John Tran, 31, became Rosemead’s first Vietnamese-Chinese American mayor on Mar. 27. Like many cities statewide, Rosemead rotates the city council members into the mayor’s position.
“I’m very humbled and excited at the prospect of transforming the city,” said Tran, who has pledged to improve the city’s economic growth. “I want to make sure that we’re inclusive of the community when making decisions.”
Born in 1975 in Saigon, Tran and his family left the communist-controlled Vietnam in 1979 for Oklahoma, thanks to an American family who sponsored them. They later moved to Arizona and finally to Rosemead, where Tran has been living since he was 10.
At age 18, Tran had his first child and decided to pass up college and enter the real estate industry to support his family.
As a member of the West San Gabriel Valley Board of Realtors, Tran decided to run for a board position out of curiosity and concern over his membership dues.
“I also wanted to give the board a fresh perspective and voice to the younger realtors,” said Tran, who served as the board’s director in 1997.
Two years later, Tran decided to run for a Garvey School District Board of Education seat, at the suggestion of his friend John Nunez, now Rosemead’s mayor pro tem.
“John told me that when you have a good school district, the real estate value goes up,” said Tran. “Also my son was in kindergarten at the time, and I wanted to improve the school district and modernize schools.”
Tran, at 23, become the youngest member ever elected to the school board in 1999. During his six-year tenure, two schools were recognized as California Distinguished Schools and two gymnasiums were placed on two school campuses. Grateful for his passion in the building of the gyms, Garvey Intermediate School, Tran’s alma mater, named their new pavilion after him.
Tran decided to run for a city council position in 2005 because he felt there was a disconnect between the city and school district, and he wanted to create a bridge between the two. When he won, he became the first Asian American ever elected to in Rosemead.
“My parents were very hesitant at first with my decision to run for city council,” recalls Tran. ‘Like any Asian family, they’re a little private and shy. They told me, ‘People are going to talk about you and nitpick on everything you do.’ I told them I have nothing to hide and I’m looking forward to serving the community. My enthusiasm is what caused them to then embrace it.”
After Tran’s mayoral term expires next year, he will continue to serve on the city council until 2009.