Orange County, California’s Little Saigon is the oldest and largest Vietnamese-American community in the United States.
Westminster, and the adjacent city of Garden Grove, is home to a large concentration of Vietnamese-Americans. And in Westminster, Tri Ta is serving as its first elected Vietnamese-American mayor.
Ta says he is committed to everyone in his community. He says that economic growth and public safety are priorities for him as mayor of Westminster.
“I work with the Westminster Chamber of Commerce to help businesses thrive and with our law enforcement agencies to help keep the city as well as the schools safe,” he says. “Just last year as the city celebrated its 60th anniversary, I was able to hire more police officers to help our community.”
Mayor Ta’s says he is also working to improve life in Westminster for seniors and the homeless.
“We have a good senior center which provides outstanding services for seniors. Meals on wheels, health clinics, social services as well as activities,” he says. We have a professional staff. We have many volunteers in the community that dedicate their time and effort to provide more services.”
Ta says he is a follower of philosophers like Plato and Socrates.
“Philosophy really guides me to do the right thing. Philosophy helps me to understand about life, understand about human society, about human behavior,” he said. And like Plato, he said: “I believe a good citizen must be a good man.”
Tri Ta was born in Saigon, Vietnam and came to the United States when he was 19 years old.
"My family and I, we came to the U.S. in 1992 as political refugees," he said. "Freedom is really important to us. If you read history about the Vietnam War, millions of Vietnamese, they lost their lives seeking freedom. I understand the meaning of freedom because until now, after 42 years, Vietnam does not have freedom."
Ta says he picked up English quickly after coming to the U.S. while studying computer science at Cal State Los Angeles. He remembers his political science professor calling him into his office one day.
“He told me ‘You should go with political science.’ And I thought, ‘Why don’t I do that?'”
Tri Ta received a B.A. in Political Science and also completed the requirements for an M.A. in International Relations. Tri says he appreciates the opportunities given to him by the political process and democracy in the United States. In 1998, Ta began working as a legislative representative. Ta says that position gave him his first glimpse of a working in a political operation. He also gained hands-on experience in helping people from many different backgrounds and with various issues.
His interests, however, go beyond work and politics. Tri Ta is married and has two young daughters. He and his wife Anh Doan have co-written two poetry books and one of short stories.
Ta says he is honored to be the first Vietnamese American elected mayor, but plans to be a leader for the entire community, not only its minority population. Above all, he says, he will be “a good public servant.”