By Jennie L. Ilustre
Lily Qi is running for an open seat in Maryland’s 15th district. It’s about time, too. She has a sterling track record of public servicein appointive positions in community building and economic development. In 2016, she made history as the first Asian American appointed Assistant Chief Administrative Officer on economic and workforce matters in Montgomery County. Recently, The Daily Record named her among Maryland’s Top 100 Women for 2018.
“I’m running to make Montgomery County more competitive, to bring fresh ideas and a global perspective to the General Assembly to speak for our changing community and changing economy, and to bring out new voices from our communities that have never participated in the political process before,” she said in an email interview.
Lily Qi (pronounced “chi”) is part of the nation’s current phenomenon of first-time women candidates – several of whom are mothers like her, and some of them winning historic elections against entrenched incumbents. She is determined to win in the Maryland Democratic primary on June 26, and to go all the way to victory in the November 6 general elections.
“The Democratic winners in the county-level races are virtually certain to prevail in their overwhelmingly Democratic counties in November, which makes the primary essential,” according to Greater Greater Washington, a nonprofit organization which advocates for an inclusive, diverse, growing national capital region.
Sounding optimistic and confident, Lily commented on her strong momentum from the start, and humbly expressed gratitude to her supporters in enabling her to out-raise “all of my competitors combined.” She’s also the only one who has received two major endorsements: from County Executive Ike Leggett and the Sierra Club, a highly coveted endorsement.
In his endorsement, Leggett, who appointed Lily in 2016 as the first Asian American Assistant Chief Administrative Officer in Montgomery County, said she is the most experienced and qualified candidate in Maryland,
“I enthusiastically, without reservation, endorse Lily Qi,” County Executive Leggett announced during a public event. “I say this because she’s the right person for the job. I say this because she comes with the right skills. I say this because she has the leadership. She understands what’s right for our county, and what’s right for our people. Simply look and compare her accomplishments…You would not find a strong candidate that would represent all, and I underline all.”
The Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, included Lily among its endorsements of 40 officials and candidates last February 5. The Maryland Sierra Club has a rigorous process for endorsement, as stated in its website. The Maryland Sierra Club’s Political Committee “conducts thorough reviews of all candidates based on their environmental records and policy positions.”
Lily has pledged that as a Delegate, “I will advocate for measures to accelerate Maryland’s investments in clean and renewable energy and in workforce development that helps grow the ‘green’ industries of the future.”
Record of Service
Lily has a track record of building public and private partnerships, as well as between local and international communities. For instance, she co-founded BioHealth Innovation, Inc. on behalf of Montgomery County, a public-private partnership to advance early-stage biomedical translational research and commercialization to grow innovation economy.
She led the transition of the former Department of Economic Development and the Montgomery Business Development Corporation into a new public-private partnership, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. On a larger stage, she promoted the county’s economic opportunities to global partners, and helped facilitate its partnerships with strategic emerging markets in China, India and Korea.
The knack of forging partnerships is an asset that will serve her well in further moving Montgomery and Maryland forward. She said, “Serving as an elected official would allow me to more directly affect changes to advance economic competitiveness and inclusive democracy.”
Below are excerpts from her stand on other major issues. For the full text, visit www.lilyqi.com
Education: “As a proud parent of a graduate from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), I know quality education is still the key to success for most Americans, the bedrock of our community’s quality of life and the best incentive to attract workforce and employers…As your representative in Annapolis, I will demand greater accountability to improve our school systems’ overall standing and competitiveness. This includes advocating for expanding magnet programs in Upcounty areas that are seeing explosive growth, making universal pre-K a statewide priority and supporting our excellent public institutions like Montgomery County College and the Universities at Shady Grove to meet our growing industries’ workforce needs.
Transportation: “Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy and community vitality. We need a greater sense of urgency to relieve Upcounty traffic which requires 21st century infrastructure that serves today’s Montgomery County and our multigenerational lifestyles…We require the State’s support for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Maryland 355 between Bethesda and Clarksburg and the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) that will serve our biotech corridor, continue to improve I-270 and expand MD 355 in the rapidly-growing District 15.
Economy: “We need good jobs near home that match our residents’ diverse educational backgrounds, career aspirations, and a strong tax base to pay for the schools, parks, and roads. With unrivaled human capital and R & D (Research and Development) assets, Montgomery County should be a global leader in innovation, entrepreneurship and business vitality.”
Gun Control and Students’ Safety (from a recent statement): “I was inspired by the students organizing the recent March for Our Lives, and I am proud to join them in D.C. to stand up against the NRA and protect students’ safety.”
Inclusiveness: “As an immigrant, I know why America should remain the land of opportunities and a beacon for what is good and just.”
Ballotpedia listed the candidates in the Democratic primary for District 15 as follows: Anis Ahmed, Kathleen Dumais (Incumbent), Davia Fraser-Hidalgo (I), Amy Frieder, Hamza Khan, Kevin Mack, Tony Puca, Lily Qi, and Andy Van Wye. The winner will face the victor in the Republican primary: Harvey Jacobs, Marc King, or Incumbent Laurie Halverson.
Born and raised in Shanghai, China during the great unrest, Lily’s family taught her to value education, responsibility, and the worth of each individual regardless of their circumstances. Determined to improve her lot, she came to the U.S. alone with little else but a sense that here, dreams do come true. She landed in N. Manchester, Indiana.
Demonstrating pluck and ingenuity as a student, she recorded lectures on a Walkman – remember them? – and worked several jobs between classes. She prevailed over the challenges of studying while raising a family, earning two master’s degrees and building a career as a higher education administrator. The family moved from Indiana to Ohio to West Virginia, before finally settling in the Washington region.
While working in American University, Lily got to interact with students from every social, ethnic, and faith group. Recognizing the financial and social struggles of some students, she joined civil rights organizations and local community affairs, while earning her MBA. She went on to become Vice President of Business Development for the Washington, DC Economic Partnership.
She later served as spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking. She developed an award-winning consumer education and financial literacy campaign, before being tapped as a community liaison in the new Leggett administration to engage and empower communities.
She revamped Montgomery County’s policies and practices in language access for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). Under her leadership, the county became a national best-practice model recognized by the National Association of Counties (NACO) and the Migration Policy Institute, a national think tank.
The multilingual push by Lily and her colleagues in Census 2010 among the immigrant populations resulted in Montgomery County recording the highest percentage of participation rate among the capital region jurisdictions. This was critical for securing federal funding to local communities.
Lily started Montgomery County’s official annual celebrations of Ramadan Iftar and Diwali to better engage communities and bring diverse religious and cultural perspectives to county government. She organized the county’s first Asian American Resource Fair.
Lily’s dedication to Montgomery County is also reflected in her civic involvement. She writes and speaks on community integration. She used to write about culture in Asian Fortune. She was featured in the Washington Business Journal, Bethesda Magazine, China Daily and Voice of America for her career as well as her volunteer work. Lily is on the boards of Leadership Montgomery, Commission for Women, VisArts, the Committee for Montgomery, and the Suburban Hospital of Johns Hopkins Medicine. During the O’Malley administration, she served as chair of the Governor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs.