Former Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio was perhaps the rarest thing in politics – a politician that people trusted.
Rockville’s former two-term mayor Marcuccio died last week of natural causes, leaving behind a legacy of maintaining the City’s historic feel while also attempting to make it a hub of science and technology. She served as mayor from 2009 to 2013, and was known for steering the City’s development carefully and being a champion for getting a dedicated building for the Rockville Science Center.
“It was clear to me she was smart. She understood Rockville. She cared deeply about Rockville,” said Ruth Hanessian, a longtime friend and neighbor of Marcuccio.
Marcuccio, 84, was a native of Rockville and graduated from Richard Montgomery High School. The transformation of Rockville from a small rural town into a rapidly-growing suburban community is something that helped prompt Maruccio to become involved in politics.
“Mayor Marcuccio was a deeply devoted public servant throughout her life and career,” said current Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton in a statement. “A longstanding Rockville resident, she prided herself as a grassroots activist and was an outspoken advocate for the city, always keeping the best interests of her community close to her heart.”
While friends and family said Marcuccio was always active in community issues, the arrival of the Metro alerted Marcuccio that her hometown was changing, and if she wanted to play a role in that change she needed to become more involved making sure that less dense East Rockville was protected as the City looked to develop its Town Center master plan.
Rockville was her passion, friends and family said.
Before she began to run for office, Marcuccio became active in the East Rockville Civic Association. For many in East Rockville, Marcuccio became the go-to neighbor, someone who would not sit and complain about an issue rather, a person that would walk down to City Hall and to explain exactly what was on her mind – something she learned from her father.
“She never did anything alone, she always did something as a leader,” said Sasha Whitaker, Maruccio’s niece.
Whitaker recalled while visiting her aunt, the non-stop ringing of phones, of neighbors and strangers calling Marcuccio for help on a community issue. Her leadership in East Rockville eventually led Marcuccio to run for City Council, first winning election in 2005, where she would serve two terms before becoming mayor.
Marcuccio’s blunt style is what made her attractive to voters, always willing to tell them, or anyone for that matter, exactly what she thought.
Council member Mark Pierzchala, who often voiced his opposition to Marcuccio on various issues, could not deny her appeal to the residents of Rockville.
“There was a sense of authenticity with her. That she spoke from the heart, she spoke directly and people trusted what she said,” said Pierzchala, who served on the City Council when Marcuccio was mayor.
Marcuccio was also known as a strong advocate for science. While she pushed for a building for the Rockville Science Center and a science day in the City, her passion for the subject began long before her two terms as mayor.
For 28 years Marcuccio worked as an editor at Science and Children Magazine, a publication published by the National Science Teachers Association. In 1993, Marcuccio was promoted to associate executive editor the NSTA where she served for six years overseeing several science education magazines.
Her work in publishing, landed her spot in the National Press Club where she introduced Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, at an event he spoke at – one of many contacts she maintained during her decades spent in the science community.
Friends and family said Marcuccio’s passion for science was driven by her sense of curiosity and believed that, given the nearby locations of the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Standards and Technology, Rockville could become a regional hub for science.
“She was wise in understanding the treasure we have in the city of Rockville, a small town in the middle of a megalopolis,” Hanessian said.
Funeral services for Marcuccio will take place on June 22 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville.