When the final tally of votes came in, Roxy Ndebumadu won her District 4 seat on the Bowie Md., City Council by a mere sixteen votes.

No, it was not a landslide. But it did make Roxy Ndebumadu, 26 at the time of the election in 2019, the youngest woman ever elected to Bowie’s City Council, and something else that is a rarity in the political landscape of Prince George’s County, which skews 89 percent Democratic: a Republican elected official. She is also Mayor Pro Tem of Bowie. The Mayor Pro Tem is selected by the Council at its first Meeting and presides over meetings and ceremonial functions in the Mayor’s absence. Ndebumadu most recently worked for Twitch, a streaming platform owned by Amazon.

A Howard University graduate, who divided her childhood between Maryland and Nigeria, Ndebumadu describes her campaign as “kind of grassroots.” Make that strictly grassroots. Roxy was her own campaign manager and treasurer. 

“We ran ads on Facebook,” Roxy recalls. “I used a text service called RumbleUp. And then I also leveraged ads on radio, and all the major applications such as Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bank of America. The person who did my video was a videographer who was a colleague from Microsoft. I leveraged a lot of the creativity from the private sector and advisors I had met within the Republican Party.”

“I wasn’t always a Republican,” Roxy tells IWF. “When I was growing up, I pretty much thought I was a Democrat, because most African-Americans or Black people are more associated with the Democratic Party. I don’t necessarily think I intentionally sought out the Democratic Party, but it was kind of ‘you’re just a Democrat because you’re black’ kind of thing. When I got to the age where I was knowledgeable enough to do my own research and understand what my values were, I became a Republican at that time.”

“I started doing my due diligence on candidates and the political parties,” she recalls. “And that’s when I realized, oh shoot, I’m a Republican. I registered as a Republican and from that moment on I’ve been a Republican. I’m a Republican because Republican values reflect my values. I have had significant experiences in other countries and in other places to understand the dynamics of global affairs, the dynamics of the world, how small business works. When you think about opportunity, when you think about the way that we approach solutions, when you think about the family dynamic, household makeup, and the roles of the parents in a child’s life, and when you think about the government’s role as it pertains to business owners and the law, I know that Republican values are most reflective of my values.”

Although grassroots, Roxy’s campaign wasn’t amateurish. She praises political adviser and lawyer Brandon Cooper, acknowledges former state party chair Dirk Haire, and gives credit to media entrepreneur Dan Kagan. Her “Roxy for Bowie” website is fresh and polished. It presents a stylish young woman with big tortoiseshell glasses who rose above a tough childhood and wants to serve her hometown, Bowie. 

Roxy was born in Bowie, though her mother was an immigrant from Nigeria. Roxy’s mother was studying to be a nurse, and she often took Roxy to classes with her. Homelife was difficult. “My stepfather was in the picture at that time and he was, just honestly, a horrible human being,” Roxy admits. 

“He was doing a lot of things my mom and I didn’t know about that essentially led to his deportation and his ban from the United States.”

A Howard University graduate, who divided her childhood between Maryland and Nigeria, Ndebumadu describes her successful campaign for a seat on the Bowie, Md., City Council as “kind of grassroots.” Make that strictly grassroots. Roxy was her own campaign manager and treasurer.

“My mom tried to raise me the best that she could,” Roxy continues, “but it was hard because she was new to the United States. She was focused on providing for us in an unfamiliar country with different cultural norms. When you look at the history of my story, it was filled with some degree of neglect, sexual assault, domestic violence, isolation, and just this concept of surviving—got to get to the next place, got to make sure that I stay protected, got to make sure that I have shelter, got to make sure that I have food, the basic essentials to be able to survive. Essentially, it’s those experiences that taught me to persevere. I never adopted a victim type of mentality, I always rose above any situation that was presented to me, and those are the experiences that have taught me what perseverance looks like.”

Roxy attended Bowie High School but transferred to Largo High School, which offered college prep and AP courses that appealed to her. Even during high school, Roxy always had a job. “I was a photographer, officially a sales associate, but I did the job of a photographer, at Six Flags,” she recalls. “That was my first job ever. I actually, unfortunately, but I am honest about this, lied about my age to get that job. I needed to provide because my mom was kind of distracted. She was trying to rebound from everything that happened with my stepfather, so I lied about my age at 13, and I got a job at Six Flags, and I was working there and I have had a job ever since.” 

Roxy’s mother, at one point, had managed to acquire two Dollar Stores in Maryland. 

Roxy always wanted to go to Howard University because her godmother, a woman who lived across the street and whom she calls “an inspirational figure in my life,” was a Howard alumna. Instead, however, Roxy enrolled in a nursing program at Morgan State, which offered her more scholarship funds. But she managed to realize her ambition and later became a Howard student.

While at Howard, she realized that her calling was technology, not healthcare, and started studying for a different future.

“After Howard, I started my corporate career,” Roxy says. “I had a job throughout college. So, I didn’t start working after Howard. I always worked. However, after Howard I started what I would say call my corporate career. I got multiple job offers, and I ended up choosing Microsoft because of what the company stood for and the competitive compensation package.”  

Her “Roxy for Bowie” website is fresh and polished. It presents a stylish young woman with big tortoiseshell glasses who rose above a tough childhood and wants to serve her hometown. 

Roxy was Customer Success Lead at Microsoft, which meant that she led a team that worked with governmental agencies to make sure their needs were met. “I would work with the federal government, different federal civilian and DOD agencies, to help them fix their technology adoption strategies and try to help them find ways to modernize their technology infrastructure to promise efficiency and cost savings,” she says. “So, I kind of became a Miss Fix-It and built this reputation as somebody who fixed things that others enjoyed working with.” For this reputation, she was humorously nicknamed Olivia Pope, after the high-powered lawyer-manager-fixer played by Kerry Washington in the Shonda Rhimes TV political drama Scandal.

When did Ndebumadu first consider running for public office?

“I will never forget this day,” she replies. “I had a mentor who was in Government Affairs at Microsoft. He is the Corporate Vice President of Government Affairs. And he said to me, ‘Roxy, have you ever considered running for office?’ I was a very outspoken, engaged type of figure. I had this reputation of somebody that didn’t mind giving her input, sharing feedback, giving suggestions, sharing ideas. That was my brand. And so, this mentor said to me, like, ‘have you ever considered running for office?’ And I was like, no, like, somebody like me run for office? Are you kidding me? So, my mentor persisted. He said, ‘you should consider running for office.’”

The seed did not fall on barren ground. “Soon after that I went to runforoffice.org. I put in my address,” Roxy recalls. “I found out what I was eligible to run for and I saw city council. I said to myself, well, they say all politics is local, and this is really interesting. Maybe I could run for city council. I spoke to some people in the Republican Party, told them what I was interested in, and they were just like, who is this random girl? We’ve never really heard of you. You’re not engaged in the political party part of things. So, who are you? And I think after I shared why I was interested in running, what I hoped to change what I hoped to get involved in, and what type of future I saw for my community, they were supportive of that, and they rallied behind me.”

In addition to her work for Microsoft, she has served as co-chair of the Robert S. Brookings Society, which operates under the aegis of the Brookings Institution and whose mission is nurturing young leaders and is a mentor for Women in Technology. She hopes to start a nonprofit that will, among other things, work to better connect the private and public sectors through strategic partnerships and initiatives to advance the lives of people all over the world including emerging markets. 

“I wasn’t always a Republican,” Roxy tells IWF. “I started doing my due diligence on candidates and the political parties, and that’s when I realized, oh shoot, I’m a Republican. I’m a Republican because Republican values reflect my values.”

“I think a lot of people, when they think about emerging markets, they think about socialism and that we immediately need to give donations. I’m not saying that humanitarian efforts aren’t needed in certain pockets of the world, however, when you teach a community how to thrive and you give them the resources and the access that they need to raise capital and create an ecosystem for capital, that’s truly how you build up a community through a living thriving economy that contributes to a thriving society.”

Despite her achievements, Roxy was not a shoo-in. “I filed to run only about 45 days before the election, and I ran against four other people, and I won by 16 votes,” Roxy recalls. “I think I won because I was somebody different. The biggest part of that was a message of hope and inspiration. People were able to see like, wow, this young girl has been through a lot in her life, but she’s come out on top at every point of the way. Now, it’s probably hurt her in some areas, but she’s still risen above it. And so, if she’s able to do that, that’s the type of person I want to represent my community. And honestly, what do we have to lose? She’s something new. She’s not the same type of traditional leader that we’ve had in the past. So, what do we have to lose by taking a chance?”

The citizens of Bowie took a chance and helped launch the political career of a young woman, who, with her dedication and perseverance, could go very far.