Laurie-Anne Sayles has been breaking down barriers and defying the odds for years. An at-large candidate for Montgomery County Council, Laurie-Anne’s trademark is her persistence. She also is probably one of the nicest people in local politics, and because of that, she is often under-estimated. But the current Gaithersburg City Councilwoman is worth getting to know and is a candidate who has earned serious consideration for Montgomery County Council.
While Laurie-Anne isn’t an in-your-face politician, and she’s humble and easy to talk to, it does not mean she isn’t strong. She first learned patience and determination as to the youngest in a family of six children; those virtues were tested when she became a single mother at age 19. Her endurance gave her an extra dose of determination, which helped the teenage mom and daughter of immigrants develop the grace, poise, dignity, and strength of a woman who has become the epitome of a Steel Magnolia. Laurie-Anne said having a child became her greatest joy and motivated her to be an amazing role model for her daughter and have a voice in her education and public life to grow up to do great things.
Because of her easy-going, quiet demeanor, ready smile, and lack of cynicism (people who know her say she never complains), Laurie-Anne is not viewed as a scrapper like some of the male candidates for council. However, it’s a mistake for anyone to underestimate her political acumen. She is strong in a quiet way – she reminded me of the adage that still waters run deep – and the more you get to know her, you realize through her personal triumphs and her vision for a better Montgomery County, she has much to offer residents.
Laurie-Anne is a child of Jamaican immigrants. Her parents came to the United States in the 1970s; her dad joined the Army, and her mother became a social worker. As Laurie-Anne tells it, her parents sacrificed a lot so their children could grow up as U.S. citizens and live a life of prosperity. Laurie-Anne was born at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and her dad was deployed a lot when she was growing up. That meant her mom shouldered most of the parenting responsibilities, often taking the kids to her workplace while their father was away. Her career included positions at the Montgomery County Crisis Center and the Department of Health and Human Services Outpatient Addiction Services in Montgomery County. In addition to bringing her children to work with her, Laurie-Anne’s mom involved them in community events because she believed giving back was the best way to show them how to become good citizens. Her mother volunteered in the community in several capacities. She was known for the determination she would pass along to Laurie-Anne and compassion that took the form of service to others.
Hearing Laurie-Anne’s description of her parents, it is obvious she is a wonderful combination of both. She credits her dad for his discipline, caring for others, and love of family, and her mother, who has always been a hard worker, for being her first role model, teaching Laurie-Anne and her siblings the value of work and of putting service above self.
Laurie-Anne took her parents’ advice and the behavior they modeled seriously, and it was evident when she graduated from Laurel High School with excellent grades. These lessons would prove even more indispensable when she had her own daughter at 19, and many people counted her out, as they often do with teenage moms. Having a child did not deter her from earning an undergraduate degree, which often meant taking two or three buses to get to campus. This experience made her acutely aware of how vital reliable public transportation is for young women who need a safe way to get to school and work. She earned a master’s degree in public administration, began a career in public service, and went on to secure a job with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and she keeps accomplishing more and more.
She was inspired to get involved in politics by joining the SGA at the University of Maryland and campaigning for Steve Glickman, a UMD alumnus who ran for New York State Senate. After college, she joined the Montgomery County Young Democrats, loved the organization’s energy, and was asked to run for vice president. She said seeing Barack Obama become the first African American president in 2008 helped her visualize and see a path for herself in public office. She didn’t see enough Black people, particularly Black women, in political office until that time. As she puts it, she was “bit by the bug” and has not looked back.
With her election, Laurie-Anne became the first African American and the first black woman elected to the Gaithersburg City Council. She is a member of the National League of Cities Board of Directors, the Transportation and Infrastructure Service Committee, and the Women in Municipal Government vice-chair. A member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, she chairs the Chesapeake Bay and Water Policy Advocacy Committee. Laurie-Anne said these organizations lead on important issues to her and the future of our county: affordable housing, climate change/justice, economic development, education, transportation, and improved infrastructure.
On the campaign trail, she talks about her S.M.A.R.T. policy agenda; the acronym describes an agenda she said will:
- Strengthen our commitment to 21st century learning from cradle to career and beyond;
- Make living in our county more affordable;
- Advance local food production in the Ag reserve;
- Recover from the pandemic while revitalizing our economy; and
- Tackle climate change with multi-modal transportation infrastructure.
Her work has not gone unnoticed. She was named a Top 100 Women in Maryland by the Daily Record and a 2020 Woman Municipal Leader of the Year by the National League of Cities. Of her many accomplishments, Laurie-Anne is especially proud she spearheaded the passage of the Racial Equity Resolution for the City of Gaithersburg. It created a position in the budget for an equity officer to ensure fair and equitable hiring practices for employees and procurement rules for vendors and contractors.
Laurie-Anne views herself as a consensus builder, someone who works well with other legislators. She also believes her unique experience will benefit the council and citizens across Montgomery County. Laurie-Anne is a left-leaning centrist and one of the viable candidates from Upcounty whose perspective will help change the narrative on many policy issues. She has friends in all camps of Montgomery County politics. If her personal accomplishments are an indicator of how she will lead, we can rest assured she will look for ways to work with colleagues to ensure Montgomery County grows and prospers.