03-06-2008, 09:41 PM
Asian American female elected as Mayor in the US
This is history in the making.
On January 7th 2008, Mayor Cindy Ryu was sworn into office in the City of Shoreline, Washington. She is the first Korean American female ever to serve as a mayor in the United States.
She ran for City Council in 2003 and lost but ran for City Council again in 2005 and won. In the beginning of 2008, she got four of the five council votes needed to become the first Korean American female Mayor in the US.
You go girl!!
Shoreline Mayor Cindy Ryu has very personal reasons for getting involved in government
By: Stacy Nguyen, Journal Newspapers
Shoreline Mayor Cindy Ryu is sworn into office in January with Deputy Mayor Terry Scott.
Cindy Ryu, Shoreline's new mayor, is the first female Korean-American mayor in the United States. She is also only the second female mayor in Shoreline's 13-year history. With a nearly a third of the city's population consisting of immigrants, Ryu is representative of the changing face of Shoreline, and American culture in general. Ryu, fluent in both English and Korean, has plans for the future of Shoreline that involve utilizing environmentally responsible resources such as biofuels and a green business-practice program.
Born in 1957 in an impoverished post-war South Korea, Ryu and her family eventually left South Korea to join their father in 1967 because he was employed in Brunei. Brunei is a Southeast Asian country occupying the north coast of Borneo. There, Ryu learned English in Anglican schools.
In 1969, they had to leave the country because Brunei didn't grant citizenship to anyone who wasn't Malay. "I think this was when I first got the sense of how important government policies are," said Ryu. "We had no choice. We had to up and leave, and I loved living there. The government took care of housing and national health for citizens. For the Malays it was great. We knew they were very happy. However, the Chinese and everyone else, including the Koreans, we had to work a little bit harder."
Her parents could not afford to take them back to Korea and educate them there. They had always hoped to get to America, but they had to wait for visas so they bided their time in the Philippines. "It was six suitcases, and a tiny bit of money," Ryu said. "We were reduced down to one meal a day. I got really skinny!"
Within two months they were able to get visas to America. On Christmas Eve, 1969, the family arrived at the Sea-Tac airport. They moved to a small suburb in Eastern Washington where Ryu attended Rochester High School and was voted most likely to succeed by her peers. At the school of 800 children, Ryu was one of two minority students.
"It was hard. Not because they mistreated me at all - they were actually very curious, very nice, and very accommodating. But from the beginning, I did not like to move. I like stability, I like certainty. I had a very low threshold for stress and changing friends," she said.
After high school, Ryu moved to Seattle and got her bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Washington in 1980. She worked at Harborview Medical Center before getting her MBA.
Ryu met her husband Cody while working for the City of Seattle, but after five years, she left that job because, "I never saw my husband. So I went to work with him at Allstate. It actually ended up working out very well," she said.
Their insurance business was positioned along Aurora Avenue, where, at the time, there were proposals to widen the road and modify the area. "We did what any property owner would do," Ryu recalled. "We paid attention and started going to the meetings. I thought there were issues and features that needed to be considered that weren't being considered. I wanted to get more involved in the policymaking of it."
Ryu said her children are the main reason she became involved in politics. They listened to her complain about the Aurora issue until they got tired and encouraged their mother to become proactive. So at age 45, she ran for city council for the first time, in 2003. She lost, but in 2005 she ran again and was elected as a councilmember. This year, she got the five out of four council votes she needed to become the first female Korean-American mayor in the United States. "My suggestion to anyone is, 'Hey! You got this passion for public service - don't give up. Just try and try again.' I'm a case study," she said.
"This was an adopted land for me," Ryu stated emphatically. "For the first 45 years of my life I thought, 'our government will take care of us.' After that, I sort of went through a maturing process where I realized, 'our government is me. My government is me. I better have a voice in my government."
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