Washington, DC is unique in the American political system – the mayor, DC’s chief executive, functions as a governor, county executive, and mayor. In 2018, Muriel became the first woman ever re-elected as the Mayor of Washington, DC and the first mayor to earn a second term in 16 years.
Two years into Muriel’s second term, the global COVID-19 pandemic hit Washington, DC. Like cities around the world, DC had to navigate shutting down almost overnight. In the weeks and months to follow, Muriel led one of the strongest local COVID-19 responses nationwide – holding almost daily situational updates, setting up a free citywide testing infrastructure, creating public isolation and quarantine sites, establishing a 437-bed surge capacity hospital, and ensuring seniors and other vulnerable residents had access to meals, groceries, and other essentials. At the start of the pandemic Mayor Bowser told DC that “we are in this together and we’ll get through it together.” Every day, Washingtonians proved this to be true.
Through everything that happened in 2020, Muriel kept DC Government focused on the day-to-day work of advancing DC values and priorities. City services like trash collection continued uninterrupted. During the first year of the pandemic, the District added 10,000 new units of housing. The Administration signed a deal to bring a new GW hospital to Ward 8 and expand DC’s network of high-quality health care. And, in the fall of 2021, Muriel made good on her promise to families to get all students back to in-person learning.
A hallmark of the Bowser Administration is the Mayor’s ability to unstick long-stalled projects, including by transforming underutilized federal land to much-needed amenities for DC residents. This has happened at St. Elizabeths East in Ward 8, now home to the Entertainment and Sports Arena and the future-home of a new state-of-the-art hospital operated by GW Hospital. At The Wharf in Ward 6, now a world-class waterfront destination with restaurants, hotels, shops, entertainment and more. At Walter Reed in Ward 4, where the 66 acres of land that were transferred to the District in 2016 are already home to permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless veterans, a school, senior housing, and much more.
During her time as mayor, Muriel has also made it priority to advance and defend DC values. Washington, DC is known for being one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in the world, and Muriel has tapped into that talent by being intentional about uplifting and investing in people of color, women, LGBTQ residents, and other marginalized groups whose talents too often get overlooked or underfunded.
During the pandemic, Muriel also stood shoulder-to-shoulder with DC residents and Americans nationwide during the protests and demonstrations that followed the murder of George Floyd. When former President Trump sent unidentifiable federal forces to DC streets, Muriel pushed back by creating Black Lives Matter Plaza on the road leading to the White House. Today, the mural has been transformed into a monument – a permanent reminder of the continued fight for justice and true equality for Black Americans.
Since taking office, Muriel has moved Washington, DC closer to statehood than ever before. Twice testifying before the House of Representatives and once before the Senate, Muriel has made the case that DC statehood is not only constitutional, but the only way to right the historic wrong of disenfranchising 700,000 Americans. Because of Muriel’s relentless pursuit of full democracy, more Americans nationwide understand that DC statehood is a voting rights issues, a civil rights issue, and a racial justice issue.
Muriel grew up in North Michigan Park, a middle class neighborhood in Ward 5, the youngest of Joe and Joan Bowser’s five children. Joe worked as a facilities manager in DC Public Schools and Joan worked as nurse. The Bowsers were always civically engaged and as a child Muriel tagged along with her dad as he served on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and attended community meetings. That’s where she learned that the hallmarks of a good government—high quality neighborhood schools, a pathway to the middle class, a fair shot at a decent job, safe streets, and access to healthcare—don’t happen overnight or by declaration, but by daily hard work and dedication. As Joe once told Muriel, “The only way to make a difference is to dig in.”
Muriel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Chatham University and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from American University, and received honorary doctorates from Chatham University and Trinity University. With more than 20 years of experience in local government, she first entered elected office as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Riggs Park neighborhood.