AANHPI Women Mayors You Should Know About

BLFF Team | May 26, 2022

Out of the 100 largest cities in the United State, only six AANHPI women have ever been mayor, with four of them currently serving today. As we continue to celebrate Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, BLFF would like to highlight historic AANHPI women mayors you should know about.


Eunice Sato

Eunice Sato was the first Asian American woman mayor of a major American city, serving as mayor of Long Beach, CA, from 1980 to 1982.

Prior to her career in politics, Sato was a teacher in Michigan and in Yokohama, Japan. In 1956, Sato moved to Long Beach, California and was later elected to city council in 1975. She served on the council through 1986. After her tenure as Mayor of Long Beach, in 1991 President George H. W. Bush appointed Sato to the U.S. National Advisory Council on Educational Research.

Sato passed away in her home in February 2021 at the age of 99.


Jean Quan

Jean Quan is the first woman mayor of Oakland, CA, serving in the position from 2011 to 2015. Quan is also the first female mayor of Oakland, CA.

Before becoming mayor, Quan was on the Oakland School Board for 12 years, first elected in 1990. While on the School Board, Quan organized a citywide parent organization called Save Our Schools which helped to save a music program in Oakland.

During the Clinton Administration, Quan was appointed to represent School Boards on the Title I Rules Making Committee. Quan also served as chair for multiple organizations, including: the California Urban Schools Association, the Asian Pacific Islanders School Board Members Association, and the Council of Urban Boards Association.


Lily Mei

Lily Mei is Fremont, California’s first woman, first Asian American and first person of color mayor in its 63-year history. Mei was sworn into office in 2016 and is currently running for State Senate.

Mei was first elected to city council in 2014. Currently, Mei serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission as Chair for the I-680 Sunol Express Lane Joint Powers Authority, and on Goods Movement Planning Committee as the Vice Chair.

Prior to serving as Mayor, Mei was elected twice as a School Board Trustee to the Fremont Unified School District, from January 2008 to December 2014.


Karen K. Goh

Karen G. Koh is the first Asian American and second woman mayor of Bakersfield, CA, serving since 2017.

Before her career in politics, Goh was a music instructor at Bakersfield Christian Life Schools. Goh then moved to New York City to work at the McGraw-Hill Companies, where she held several positions including Vice President of Publishing Operations.

After returning to Bakersfield, Goh served as President and CEO of Garden Pathways, a non-profit organization. In 2016, Goh won a runoff election and became the 26th mayor of Bakersfield, with 52.75% of the votes.

Goh was reelected for a second term in March 2020.


Farah Khan

Farah Khan is the first woman of color mayor of Irvine, CA elected in November 2020. Khan is also the first Muslim woman to lead a major city in the United States.

Khan worked in the biotech industry as a regulatory manager prior to her career in politics.

Some of Khan’s focus areas during her time as mayor include: innovation and technology, maintaining a healthy environment, combating climate change, and protecting the health and wellness of Irvine’s diverse communities.

When she was elected Khan received the highest number of votes for the position of mayor in the city’s history.


Michelle Wu

Michelle Wu is the first AAPI mayor to lead a major city on the East Coast, and she is also the first woman, woman of color, Asian American, and millennial mayor elected in Boston, MA. Wu has been Boston’s mayor since 2021.

Wu was the first Asian American woman and second Asian American to serve on the Boston City Council. First elected to the city council in 2013, Wu sat on the council from 2014 to 2021 and served as council president from 2016 to 2018.

In 2014, Wu made history on the council once again by becoming the first person to give birth while in the position.

In the 2021 election, Wu decided not to seek a fifth term on the City Council, and to instead run for mayor, going on to win64% of the vote.







Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter to keep track of all things gender and politics.

[gravityform id="2" title="false" description="false"]

Join the Conversation