Little Saigon gets first Vietnamese American mayor

Tri Ta

By Staff
The Associated Press

WESTMINSTER, Calif. (AP) — The first Vietnamese-American mayor of Westminster will earn just $900 a month, and the authority he holds in this Southern California city is limited.

But as the incoming leader of a city in the heart of Little Saigon — the largest Vietnamese district outside Vietnam — Tri Ta’s election win this week has resonated across the Vietnamese diaspora.

Already, Ta has been featured on Radio Free Asia, seen his name on Internet sites from Houston to Hanoi, and been invited to Northern California to speak to Vietnamese leaders in San Jose.

Fellow Vietnamese-American politicians tell the Los Angeles Times that the 39-year-old Ta can expect to get requests to represent the Vietnamese beyond city limits.

“You wear more hats, not just the hat of a representative who represents a district or a city,” said Van Tran, a former state assemblyman from Orange County. He said he was frequently asked to attend events in New York, Florida, Texas and even Europe and Australia because of his standing as a Vietnamese-American elected official.

“In other Vietnamese-American communities, you have to understand there’s a thirst for their own Vietnamese representative,” Tran said. “They don’t have the know-how, and they’re asking us to share that with them.”

Madison Nguyen, the vice mayor of San Jose, said she works up to 15 hours a day to keep up with the demands of being the first Vietnamese-American council member in her city, which has a large Vietnamese community.

Ta, a six-year councilman who runs a trade magazine for the nail salon industry, expects to face the same situation.

“With the constant demands, I can just respond to people one day at a time,” he said.

In past years, voters in Little Saigon, which sprawls across several Orange County cities, have elected Vietnamese judges, a county supervisor, council members and school board trustees. Two Vietnamese Americans mounted mayoral campaigns in Westminster but both failed. (end)

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