senior features editor
Which kind of burger is the best? A simple hamburger? A bacon cheeseburger from Wendy’s? A Wendy Testaburger from South Park? A Danny Rothenburger? The answer, at least in the opinion of local Mayor Jud Ashman, is a Gaithersburger.
It’s true that one cannot eat any of the Gaithersburg residents described by this fast food-esque demonym, and if anyone ever tried to, he or she may be described by the term, “outcast cannibal”. In order for students to find out what a Gaithersburger really is, Ashman is eager to share his background on the subject.
According to Ashman, a Gaithersburger is someone who lives in the most diverse city in the United States, a city with the lowest property tax rates for any of the large cities in Maryland and a place where government debt is non-existent. “We have a lot of things that you don’t see in a lot of other cities, which is a point of pride for me,” Ashman said. “Everyone can find his or her own place here, where despite no debt and low tax rates, we are able to deliver great services to the residents.”
Before taking on mayorship, Ashman studied broadcast journalism and political science at University of Miami and two years after graduation, he moved to D.C. for a job in web design. When two more years had passed, he moved once again to Gaithersburg with a wife and two kids hoping to find a better school system, yet he would find much more in the city council meetings he had attended. “I got bit by the bug after realizing there that I was interested in all kinds of stuff, and a few years later I decided to run for city council,” Ashman said.
In the 20 plus years he has lived here, Ashman has witnessed a rolling force of transition hit Gaithersburg for the immensely better. “The population here has risen by 20,000, new schools and youth centers were built and the Crown development is a big one. There’s going to be a new high school there, but probably not for another 15 years because of money, not because we’re holding it back,” Ashman said.
The job of mayor is usually defined as a part-time one, but Ashman opposes such a simplistic perception of the occupation. “It’s paid like a part-time job, but you’re never really off,” Ashman said. “Controlling the agenda is like being the conductor of an orchestra, making sure everybody’s heard and making it as harmonious as possible.”
Ashman ascended to his current position in 2014 but one of his proudest local accomplishments first came to fruition in 2010 as a city council member: the Gaithersburg Book Festival. The free event will be held for its 10th year at Gaithersburg City Hall on Saturday, May 18, and has hosted prominent thinkers like NPR podcast host Diane Rehm as well as Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick. “I have my two older kids and then the book festival is like my baby,” Ashman said.