During the November general election, Berkeley community members elected four Asian American officials, which seems to be the most to ever serve Berkeley at one time, including the first Asian American City Council members in 41 years.
Rashi Kesarwani and Rigel Robinson were both elected to serve as City Council members. The last Asian American to serve Berkeley on City Council was former member Ying Lee. Famous for her anti-war activism during the Vietnam War, Lee served as a City Council member from 1973 to 1977, becoming Berkeley’s first Asian American council member.
“There is a rich history of Asian American activism in Berkeley and across the East Bay, and it is long overdue for our elected representation in City Council,” Robinson said.
Additionally, James Chang was re-elected for a second term on the Rent Stabilization Board, and Jenny Wong, who was elected as the city auditor, is the first Asian American to hold the position.
This appears to be a record-breaking number of Asian American officials to serve Berkeley at one time.
Kesarwani and Robinson, who were elected to serve Districts 1 and 7, respectively, succeeded longtime former City Council members Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington, both of whom retired, and Wong succeeded former city auditor Ann-Marie Hogan.
“As an Indian American myself, I’m thrilled to see Asian American communities being represented in city government,” said Robinson’s campaign manager Varsha Sarveshwar in an email. “We live in an incredibly diverse city, and City Hall should reflect that.”
Other Asian American politicians who have served Berkeley in previous years include Gene Roh, who served on the Berkeley Unified School District board from 1973 to 1977, and Howard Chong, who served on the Rent Stabilization Board for more than eight years.
Berkeley’s current population is 19.7 percent Asian American, according to the United States Census Bureau. The population is also 60.2 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic or Latino, 8.6 percent Black or African American, and 0.5 percent Native American.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said that as an Asian American herself, the increase in Asian American representation in the recent election is inspiring to her in her decision to pursue a career in public service.
“It’s awesome to see this representation in Berkeley city politics,” Khalfay said in an email. “I think across the nation there has been an increase in diverse elected officials and I hope we will continue to see a rise in representation of Asian Americans and other underrepresented minorities.”
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