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Margaret Abe-Koga Named Mayor of Mountain View; Ellen Kamei Is Vice Mayor

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Margaret Abe-Koga and Ellen Kamai (Photo by Frank Abe)

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Margaret Abe-Koga was named mayor by her fellow Mountain View City Council members on Jan. 8.

The council also appointed Ellen Kamei vice mayor.

“Thank you so much to family, friends, neighbors, supporters for joining us this evening,” Abe-Koga said on Facebook. “I am so honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as mayor of Mountain View once again. I didn’t expect to have a second chance, so it means that much more, and I’ll do my best to make good on the job!

“Congratulations to my dear friend/sista Ellen Kamei for being selected vice mayor! Maybe making history as the first Japanese American female mayor/vice mayor combo! Let’s rock 2020!”

Political observers say this may be the first time Japanese American women have served as mayor and vice mayor of a city outside of Hawaii.

The reception included a Japanese tradition, kagami-wari, in which a sake barrel is broken open to mark an auspicious location. Mountain View’s first Asian American mayor, Art Takahara, was on hand for the celebration.

Also serving on the council are Chris Clark, Alison Hicks, Lisa Matichak (immediate past mayor), John McAlister and Lucas Ramirez.

Most recently elected in 2016, Abe-Koga served as vice mayor in 2019 and her council term expires in January 2021. She is a member of the council’s Appointments Review, Neighborhoods, Sustainablity and Youth Services committees.

She previously served two terms on the council from 2007-2015, as vice mayor in 2008, and as mayor in 2009, making her the first Asian Pacific American female to serve in those capacities in Mountain View’s history.

Prior to her election to the City Council, Abe-Koga served on the city’s Human Relations Commission from 2000-2004 and the Environmental Planning Commission from 2004-2006.

She was the Area 1 trustee on the Santa Clara County Board of Education from 2000-2004 and served as board vice president in 2004.

Abe-Koga was also district director for Assemblymember Evan Low of the 28th District in 2015 and an aide to U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo from 1993-1999.

In the private and nonprofit sectors, Abe-Koga has served as government affairs manager for Synopsys Corporation, as foundation and corporate relations manager for Asian Americans for Community Involvement, and as associate director of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute at De Anza College. She also owned and operated a small business.

Born at Stanford Hospital and raised in San Mateo by immigrant parents from Japan, she attended local public schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. She is a graduate of the Working Partnerships Leadership Institute and Leadership Mountain View and was a senior fellow of American Leadership Forum Class XXII.

She moved with her husband, Yotto Koga, in 1998 to Mountain View, were they able to purchase their first home. They took care of her parents during their latter decades, and are raising two daughters who have attended public schools in Mountain View.

Kamei, whose council term expires in January 2023, was elected in 2018 and is a member of the council’s Appointments Review, Transportation, and Youth Services committees.

Her self-introduction: “Born and raised in Silicon Valley, I am the daughter of a first-generation Chinese and Puerto Rican American mother from New York City and a third-generation Japanese American father born at Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. [Mother Rosemary Kamei is a board member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education.] I am multiracial and multilingual, learning to speak Spanish, Japanese, and Mandarin.

“I lived a humble life growing up on my family’s ten-acre flower-growing nursery. The nursery was first located in Mountain View and later moved to Morgan Hill, the two cities where I grew up. My grandparents lived in Mountain View, and along with my younger brother, I would spend many days with them at their home in Waverly Park, planting the seeds for my roots in the city. These childhood experiences brought me back to Mountain View when my grandparents fell ill. They have both since passed away, but I have been fortunate to be able to stay.

“Inspired by community service since youth, I began volunteering in elementary school and haven’t stopped since. I hold the steadfast values of participation and assistance, especially to those in need within the community. Driven to service, my career has taken me from Japan to the East Coast and back home to Mountain View. My professional experience spans city, county, state, and federal government. I have helped work on national issues to public safety within Mountain View. I currently serve as district director for a member of the California State Assembly [Marc Berman].

“In addition to my professional experience, I am a graduate of Leadership Mountain View, and serve on the Leadership Mountain View Advisory Council. I am a member of the Mountain View Public Safety Foundation Board, volunteer of the Mountain View Firefighters Random Acts nonprofit assisting in the Annual Fire Drill 5K/10K Race and Pancake Breakfast. I assisted the Mountain View Historical Association, of which I am a member, with their Spring Panel on ‘Japanese in Mountain View’ to celebrate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and to reflect on the 75th anniversary of Japanese internment in 2017.

“For nearly six years, I was a member of the City of Mountain View’s Environmental Planning Commission, serving as vice chair in 2014 and chair in 2015.

“Our middle class is shrinking and our diverse community is changing. I ran to make sure opportunities continue for our next generation as well as our family-oriented community. I sought to pair my leadership, experience, and skills with the passion of the voices of the community to ensure that Mountain View continues to stand in support of all its residents, and that it is a welcoming and safe community.

“I live near the Moffett Boulevard/North Whisman neighborhood with my fiancé, Chris, and dog, Nori.”

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, Karyl Matsumoto is mayor of South San Francisco for the fifth time, having served in that capacity in 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2014. First elected to the City Council in 1997, she was re-elected in 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015. Her current term expires in November 2020.

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