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Nation mourns out mayor after he dies by suicide

Hyattsville mayor Kevin Ward in July 2021
Hyattsville mayor Kevin Ward in July 2021Photo: Screenshot/NBC Washington

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Kevin Ward, the mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, was found shot and pronounced dead on January 25, the city he shepherded announced this week. Ward, 44, leaves behind a husband, two teenage sons, and more than 20,000 mourning residents in his town.

According to the city, Ward’s death is believed to be the result of suicide.

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“It is with great sadness that we report that our beloved Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, January 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the city said in a statement on January 26. “Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville. We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to his family.”

Ward’s body was found in a park in McLean, Virginia. There is not yet a confirmed cause of death from law enforcement or a coroner, and Ward was found in a park that former White House deputy counsel Vince Foster was also found dead, leading to tabloid speculation about Ward’s death.

Suicide among LGBTQ youth remains far too common, but people are learning that concerns about mental health extend  well into adulthood for LGBTQ people. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in November 2021 found that queer men ages 35 to 64 were at a much higher risk of attempting suicide compared to younger queer men.

The city said details regarding a funeral or memorial services are going to be shared, but at the time they ask people to respect the Ward family’s privacy.

Noting that “The City knows that Mayor Ward was a well-connected member of our tight-knit community and that this is difficult news,” they said “Community members in need of grief counseling or mental health support are encouraged to contact Community Crisis Services, Inc.: dial 211 and press 1 or call 800-273-TALK; or the Affiliated Sante Group crisis support line: 301-429-2185.” They also included the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, in their statement.

Ward was elected mayor in 2021, after serving as interim mayor from 2019 to 2021 following the resignation of his predecessor Candace Hollingsworth.

“I’m Kevin,” Ward’s campaign website reads. “I am a husband, father, grandfather, and proud resident of Hyattsville.”

On his website, Ward stated, “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life. This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and human services, to help as many as I can.”

He shared a lot about his personality on the website, and noted he and his family moved to the town in 2014. “I like the roar of a V8 as much as I like the whir of an electronic car. And I like a sneaker more than I like a dress shoe. I am equally apt to listen to Stevie Nicks as [Megan] Thee Stallion. And I believe laughter is the best medicine,” his biography read.

“One of my favorite things to do in Hyattsville is to explore the city, especially its parks,” he added.

Prior to being mayor, Ward was twice elected as a Hyattsville Ward One councilmember, and he proudly touted legislation that made Hyattsville a sanctuary city and “unprecedented economic development across the city” as some of his accomplishments.

His priorities as mayor included combatting COVID-19, making affordable housing widely available to the city’s population, and bringing awareness to environmental issues.

Outside of politics, Ward worked primarily as a technology consultant for education and family services, preceding by “private sector” work.

In a March 2021 interview, when asked what unique skill he may bring as a mayor, Ward told Route 1 Reporter, “I don’t know that there’s anything unique… because I’m just as human as everybody else in the city.”

Hyattsville is a largely Black city right outside of Washington, D.C., that was home to 21,187 people as of the 2020 Census. Hyattsville City Council Vice President Robert Croslin has become the Interim Mayor of Hyattsville following Ward’s death.

Condolences and tributes were made to Ward and his family from all over the country throughout the week, including officials such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and White House Senior Adviser on LGBTQ+ Engagement Reggie Greer.

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