OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- At 37 years old, Sheng Thao is not only the youngest mayor in Oakland history but is the first Hmong to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city. Thao's win symbolizes long overdue visibility for a sometimes overlooked community.
During the lunch rush at Lao restaurant Champa Garden in Oakland, there is a sense of pride following Thao's victory.
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Adam Saechao, one of the restaurant's managers says "growing up you don't tend to see a lot of Asian representation in the media and like that."
Thao is the daughter of refugees from Laos and speaks often about her past as a domestic violence survivor and single mother. In 2018 she became the first Hmong to be elected to city council in California.
"It's exciting to see what happens. Maybe if younger kids have someone to look up to and inspire towards it might help them build up more," said Saechao.
Thao's win comes after a drawn-out ballot count, due to ranked-choice voting. Fellow council member Loren Taylor led the race until this past weekend and conceded in his bid for mayor, Tuesday morning. Thao's victory came down to less than 700 votes.
At the city's 31st annual Thanksgiving dinner meal giveaway feeding more than 3,000 community members, ABC7 News caught up with councilwoman Treva Reid. She made her own bid for mayor forming a ranked-choice coalition with Taylor and coming in fifth.
"We can really come together and unify as leaders that we can have the spirit of collaboration to the mayor's office to city council, out into the community and we'll dig deeper into the community," said Reid, who spent the morning packaging meals at the Marriott along Broadway.
Oakland is a community, looking for answers as the city struggles with a variety of issues.
Saechao is concerned about the attacks on the AAPI community.
"I have grandparents and don't want anything happening to them. Maybe she'll see things from a different point of view, brain something different to the table," said Saechao.
Thao plans to hold her first press conference Wednesday.
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