There is no shortage of whip-smart, dedicated, and hard-working public servants in Montgomery County, but in my opinion, Marilyn Balcombe surpasses them all. I can hear many voters say, “Marilyn Who?” Hers is a name you likely do not know unless you live in Upper Montgomery County, own a business, or are involved in local politics.
What everyone needs to know is that there isn’t a candidate running for the council who has given more to her community than Marilyn. Her resume could be a civics lesson on how to make a real difference where you live.
This is a woman who stands out for many reasons, large and small: to meet her is to know and remember her. She is that genuine. She is that impressive. Few people who focus their professional lives helping their communities also possess a degree in accounting and a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology. Fewer still are President and CEO of their local chamber of commerce for more than a decade, promoting small businesses and taking steps to grow the local economy, Marilyn’s acumen has been an especially invaluable resource to the business community during Covid, and she does what she does expertly and efficiently without fanfare or ego. Supreme Court Judge Sonya Sotomayor famously observed during her confirmation process that our early lives, our family stories necessarily shape our adult values and beliefs. Hence an important starting place for understanding Marilyn and why MoCo voters should choose her in the next Council election is her formative, family years.
Marilyn shares her personal story freely and often at meet and greet events. She grew up in Florida, the third of six children, and is part of an extended family that had never sent a single person to college. She worked for a time as a bookkeeper for a CPA who would constantly check her work for accuracy. He never found a flaw. Marilyn, however, became dismayed at having to cut him checks for one day’s worth of work that paid him more than she made in an entire week.
This realization propelled her to visit the University of Florida to figure out how to better her professional prospects. Her drive, confidence, and unwillingness to accept less for herself became the forces that led to her advanced degrees and professional successes.
As her career gained momentum, and she drew high praise for her work at the U.S. Department of Energy, Marilyn’s attention turned to what she could do to improve her community. In 2002, she became the Executive Director of the BlackRock Center for the Arts, a cultural and performing arts center in Germantown, MD. Marilyn guided the center through its construction and grand opening, making it a centerpiece of community life. She views her time at BlackRock as one of the highlights of her career.
She could have turned inward at that point, back to building her career, which was already on an upward trajectory. But she continued to invest surplus energy in local councils and boards, including the Germantown Alliance and Leadership Montgomery. She raised her voice to advocate for other cultural and transit projects she felt passionate about, including the construction of the Germantown and Gaithersburg libraries and (bus service? the Purple Line? what?), allowing residents to travel safely and efficiently around the county.
Marilyn’s story demonstrates that dreams – however ambitious, however audacious – are never truly out of reach. Her willingness to share her humble beginnings gives people pause. I know because I have heard her story many, many times. It never gets old. I have watched audiences really pay attention (they actually pocket their cell phones!) and really absorb her inspiring tale. I imagine like me that they can appreciate how refreshing it would be to have a Montgomery County Councilmember who is a CPA review the budget; who is invested in the success of the school system because she’s a parent; and who will fight every day for the communities she represents.
The people of Montgomery County have a golden opportunity to elect a council member with well-rounded skills and expertise – tools to address fiduciary and community needs from within the government itself. To learn more about Marilyn Balcombe and her vision for Montgomery County, I encourage you to visit her website http://www.marilynbalcombe.com. If you like what you see – and I’m betting you will – please figure out how you can support her campaign: make a contribution, volunteer, and by all means vote for her in the primary on June 28, 2022. That’s just a little over a year away. There’s no time like the present to hop on board!