On Nov. 7, Councilmember Monique Ashton handily won the Rockville, Maryland mayoral race, garnering almost 59 percent of the popular vote and beating her opponent, Mark Pierzchala, by over 2,100 votes in a race that saw more than 12,000 people hit the polls.
Ashton had the support of popular out-going mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, who won her last mayoral race with a commanding 63.7 percent of the vote.
First elected to Rockville’s council in 2019, Ashton is a 19-year resident of Rockville and a mother of two.
As a council member, Ashton commanded extensive reach within the community due to her role as a liaison to both the Environment Commission and Rockville Housing Enterprises, in addition to her work on the Council of Governments Climate Emergency & Environment Policy Committee.
According to the City of Rockville website, “Monique has expanded access to affordable and attainable housing, accelerated Rockville Environment and Climate Action initiatives, supported greater Vision Zero public safety, greater small business outreach and economic development, and advanced equity and inclusion efforts within the City of Rockville.”
Diversity and inclusion
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On the day of the election and in conversation with Vision Times, Ashton highlighted her efforts to include, and engage with, the region’s Asian population.
“When I was running in 2019 I noticed that there were no election materials in Chinese or in other Asian languages. So I worked with my staff to push and make sure that we now have voting education materials in [other languages],” Ashton said, adding that, “If people cannot read and understand, they cannot be fully informed to make educated voter decisions. I thought it was so important to [rectify this] and now we have voting materials in Asian languages.”
Ashton explained that the entire community budget was only in English in the past and that she and her team pushed to have that changed.
“That allows people to talk about what they want to support, what they think the city should fund, what programs they use and want more of,” she said, adding that, “This is to make sure that we are not just diverse but are inclusive.”
Ashton’s win makes her the first woman of color to be elected to the role.
She ran on a platform that prioritized “smart growth,” revitalizing the Town Center, improving services and safety, building strong schools and inclusive community engagement.
“I am a very strong supporter of education and our schools as well. I will stand up for our children all day everyday so that they can get quality education and are not going to schools that are overcrowded,” Ashton said, adding that, “Our education is the backbone of a strong community.”
History of supporting the Asian community
“Both of my children speak Mandarin Chinese and they’ve been studying it since kindergarten and first grade,” Ashton said, adding that, “That’s something else I did — I used to represent seven schools in Rockville and with the Chinese immersion program, it used to just be for the kids in that program, but I pushed for Asian language programs to be available to all students.”
She explained that she has been engaged with the Asian population “for years” due to her and her children’s interest and “because it’s such a large part of Rockville.”
“I would love to learn Chinese as well and I want to listen and engage with communities to learn what we can do better and understand what can be done to improve the city’s services,” she said.
Going forward, Ashton wants to find more ways to engage with the community and plans to hold roundtable discussions to identify community needs and to open a channel of communication with Rockville residents.