by BREANA BACON
The city of College Park made history last week, electing its first ever openly-gay mayor after he’d served several years on the city council.
Patrick Wojahn won 1,267 of the 2,222 votes cast, beating fellow councilmember and mayor pro tem Denise Mitchell.
Wojahn’s election to the mayoral office came after years of being invested in a career in politics.
Born in Milwaukee and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, Wojahn lived with his older sister Laura and his two parents. He said he remembers cross-country skiing and visiting his family’s vacation home in Door County as his fondest memories of home.
Although he had a bright upbringing, Wojahn cites his hardest moment as revealing his sexuality to his particularly religious and conservative parents before college.
“I didn’t know what would happen, I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be but I had to just do it and be true to myself,” Wojahn said. “My parents were wonderful and always have been, so I’m very lucky in that sense.”
He decided to stay close to home when choosing a college and attend the University of Wisconsin. At UW, he became involved in politics, serving as vice chair of the Associated Students of Madison, UW’s equivalent of a student government association. He was also involved with LGBTQA equality organizations such as the Ten Percent Society, which aimed to provide a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies.
After graduating from UW in 1998, Wojahn moved to the D.C. area after enrolling in Georgetown University School of Law, where he met his now-husband Dave Kolesar. While at Georgetown, Wojahn further prepared himself for his future in politics by advocating for the school with the National Lawyers Guild and Ozone Action to divest Georgetown’s holdings in companies who opposed action on climate change.
After graduating from Georgetown, Wojahn and Kolesar decided to move to Maryland. Kolesar, who is from Cheverly, Maryland, suggested College Park, as the city was diverse and close to public transportation.
Shortly after moving to the city, Wojahn got involved in making a difference in the city, running for city council in 2007 and becoming a councilman for District 1. Since being elected, Wojahn has started initiatives such as College Park Day and co-founded the College Park Community Foundation. Wojahn’s work in the community earned the respect of his fellow councilmembers, including District 2 councilman, P.J. Brennan.
“As a councilman, Patrick has been very resource, thoughtful and just a strong advocate for his community,” Brennan said.
“He’s already been a great mentor to me already and he’s helped me get oriented to council and I think he’ll continue to share his resources with me and the other councilmembers to help us become productive members,” Brennan added.
Wojahn also earned the support of former mayor Andrew Fellows, who endorsed Wojahn’s run for mayor after deciding not to run for re-election.
Wojahn credits his political success to the inspiration he gets from wanting to make College Park a more livable community for all of its residents and a more environmentally sustainable city. He also is appreciative of the support of his husband throughout his career.
“Dave has helped me keep things in perspective by looking at things with a good sense of humor,” Wojahn said. “Although he’s not very outgoing, he provides a lot of support for me and he allows me to vent when it’s necessary and celebrates me when it’s necessary.”
Wojahn will take office on Dec. 7. He looks forward to uniting the city council and bettering the city of College Park. Even though he has a lot ahead of him in the near future, Wojahn is taking life and his career day-by-day.
“I could possibly see myself running a non-profit advocacy organization if one day I’m no longer interested in politics, but I look forward to seeing what opportunities present themselves,” Wojahn said.