On January 9, activist and community leader Jheanelle Wilkins was elected to the Maryland State House, representing District 20, which comprises Silver Spring and Takoma Park, among other areas bordering Prince George’s County.
By a vote of 19-9, Wilkins beat out competitor Lorig Charkoudian, a civic activist from Takoma Park. The two final candidates were decided after three rounds of voting which eliminated fellow contenders Yvette Butler-Yeboah, Amy Cress, Daniel Koroma, and Darian Unger.
Wilkins fills the vacancy left by former Del. Will Smith, who was recently elected to the Maryland state Senate in place of Rep. Jamie Raskin. Her appointment makes her the third African American woman to represent Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly.
Her main policy goals include advocating for progressive issues and community engagement. She also supports criminal justice reform, increased minimum wage, expanded voting rights and registration, and improved early childhood education.
Wilkins previously served as the senior field organizer for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Washington, D.C., the oldest and largest civil rights coalition in the United States. In the past General Assembly session, she advocated for the successful passage of a bill that eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. She has also been a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee since 2014.
According to the Washington Post, Wale Henderson, the Leadership Conference president and chief executive, called Wilkins “a passionate and effective advocate for the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, including immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and children.”
Wilkins’ background in civic engagement and progressive educational goals have resonated with MCPS students, parents, and teachers. “I think Jheanelle Wilkins will bring some new ideas to the State House,” Walt Whitman High School sophomore Kien Nguyen said. “And more representation is always good.”
Parents of Montgomery County students share similar sentiments. Elizabeth Crowley, whose children attend Ashburton Elementary School, approves of Wilkins’ leadership. “Jheanelle Wilkins looks to be a positive asset to the State House,” Crowley said. “Her values align with those of the Ashburton community and I’m excited to see what she’ll bring to the table.”
Wilkins’ appointment marks a milestone in increased representation in the State House, reflecting both the diversity and progressive ideas of Montgomery County.
Article by MoCo Student Staff Writer Tatum Shirley of Walter Johnson High School