BY RUPEN JANBAZIAN
From The Armenian Weekly
WESTBROOK CITY, Maine (A.W.)—“Coming to the United States as a refugee in 1992, I was always fascinated with the electoral process, the judicial system, and the way of life here. I love this country. I voted the minute I could vote after getting my citizenship at 19,” says Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, who became Westbrook City’s youngest and only female city councilor on Nov. 3, with 64 percent of the vote.
Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1978, Turcotte fledto the United States with her family after a wave of Azerbaijani aggression towards Armenians in 1990. “I never thought I would run for any office, but what’s amazing about this country is that anyone can, and anyone who wants to should.” She explained that her first presidential election vote was absentee, and that she still has the little pencil they sent in with the ballot packet.
Turcotte’s background is in legal and risk management, and she had no real political experience or knowledge of what running a campaign involved. But with guidance from her friends and help from her family, she ran successfully for the position against an incumbent and another candidate. Running as a Democrat, she beat out long-time city councillor Paul Emery and Republican Susan Rossignol in a landslide victory in Westbrook City’s Ward 3. She secured 308 votes to Emery’s 88 and to Rossignol’s 83.
“I ran the textbook grassroots campaign,” she says. Turcotte went to City Hall, obtained a map of her ward, and knocked on the door of every house of her section of the city with her kids after work and school. “They were on bikes and scooters, and I was with a stack of palm cards knocking on doors and describing my qualifications, my family background, and my vision for the city’s future. On weekends, my husband joined us. We met many wonderful people along the way…and got some exercise too.”
Turcotte credits the success of her campaign to face-to-face interactions. “Yes, sure, they can see my interview in the local paper, but they get to see much more when they meet me and know that I’m a real person with a real family in this city. And we are all in it together. We had fun as a family doing it for about five to six weeks,” she says. “I am terrified of dogs, and it seems everyone has a dog, so it was not easy for me on many different levels, but so rewarding.”
Having children has prompted Turcotte to become more invested in the success of Westbrook City. “I believe the success of the city directly contributes to the success of my children and their friends. I am not the type of person who can comfortable sit back and observe things from the sidelines,” she says.
Turcotte has been volunteering with various organizations and has been a tireless voice advocating for increased U.S. aid for Nagorno-Karabagh. She also recently published her memoirs, titled Nowhere, a Story of Exile, which tells the story of her life in Baku and the Azerbaijani brutality that shattered her childhood.
Recently, Anna’s husband John suggested that she should run for public office. “I thought he was crazy, but he is my biggest fan and supporter, always believing in me,” she says.
Turcotte believes the election results reflect the people’s need for a change in the city and their trust in her. “I encourage fellow Armenians to become more politically active in their communities. And on a personal note, I want my daughter and son to see their mama succeed in various aspects of life, whether it’s the kitchen, the business, writing and publishing books, or running for office. Children need more examples of women being out in the world, making their own way, just as they want it.”