Q & A with the mayor

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Since taking office in 2014, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen has been the subject of numerous stories, from recaps of his State of the City addresses to his recent coming out. Beyond the headlines, however, Nguyen’s personal story is one that makes him stand out.

Nguyen was born in a Thailand refugee camp and came to the U.S. when he was 3 months old. He graduated from Pacifica High School in 1998 and attended the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science.

Since taking office in 2014, Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen has been the subject of numerous stories, from recaps of his State of the City addresses to his recent coming out. Beyond the headlines, however, Nguyen’s personal story is one that makes him stand out.

Nguyen was born in a Thailand refugee camp and came to the U.S. when he was 3 months old. He graduated from Pacifica High School in 1998 and attended the University of California, Irvine, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science.

While studying at UCI, Nguyen interned for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, under Executive Order 13125 in Rockville, Maryland. He continued his education at Naropa University in Colorado, where he received his master’s degree in Indo-Tibetan studies.

Nguyen’s goal is to strive to build a community that empowers all people. He’s served as a trustee on the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education, as a member of the Orange County Fair Board of Directors for California 32nd Agricultural Association, and as a commissioner of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.

Nguyen was ready to elaborate on his story in this Q & A.

Q: How is Garden Grove dealing with this historic drought?

Garden Grove has been work to conserve water for several years. There’s been a reduction in the city’s need to produce water.  In the 2009-10 fiscal year, total water production was 25,979 acre-foot, and in the 2014-15 fiscal year, total water production was 24,035 acre-foot. We’ve also taken several conservation measures, such as participating in the municipal water conservation rebate program and public information and outreach.

Q: Could you talk about The Great Wolf Lodge, Garden Grove’s new water park under construction?

The Great Wolf Lodge was approved for construction in 2010 when there was 30 percent more rainfall so we are contractually obligated to construct it. Great Wolf Resorts Inc.has a strong commitment to water conservation. They use 98 percent recycled water, the indoor park is 100 percent climate-controlled, and the amount of water it takes to run the park is less than an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Q: You recently came out as gay. How was this received by your co-workers and constituents?

The public response was overwhelmingly supportive and that just goes to show how acceptable it is. I’ve always felt myself, and I’ve always been me. Sexual orientation is a part of who I am and a part of each person. It’s important because there are kids and families struggling because they don’t see role models in the mainstream.

My co-workers have been very supportive, and I’m inspired by others who are openly gay in political leadership, such as Robert Garcia, the mayor of Long Beach.

Q: What advice do you have for LGBTQIA+ people who are not out yet? What can other people do to become LGBTQIA+ allies?

It’s important to support one another and listen to each other’s stories. Just because one person is LGBT, does not mean that everyone else who is LGBT is the same. We need to see how we struggle on a basic human level; struggle opens us up to the struggle of other people. Build those relationships and be true to who you are. When you’re true to yourself, you’ll exude genuine happiness in the way that people perceive you.

Q: As a former intern for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, you’ve worked to promote Asian-American representation and advocacy. As an Asian-American political leader, what are your views on the portrayal of Asians in the media?

In Orange County, we have the largest concentration of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam. However, it’s important to see that Asians have differences, and we are diverse in language and culture. What we haven’t seen is diverse portrayals of Asians in the media and an important dialogue about that needs to develop.

Q: What advice do you have for young people who want to get involved in their community?

There are so many ways that young people can get involved and are already involved. The most important is registering to vote and voting. Voting isn’t cool. That’s why I do it. If we don’t voice how we feel through the electoral process through voting, then we aren’t heard, and if we aren’t heard, there is no change. The young people’s political voices must be heard, and I want to hear what they have to say.

Q: Could you discuss your political aspirations? It’s rumored that you’re contemplating running for Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez’s position representing the 46th district.

I’m seriously considering running for congress. I’ve filed to open a political committee fund. I’ll see the support I have after fundraising and then I’ll make my determination.