B/W photo of Lily in high school in China

My Story: The Spirit of America

I was born and raised in China during great political unrest and came alone to the States to improve my odds when China opened its door to the rest of the world. I landed in the middle of cornfields in Indiana—a big change from Shanghai, where I had to use a Walkman to record lectures and work several jobs between classes to complete my studies.

With my young family, I completed two master’s degrees, moved across four states and built a career in student affairs in higher education before settling in the Washington region where I established myself as an economic development official in Washington, DC and Montgomery County and a community leader.


People often ask if I grew up here. It is the highest compliment I could ask for.”

– Lily Qi

Thanks to your support, I won a highly competitive race in 2018 and became the first Chinese-immigrant legislator in Maryland, and a member of the largest female legislative class in history. Our campaign unleashed tremendous new energy (“Qi”) among first-time Asian American voters. See my story in the Washington Post and on NPR.”

See the “Lily’s American Journey” campaign video.

See the Montgomery Magazine Cover story,“Lily the Rebel,” from this issue of Aug/Sept. 2020. 


Lily Qi at a hearing

While working at American University, I managed a minority student retention program with predominantly Black students and learned some profound truths about America and race relations that got me involved in civil rights and community affairs. After earning my MBA, I went on to become Vice President of Business Development for the Washington, DC Economic Partnership to grow economic opportunities for the capital city. I later served as a spokesperson for the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, before being tapped by County Executive Ike Leggett to serve in his administration.

During my decade of service in Montgomery County government, I focused on improving government cultural competency and our economic standing. As the first Asian American appointed to be Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, I worked to develop Montgomery County’s global partnerships and led a series of strategic initiatives including establishing BioHealth Innovation, Inc., the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, and building a national award-winning integrated business portal to grow innovation economy and make it easier for small businesses to start and grow in Montgomery County.

Lily speaking at a podium

To me, being in elective office is another way of paying back and paying forward. I have written and spoken for years on immigrant integration to encourage civic engagement (read my op-ed in Maryland Matters) and wrote a monthly column for Asian Fortune for four years on civic engagement and cultural issues. I have served on numerous nonprofit boards including Leadership Montgomery, Suburban Hospital, Imagination Stage, and Manchester University in Indiana (my alma mater). I am beyond grateful for what this country and this community has given me and my family, and proud to have been recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women, Person of the Year by the Greater Washington Chinese Post in 2018 and three times awardee by the National Association of Counties for my service to Montgomery County.

Other Endorsements and Affiliations


Sierra Club logo
Moms Demand Action logo
Montgomery County PAC logo
LGBTQ Democrats logo
Asian Americans Democratic Club logo
AFL-CIO logo
Maryland League of Conservation Voters logo
Greater Greater Washington logo
Association of Black Democrats logo
Volunteer Fire & Rescue Assn logo
Montgomery County Lodge 35 logo
IFF logo
NARAL logo


Emerge Maryland logo
Maryland's Top 100 Women logo

In Her Own Words

Immigrants ARE America. We shouldn’t have to wait a generation to be Americans”

– Lily Qi

Lily walking in front of a parade
Lily with women of the MD House of Delegates
Lily with African American group