US city elects first Vietnamese mayor

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Tri Ta, the first Vietnamese American mayor of Westminster City, California

A 39-year-old magazine editor has become the first Vietnamese-American mayor of Westminster City, California, an enclave known as "Little Saigon" for it's large Vietnamese community, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Tri Ta, a six-year councilman and currently mayor pro tem of the central Orange County immigrant community, won more than 42 percent of the vote in a five-candidate race during Tuesday's election, the newspaper reported on its website.

Ta's victory is historic in the city, where voters have elected Vietnamese judges, a county supervisor, a county supervisor, an assemblyman, and City Council members and school board trustees by the handful, but never a mayor, according to the news report.

It said in previous years, two other Vietnamese American candidates mounted mayoral campaigns, but both failed.

Moreover, even though Westminster hosts the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam, Ta's victory did not rely entirely on Vietnamese votes.

Speaking to the newspaper, Jeff Brody, a Cal State Fullerton professor who has researched and written extensively about Little Saigon, said "the diversity in Westminster means a mayoral candidate has to represent the interests of the entire city, not just one voting bloc."

In fact, Westminster, once a white, middle-class community, is now a city without an ethnic minority, although its Asian population is by far the largest ethnic group, accounting for 44 percent according to census figures, the Los Angeles Times reported.

More than a third of the city's 91,000 residents are Vietnamese, it said.

Coming to the US in 1992 intending to study computer science at the California State University of Los Angeles, Ta switched to politics after his first exam in a political science class, when a professor told him he had "a knack" for it.

He was recruited by Margie Rice, the city's current and longest serving major, and selected as its mayor pro tem in 2009.

The politician now is also the managing editor of Viet Salon, a magazine covering the nail salon industry, the newspaper said.

He lives with his wife Que Anh Doan, a pharmacist, and two daughters in the Mission del Amo mobile home park.

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