Written by: Stella S. Canino-Quiñones 🇵🇷
Headshot of Llatetra Brown Esters (Kristin Rutkowski.)
Llatetra Brown Esters spends most of her Tuesday nights sitting in the third chair of a semi-circular table with the American and Maryland flags behind her. For an hour or four, she and her fellow council members discuss legislation in College Park.
The city is complex and ever-changing, but Brown will sit in her chair on Tuesday. The rest of the week, she’s in her office at the University of Baltimore or her home working as the dean of students and associate vice president of student services.
She did not imagine being a higher education professional when she graduated from Adelphi University with a political science degree and a dream of being a lawyer, she said.
She left law school after realizing she hated it and started looking for a job. She came home after an interview for the job as a residence hall director at her alma mater; on her way home on the Long Island Railroad, she received the call and the job, said Brown.
“It was in that moment when I was back in higher ed and in that environment, I thought, well, maybe this is what I’m supposed to do,” said Brown.
Her time as a residence hall director taught her the importance of getting every side of the story, she said.
She now deals with student conduct issues at Ubalt. As a council member, it’s a mixture.
“Even before I met her, knowing that she lived north of (Maryland Route 193) made me excited because north of 193 is a smaller section of my district. It’s kind of easy for us to get forgotten,” said Constantia Rioux, a College Park resident.
Rioux recalled when she went to Brown about a downtown development that would take down a tree.
Brown said she understands her worries about deforestation in College Park due to development projects, she said.
Brown pointed out that the article she read wasn’t accurate. The city negotiated with the developer to keep the tree, she said.
“While she understands my frustration with a lot of the downsides of development, when appropriate, she’ll say, ‘No, look, this developer is doing this particular thing right,’” said Rioux.
Brown relocated to Maryland from New York to be closer to her then-fiance and worked at Johns Hopkins University as an admissions counselor and a coordinator of multicultural recruitment, she said.
Baltimore is not like walking around New York, she said. But she enjoyed driving around in her black Nissan Sentra, listening to Jay-Z and Erykah Badu on her way to work, she added.
A new opportunity emerged as a director of student programs and advocacy at the University of Maryland in the 90s.
Her time working at UMD overlapped with her move to College Park in Westchester Park, according to the College Park website and Brown.
One of her constituents said she sees Brown’s experience working at UMD as a positive in balancing the university and residential aspects.
“I didn’t know she worked at the university at first…She’s able to probably understand the university’s perspective and she’s also respectful of the residential aspect of College Park,” said Betty Colonomos, a College Park resident.
Brown’s motivation to change her job came from her desire to have various knowledge and experiences in different areas, she said.
“I always tell students, and people, in general, always look. You never know what’s out there. Always look to see what opportunities exist,” she said.
Brown left UMD for a high executive position at Howard Community College, she said. She moved to UBbalt in 2019 for a new growth opportunity after 13 years at HCC, she added.
She started to get more involved in her town at the time of her new position at UBbalt, she said. She worked as an election judge and in the advisory planning commission in College Park, she added.
The opportunity to become a council member came from former District 2 council member PJ Brennan, who asked for people to run for his position, she said.
“He asked me if I wanted to run, I thought, why in the world would I do that?” Brown said. But she decided to run for office motivated by the importance of civic engagement and representation as a woman of color, she added.
“All of us learn more about how everything works the longer we do it,” said District 2 councilmember Susan Whitney. “She always thinks through everything she says. When she speaks at a council meeting, she’s not just repeating what others say,” she added.
Brown said she hopes to continue to grow in her job at UBalt and learn how to serve the people of College Park through her work as a council member.
For now, she will remain sitting every Tuesday in the third seat at the city council meetings.