PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In 2023, Tigard welcomed its most diverse city council and its first female mayor in the city’s history. The broad representation means a great deal to the elected officials and they hope their community members feel the same.
“I believe that our government at all levels should truly reflect the people it serves, because that’s the only way we can truly understand the diverse needs and viewpoints of our community members,” said City Council President Yi-Kang Hu, who was sworn into office at the start of the year.
The city of Tigard was founded in 1961, when it had a population of 1,749. In the 62 years since then, the population has swelled to more than 53,000 residents.
Yet throughout those decades and all the city’s growth, a female mayor was never elected. That changed in November 2022 when Heidi Lueb was elected to the position. She took office in January.
Lueb had been a member of the city council since 2019. She focused heavily on balancing fiscal responsibility and ensuring community service needs were met.
Although she’d served in city government for a few years, Lueb said stepping into the position as Tigard’s first female mayor isn’t an honor she takes lightly.
“It’s a really hard path to get there, to be the first to do it, and it’s incredible that I’m the one doing it,” Lueb said. “I never really had a plan to be mayor or desire and just being open to opportunities and seeing a space where I can do good… called me to step up and really take a chance and run for this role.”
Since she was elected, Lueb said she’s already heard from parents in the community that their young daughters feel inspired seeing a woman leading the city. Lueb said she’s grateful to be an example to her own daughter, to show her she can truly accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
Aishiki Nag is the city’s youth councilor. She’s a teenager who attends Tigard High School, but has an advisory voting position on the council, which allows her to share her opinion and represent the opinions of young people in the Tigard community.
She said Lueb’s election to the mayor’s position is inspiring her and she felt moved to tears during mayor Lueb’s acceptance speech. The magnitude of the moment wasn’t lost on her. She knows what it’s like to be a young woman interested in politics and to not see as many female role models as there are males in the field.
“As a child, there were a lot of moments where I really doubted myself and had that imposter syndrome… But seeing people just try for these positions, it’s really inspiring. And I do agree, Mayor Lueb is going to inspire so many young girls,” Nag said.
It’s not just the mayor who’s hoping to inspire. The entire city council is the most diverse it’s been in city history.
The councilors are excited to be a part of the group and hope their diversity makes more community members feel comfortable coming forward and speaking to them – or even running for open council positions in the future.
Hu said like Nag, he wondered if someone like him could run for office and win. He’s an immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ+ community and he said that caused him a lot of self-doubt.
“But by being elected, that really broke down a lot of barriers or internal doubt in my mind, and for the first time I don’t feel like a complete outsider,” he said.
No matter how people identify or what their political beliefs are, he said he hopes they feel comfortable coming to him with their concerns about the city.
Councilor Maurene Wolf is another newly-elected member of the council and said it’s exciting to be a part of a community that values diversity.
“I am grateful for the prior council for their deep commitment to the city and setting the direction and culture as one of inclusion. While I am just getting to know council members, I believe we are all committed to listening and acting with all voices in mind and will bring our own experiences to the table,” she said.
The third new city council member, Jai Raj Singh, agrees with Wolf and said it’s an honor to take part in this historic moment.
“It means that Tigard is ready for deep systemic changes and I am ready to step up and serve our community to the best of my abilities,” he said.
When it comes to changes, the councilors already have their sights set on things they’d like to tackle in 2023. While they haven’t officially set their goals yet, some of their top priorities include housing, homelessness and improving Hall Boulevard.
Nag and other councilors are also interested in exploring more things Tigard can do to reduce its impact on climate change and the mayor said she’d like to take a look at improving city-owned facilities.
The councilors said Tigard is growing and thriving and the number of people employed in the city has been increasing. They’d like to continue supporting this growth and making the city a welcoming place for newcomers.