have the lowest-paying, hardest-working job, but still love going to work every day,” Wojahn said.

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