Having acquired solid experience and successes during his first term as a Gaithersburg City Councilmember, Robert Wu wants to retain the seat he has occupied since 2015.
“Learning the role of a councilmember has been a challenge,” he acknowledged. “There are so many areas of expertise that one must have in order to be successful—such as understanding land use and the applicable laws, rules and regulations, budgeting, the legislative process and the quasi-judicial process. These were all new topics for me in 2015, and I am still learning each and every day.”
Many of the skills Wu has honed during his day job—as senior attorney at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)—have helped him become effective in his City of Gaithersburg position. “I often find myself inthe role of interpreting ordinances, parsing out legalese when amendments to existing language are proposed, and, at least in one instance, actually drafting an ordinance,” he said.
“At GAO,” Wu explained, “I serve in a quasi-judicial role, adjudicating bid protests filed with our office. The skillset is very similar to that used in deciding matters brought before the city council, including fairmindedness, the ability to absorb large records and ultimately render a decision.”
“A firm belief that process matters” also factors into both jobs. “As companies who file protests with GAO understand, while we might not necessarily agree with them in the end, each argument raised is heard and carefully considered,” Wu said. “The same goes for my work at city council. Each individual who takes their valuable time to appear before us or submit written matters has to know that their views have been heard and seriously considered.”
Teamwork is key to the council’s operations. “Our council works in a very collaborative way such that each of our successes are all of our successes,” he said.
“We work together on various issues such as a sound budget, economic development, high-quality land use, affordable housing and advocating externally, such as for higher school capacity, transportation issues and development projects like the Watkins Mill Interchange.”
As for individual accomplishments, Wu cited his “work with the EAC (environmental affairs committee), including sponsoring and passing a ban on Styrofoam use in the city, working to reduce the city’s use of harmful pesticides on city property and initiatives such as piloting composting and planting of trees on city property.” In addition to the EAC, he serves as council liaison to the police advisory and multicultural affairs committees.
Wu has been effective in such diverse areas as “improving safety for bicyclists by drafting, and ultimately passing, an ordinance that permits bicyclists to operate safely and legally on our city sidewalks” and “bringing an innovative dual-language immersion program” to Brown Station Elementary School. Recently, he has focused on “economic development issues, particularly as it applies to our biotech sector, and exploring ways for the city to play a role in enhancing STEM education in our city schools.”
In a second term, Wu wants to carry on his efforts “to engage on many fronts with my colleagues and city staff to advance the interests of the city—including maintaining fiscal discipline and a sound budget, ensuring thoughtful and balanced development throughout the city, continuing to advance sound environmental policies and take leadership on environmental issues, and focusing on quality-of-life improvements for residents—including improvement of amenities, green space and mixed-modal transportation infrastructure.”
And there’s more work to do. “Two particular initiatives I hope to focus on,” he noted, “are finding ways that the city can collaborate with MCPS to advance STEM education in the city’s schools, and exploring how the city can expand its role in economic development related to our biotechnology sector and our thriving main streets.”
Wu, who has lived in Gaithersburg since 2012, expressed pride in his “role in ensuring that the process works for our residents. Whether it was being the first to speak out in favor of reasonable regulations related to placement of cellular facilities in the city, or controversial development, land use and annexation decisions, I have strived to be a consistent voice in favor of fulsome processes that consider all community concerns.”