Photo of the candidate courtesy Chris Wilhelm.

Why are you running for County Council?

I am running for office because I hope to address some of the misconceptions about Montgomery County. We’re often depicted as a model county, where the streets are paved with gold and our elected officials are always leading the way with progressive policies.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. We have 55,000 students on free and reduced lunch in Montgomery County Public Schools. We recently discovered lead in the drinking water of a Gaithersburg elementary school. Many of our residents are working two jobs and can still barely afford to pay their rent.

I am running for an at-large seat on the County Council because I think we need to think carefully about how our policies affect working families. I am running in this election because I want to demonstrate the power of organized people over big money.

What are your qualifications for the position?

The most effective councilmembers understand the mechanics of excellent constituent service, and they know how to work with community members to build support for their policy goals. I have direct experience in constituent service as a former staffer for local Democrats like Jamie Raskin, and I’ve engaged in the council budget process while working as an organizer with IMPACT Silver Spring. I am currently a high school ESOL teacher and have worked first hand with the students and families that are underserved and underrepresented in county politics.

Are you using public financing, yes or no? If yes, have you qualified for matching funds?

Yes, I am proud to be using public financing and have qualified for matching funds.

What specific policies and/or programs would you propose to expand the county’s tax base?

The county must do everything it can to protect and support small and medium-sized businesses, which are the main drivers of job creation. This means putting real measures in place to enable current businesses to survive and benefit from redevelopment in areas like Wheaton, Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring; businesses are not using the current system because of extreme compliance requirements.

I hope to grow the county’s tax base by investing in local anchor institutions like Montgomery College or hospitals, instead of large corporations like Discovery that might leave us.

I’m an average voter, interested in doing my civic duty but not an avid follower of county politics. Convince me that I should vote for you over all the other candidates.

There are many people running in this election with similar platforms but there are very few candidates willing to admit that Montgomery County doesn’t work for all of its residents, especially working families. We have a lot of work to do if we want to maintain our status as an open and welcoming place for all.

I’ve received the endorsement of the Montgomery County Education Association, NNOC/National Nurses United, LiUNA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, Progressive Maryland, Metro DC DSA, Progressive Neighbors, and the Montgomery County Green Democrats among others. All of these groups endorsed me because they realize it’s important to have a member of the County Council that is willing to bring a critical lens to our policies and priorities.

Chris Wilhelm is an ESOL teacher at Northwood High School. He is proud to be a lifelong resident of Montgomery County: he grew up in Silver Spring, and graduated from Montgomery Blair High School. He received his degree from the University of Maryland, after working as a field organizer for Barack Obama in 2008.

Over the past 10 years he has served his community as a staffer for state Del. David Moon, a legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, and an activist at IMPACT Silver Spring. He has coached youth soccer and basketball, and is a rabid Maryland basketball fan.

Mike Diegel