WORCESTER -- Political newcomer Thu Nguyen shook up the at-large City Council field Tuesday night, finishing fourth to win a seat and become the first nonbinary person elected to office in Massachusetts.
When Nguyen takes office in January, the newcomer will be Worcester's first Southeast Asian American and also the first nonbinary member of the council. Nguyen identifies with the pronouns them, their and they.
Nguyen's victory makes the councilor-elect the first nonbinary person elected in the state, according to LGBTQ Victory Fund.
“Thu shattered a rainbow ceiling in Massachusetts and will join a growing number of nonbinary elected officials serving across the nation. Their victory proves voters look beyond gender identity and will elect leaders with the qualifications and drive to improve people’s lives. Thu’s experiences – as a person of color, nonbinary person and refugee – will bring a unique and critical perspective to the city council and it will lead to more inclusive legislation,” said Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Nguyen came in fourth in the race for six at-large seats. Mayor Joseph M. Petty and incumbents Kathleen M. Toomey, Khrystian King, Morris A. Bergman and Donna Colorio all kept their seats on the council.
District 5 Councilor Matthew Wally came up short in his bid for an at-large seat Tuesday night, along with Peter A. Stefan, WIlliam Coleman and Guillermo Creamer Jr.
Nguyen said their grassroots campaign was "for the people, by the people," and emphasized inclusivity and ownership. Nguyen said their experience as a community organizer for the past 10 years allowed them to hit the ground running — they already built those relationships in the community.
"I was a familiar face already," Nguyen said. "The trust was already built."
Nguyen said the campaign provided young people space to experience and engage with politics. They were people who have never been invited in and never imagined they would be.
They said they were beyond grateful for voters' confidence Tuesday night. Nguyen said a big part of their campaign was looking at how government can be holistic and that resonated with people.
"I never really took the campaign to be about me," Nguyen said. "It was about the community, and a political re-imagination."
Nguyen said one of their strongest platforms during the campaign was putting community-led solutions at the forefront at City Hall and they said they plan on following through with that campaign promise.
"For me it's about remodeling what an elected official is supposed to do," Nguyen said.
They said so often the council will impose an agenda and then include public input. They said they want to know what the public's solutions are for those issues. They said they envision working alongside the community.
Nguyen said there have been multiple generations of Southeast Asian Americans in the city without representation in city government.
"That's a huge gap we needed to fill," Nguyen said.
Nguyen said their victory was a victory for the LGBTQIA community and showed how inclusive and loving Worcester could be.
Wally said he was obviously disappointed in Tuesday's result but offered congratulations to everyone who did win including his successor in District 5, Etel Haxhiaj.
"The voters of Worcester went to the polls and made their decision and I certainly respect their decision" Wally said.
Wally said he knew there was a risk inherent in running citywide but thought he could have had a bigger impact.
Overall, turnout was again lackluster in the city. According to unofficial results, 16.5% of the city's registered voters participated in the municipal election.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Worcester City Council: Nguyen wins at-large seat; Wally bumped from Council