“Our city’s best days are still to come,” Sheng Thao said, at her inauguration as the mayor of Oakland, California on Jan. 9.
The daughter of refugees and the first Hmong American mayor of a major U.S. city, choked up as she took the stage at the Paramount Theater to a standing ovation. She was joined by her son, Benedict, who performed a song on the cello before she spoke. Her father, other family members, staff and friends also gathered to celebrate her swearing-in.
Thao recalled how she and her son relied on social services as they lived in their car and she struggled to put herself through college. During the inauguration, she looked at her son and said, “We came a long way, right? We did good, right?” He hugged her in response.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American to hold that position, swore-in Thao.
A progressive, Thao was elected mayor after beating moderate former Council Member Loren Taylor by less than 700 votes.
Her top priorities include tackling crime and homelessness.
In her speech, she said she would work hard to protect renters who are “one illness and one missed paycheck” from losing their homes. In addition to grappling with housing, Thao must figure out how to confront violent crime, with homicides at a decade high in 2021.
“We must move forward together,” Thao said. “While we won’t always agree on every single thing, know this, I promise to hear your voice, to lead and negotiate in good faith and to always do what I believe to be in the best interest of our city now and into the future.”