- About the YEO Network
- Front Line Leaders Academy
- Strategic Partnerships
Mayor Evan Low,
"Why I became an elected official"
As a child, I volunteered with the local Kiwanis Club and I worked with a local education foundation, under the instruction of my father, a local business owner and member of the local Chamber of Commerce. In our small city of Campbell, Calif., it was through volunteerism where my career in public service began.
The City of Campbell is one of the youngest cities in our county, with an average age of 35 years. No Asian Americans or people of color had ever been elected in the city’s history. In 2004, I first ran for office at the age of 21 and lost by about one percent.
When I ran again at 23 years of age, people realized I was vested in the community. I came to realize people simply have a fear of the unknown. This was something new to them, not just because of my age, but because they hadn’t seen an Asian American run before.
There were several challenges to my candidacy. With my youth, people questioned my abilities. Because of my ethnicity, I was seen as the “perpetual foreigner,” receiving hate mail from people who stated they “want American interests, not Chinese interests.” Running as an openly gay candidate, some questioned my “homosexual agenda,” which I never understood. But there was no doubt that my biggest challenge was my age.
Even recently, when news broke that I was elected as mayor, people questioned if I had enough experience. But my community’s sentiment is excitement; my colleagues would not have voted for me if they did not believe I was up for the challenge.
The strategy was working with great people, looking to the community to meet their needs, and having a network of support. I looked at other communities with younger mayors to see how they overcame their challenges. I went to other LGBT and Asian elected officials to ask how they handled it; but I didn’t have that young elected to ask how they overcame barriers.
I imagine if I would have had a program like the Front Line Leaders Academy to help me, it could have changed the one percent on my first race. This is one of the benefits of the YEO Network – to collaborate and share with others who understand the challenges I face as a young elected official. The importance of the similar stories we all share about our age cannot be emphasized enough.