Chatham graduate student wins council seat


November 5 may have been another ordinary day in the lives of many United States residents; however it was not so for Marita Garrett, a Chatham graduate student. On November 5, election day, She won a councilwoman seat and became candidate-elect for the Council of Wilkinsburg.
Before running for office, Garrett served her community as a volunteer at the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) for the last year and a half. “I wanted to start learning more about my community and what goes on in it, and being part of WCDC was one step by,” she said. She attended meetings, was on one of their committees and even helped in putting together the WCDC’s first house and garden tour in September. Garrett also took part in helping out in different campaigns held by Neighbors Unite Wilkinsburg.
The borough is split up in three different wards, and Garrett resides in ward one. “In my particular ward, there was no one stepping up to the plate to run against the incumbent, and the incumbent had been in there for two terms and has really done nothing. So I meditated on it, and I thought it was time for me to step up even further and run for office.”
The official term starts January 2014 and lasts until January 2018. The council manages all entities of the borough staff. They also meet three times a month to vote on different rules and regulations that affect the borough such as parking, zoning and residential permits.
Garrett’s initial and immediate plan is accountability. Holding public elected officials accountable is very important, Garrett said. “People are getting paid to do a job, so they need to do their job well or else they shouldn’t be there.” Increasing civic engagement and attending council meetings are more goals Garrett strives to work toward. “Council meetings are where you can actually know what’s going around in the community, because that’s where we discuss the rules and regulations which actually affect our day-to-day lives,” she said.
The residents also have the opportunity for public comment, so if they have an issue, they can bring it up in the council meetings and discuss it with everyone. It is a platform for people to speak and also listen. Revitalization is also on Garrett’s list of goals. According to Garrett, Wilkinsburg has a lot of blight in it, and a lot of the houses are dilapidated. The business district also needs a boost.
Garrett said that back in the forties and fifties, Wilkinsburg was actually a booming borough which had its own businesses and lively shopping district. “We’re a prime area and I believe that investing in our community would build us back up to where we used to be. Once we invest back in our community, there will be this community pride and people will want to get more involved.”
The swearing in will occur on the first Monday of January, and the 4 year official term will commence. Garrett expressed optimism towards the coming term. “There is a new wave of leadership coming along Wilkinsburg Borough Council, and that’s what makes me feel positive about our future—and that we can attain some of the aforementioned points,” she said
Garrett encourages anyone who has passion and outreach towards their communities to get involved and start serving them, but most importantly to show up and be ready to take on the job. Garrett also encourages future participation in local elections: “You have a voice, use it. Every vote counts in every election, but in local elections, one vote even counts more.”