Patrick Wojahn has represented College Park’s District 1 for the past four years. Prior to becoming the District 1 councilman, Wojahn worked as an organizer with the Wisconsin Student Public Interest Group where he advocated for cleaner air and the preservation of natural resources. He has also worked for the Whitman-Walker Clinic on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS.
With the Nov. 3 municipal elections quickly approaching, Patch talked with the Councilman Wojahn to reflect on his previous terms his perspective on some of the major issues facing College Park today.
He is one of three candidates running for a District 1 seat this year.
College Park Patch: As you look back over the past four years, which of your contributions makes you most proud?
Patrick Wojahn: One thing I am very proud of is starting up College Park Day. College Park Day is a new event that we started last year. Last year it was all volunteer. We had some assistance from city staff, but city residents and students did most of the work. We had Latino, Hispanic residents, Muslim residents, and people from all different backgrounds come together to celebrate the diversity of our city. We had over 60 different community organizations participate. It was a real success so we decided to do it again this year.
Patch: Do you have any regrets over the past four years as councilman?
Wojahn: If there is one problem that continues to dog me it is fixing up the Hollywood commercial district. It is the commercial center of our neighborhood and of our community and I regret we haven’t been able to do more to fix it up. We have some opportunities on the horizon because the county has installed a new traffic signal there and the city has put some money aside to fix up the sidewalks and the streets a little bit. But so far I regret that we haven’t made much progress on that.
Patch: Hypothetically speaking, if you are not re-elected, what advice would you give your successor?
Wojahn: Be patient and listen. Listen to residents and hear what they have to say. Even if you disagree with someone, everybody has a lot of things and different viewpoints they can offer and it is important that we work together to make our community a better place to live.
Patch: What is the cultural make up of College Park’s District 1?
Wojahn: It is a unique area in part because it is [more] disconnected from the university. There is a real community feeling here and a number of residents have lived here for decades. It is a very diverse community as well. The changing nature of the community has posed some challenges but has also given us a lot of opportunities.
Patch: What are those challenges?
Wojahn: We have had a lot of new communities moving into the neighborhood. While we have had some folks that have lived here for decades, the addition of the metro and the comparatively low cost of housing have made College Park an attractive place for young couples. We have also had a large Muslim community move to the neighborhood, so there are some challenges with everyone learning to get along with different lifestyles and different customs and traditions. I think this also poses some new opportunities because with the diversity comes richness. The opportunity to experience different cultures and to learn from people of a different heritage is very valuable.
Patch: Assuming you are re-elected, how long do you see yourself serving as a councilman?
Wojahn: I’m taking it two years at a time I guess. Right now I envision myself being in it for another two years and we will take it from there. At some point I am going to want to move on but I guess I am just taking it one year at a time.
Patch: What are your motivations for running for re-election?
Wojahn: I feel that, although I've accomplished a lot in the past four years, there are still many more things that I can do. College Park faces a lot of challenges — with increasing density, increasing traffic, and ongoing problems with crime. We also have a lot of opportunities, with a new traffic signal coming into the Hollywood Commercial District, the possibility to fund a new community center in North College Park, funds from speed cameras to help us address public safety issues in our community, and a new Neighborhood Watch steering committee to help us expand the program around the city. I'm excited to keep working on the problems we face and take advantage of the opportunities we have to make North College Park a better place to live.
Note: Wojahn contacted Patch after the article ran to let us know what he meant to say in one of his responses. ("It is a unique area in part because it is [more] disconnected from the university.")