July 8th, 2021
End of an Era: Fond Farewell to Reemberto Rodriguez, Silver Spring’s ‘Mayor’
Silver Spring Regional Director Reemberto Rodriguez — known popularly among locals as ‘mayor’ of Silver Spring, and universally referred to simply as ‘Reemberto’ — retired July 2. He held the Regional Director position since 2009.
Many Long Branch business owners expressed surprise at Reemberto’s departure, which felt like the sudden disappearance of a favorite landmark that they had just assumed would always be there.
Carlos Perozo, Business League president, praised Reemberto for his unwavering support for local businesses. “He is always looking for ways to get grants to the small business community,” Perozo told the Newsletter.
The Cuban-born Reemberto Rodriguez “never lost his identity as ‘one of us,'” Perozo noted, adding that he felt Reemberto was always able to understand the perspective of a community that he very much remained part of. What is more, Reemberto has, over the years, been “tireless in his efforts” to get out information about everything going on in Silver Spring and acted as “a force of nature” over the past year to get people vaccinated, Perozo said.
In recent months, it was in the first instance Reemberto who made possible the setting up of Long Branch’s highly successful new outdoor restaurant seating spaces. These so-called ‘Streeteries,’ identifiable by their distinctive orange chairs, umbrellas, flowers and greenery, have been set up next to El Gavilan, El Golfo, and Veronica’s restaurants at their locations along Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Rd.
Acting through the Silver Spring Regional Center, Reemberto secured funding for the streeteries which were then built out by MHP, which did the work of building them ‘at cost,’ i.e., with zero overhead. Similar ‘streeteries’ had been set up in other business districts, but their centralized form did not fit the realities of Long Branch, where the restaurants are far apart and appropriate locations are scarce. The Streeteries have importantly helped the participating Long Branch restaurants recover from sales lost during the pandemic.
Downtown and Nation-wide
In Silver Spring’s downtown district, Reemberto’s urban vision took on the larger scale appropriate to that big-city environment.
Richard Madaleno, chief administrative officer for Montgomery County, remarked on how Silver Spring’s Urban District and Arts and Entertainment District blossomed under Reemberto’s leadership. Madaleno noted that it was thanks to Reemberto’s efforts that the new Civic Building and Veterans Plaza are now fully activated. The downtown area has also seen a doubling of the number of apartments during Reemberto’s tenure.
Prior to acting as Regional Center director, Reemberto, a trained architect, worked for 20 years for the NeighborWorks America organization, the last five developing training programs for community organizers.
NeighborWorks national conferences and community leadership training programs have been attended by several officers of the Long Branch Business League (LBBL). Some of these trainings were led by Reemberto himself, who maintained close ties to the NeighborWorks organization even after taking his position with the Silver Spring Regional Center. NeighborWorks is a national, congressionally-funded non-profit that supports neighborhood-scale economic and social programs across the whole country.
Yvette Williams, a colleague of Reemberto’s while he was at NeighborWorks and currently a Leadership Program manager there, noted that her former colleague’s training classes — the ones he has offered in recent years, that is — were offered as a volunteer. “He was all about service; he volunteered his time.”
Williams was effusive about Reemberto’s tenure while he was at NeighborWorks. He was instrumental, she said, in making the community leadership training programs they offered national in scale, and greatly expanded and improved their curriculum. The ‘key words’ she associated with Reemberto include, she said: “forward thinking; a bridge builder; full of integrity; the type of colleague who would mentor you even if you didn’t know that you were being mentored.”
John Angel (of La Casita pupusery and Blue Beetle Bar), praised Reemberto for his commitment to the community — a commitment demonstrated, Angel noted, by his always being there for each and every event happening in downtown Silver Spring or in Long Branch. “With all his experience, Reemberto really has very good insight on planning events,” Angel added.
Carlos Perozo picked up on that same theme, expressing to the Newsletter his hopes that a man with such extensive experience in urban issues as Reemberto will continue to stay active in the Long Branch community and Silver Spring.