Blog Post By: Daniela Luseko
From Brooklyn, New York, to Takoma Park Maryland, Kate Stewart is an explorer who has seen many things, moved to many places, and her heart still remains the same: just, beautiful, and brave. She was looking for trails that could lead her to her best expedition yet. She came across two passages after attending Haverford College: one that could take her to the beautiful city of Washington, D.C., full of opportunities in politics; the alternative one was foggy and unknown.
She thought to herself, ‘I want to make a real difference in people’s lives.’ So she did. She became the definition of support.
We all have a place in the world that makes us feel loved, safe, and comfortable. I am a young woman who wasn’t fully herself until she opened her mind to volunteering in her community, the same community where I had already found so much comfort, love, and happiness. Doing so gave me an understanding of what it means to truly support someone I believed in. To truly be in the company of a superhero. That’s what it’s like to work with Kate Stewart.
Google’s definition of support is: bear all or part of the weight of. Also, to hold something up. I don’t like limiting myself when it comes to learning. The more I was able to apply the things I learned in school and the real world, the more I grew as an individual. Hours every day in history class turned to hours outside of class, and I found myself connecting the pieces between culture, religion, and social institutions and how they affect government.
As this passion formed, I knew it was time to step out of my comfort zone and start doing some kind of good in my community. I slowly started by volunteering for the former Mayor of Takoma Park, Kate Stewart, as she ran for County Council. And this wasn’t the first time young people had been working on her campaign. Her first Mayor’s election was run by a young woman who was 17 years old. Kate has always made it a priority to make sure that the team she put together consists of young people. Kate has always done advertisements in Silver Chips to target a young and engaged crowd. That’s how I got to know about her. My AP Lang teacher in high school, Mr. Horne, handed me a Silver Chips newspaper. Shortly after, I found myself doing things I never wanted to stop: door-knocking and making phone calls to voters. This was a new experience, always fun and fruitful.
The second I started volunteering for Kate Stewart, I saw the importance of supporting someone I believed in and the significance of her work. Kate Stewart was more than just a politician running for county council in District 4. In my opinion, she is the Wonder Woman that District 4 needs. Kate simply does not rest until the job is done. Her kindness, drive, and strength make her the most formidable council member of the Montgomery County Council.
From parades to local events and peaceful protests, Kate shows up for her community, listens to her community, and builds long-lasting relationships. There was never a time when I was out with Kate and didn’t see someone walk up to her, to simply greet her or engage with her about community or policy changes. People seem universally comfortable around her and ready to lend a hand. That’s the community she pushed for and the one that embraced her in return.
Many of my friends would ask, “What does Kate Stewart even do?” after I bragged about how fun it was to be a part of her campaign team.
I paused as I remembered everything I had encountered in the summer of 2022. The answer is multi-faceted: Kate does everything she can to promote a sustainable community. She has overcome the challenges that Covid-19 put us all through and supported local businesses. Kate has consistently promoted public health and safety, and she is working to address housing affordability in Montgomery County in an effort to help both renters and first time home buyers.
When she was the Mayor of Takoma Park, one of the first things she did was hold a community conversation on housing affordability and brought people together. The conversation involved not just residents of Takoma Park, but experts in the field to delve into policies and programs that would expand housing affordability in Takoma Park. The first budget she put forward as Mayor featured a housing reserve fund. That was a pot of money earmarked for housing affordability. She also created a program called The Home Stretch to provide down payment assistance of up to ten thousand dollars to first-time home buyers in Takoma Park. These are the types of next-generation initiatives that create a forward-thinking community, one so many young people want. So when I buy my own house in Takoma Park someday, I’m thanking Kate!
In short: Kate’s work is changing lives. Her intelligence and big heart, her networking, and her willingness to lift up her community are the definitions of support. This is the thread that has been woven throughout her career, in her service on the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and as the Executive Vice President of Advocates for Youth, and as Mayor of Takoma Park.
You, too, can be an explorer, follow your stars and make a difference in people’s lives, the way Kate has made a difference in mine.
Bio: Daniela Luseko is a senior at Montgomery Blair High School, she recently earned a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin Madison where she will be majoring in Political Science. Her future goal is to work for an international peacekeeping organization. Currently, she is staying active and getting involved in local politics. In her free time, you will catch her posting content on YouTube or at Starbucks, waiting in line for a nice buttered croissant.