Jean Quan


DOB: October 21, 1949

Birthplace: California, United States

Ethnicity: Chinese

Occupation: Mayor of Oakland

Residence: Oakland, CA

Dina’s Thoughts
Mayor Quan is the first female and the first Asian to ever be elected as Mayor of Oakland. With her appointment into office, Mayor Quan has broken numerous barriers for Asian Americans in politics. She has been a long time supporter of increased budgets for children’s education and in her short time in office, has already used her celebrity to create international recognition and business opportunities for Oakland.

Jean Quan is the first woman and the first Asian American to be elected Mayor of Oakland, California, one of the 50 largest cities in the country. A woman of many firsts, she was the first Asian American woman elected to the Oakland School Board and to the Oakland City Council. She is the first Asian American woman mayor of a major US City.

Her election as Mayor in a hotly contested race last November brought national and international media attention to Oakland, which is one of the most diverse cities in the country. The fifth largest port in the county, this city of 400,000 residents is equally apportioned among White, Black, Latino and Asian Americans. Asian Americans around the country—and Asians around the world—have expressed tremendous interest in Jean Quan as Oakland’s new Mayor.

Family Roots Led to Advocacy for Immigrants
Her family roots in Oakland date back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when her great-grandfather, grandfather and his two brothers took the ferry across the Bay and became part of a new Oakland Chinatown. Jean’s father died when she was five, and she was raised by a non-English-speaking mother. She received a scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where she helped found Asian American Studies and worked to recruit poor and minority students.

Early in her career, as a union organizer in New York City, she fought for housing, education rights and jobs in the construction industry. She co-founded the Chinatown Food Co-op and the New York-based Asian Americans for Equality.

A Legacy of Pubic Service
Since dipping a toe into Oakland politics in 1989—simply as a parent trying to save the schools’ music and arts programs—Jean has strived to make public institutions work for people. She served on the Oakland Board of Education for three terms, working with principals, parents, teachers and students to energize and improve public schools.
She ran for City Council to bring this community-based, grassroots approach to marshal Oakland’s resources—and to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Building Strong Regional, State and National Partnerships
Throughout her career, Jean has built strong partnerships to develop solutions that work for Oakland and other urban centers. As an Oakland School Board member, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Title 1 Committee, representing large urban schools. She is Chair-Emeritus of the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education and served on the Executive Committee of the Council of Great City Schools Executive Committee. As a National Kellogg Foundation Fellow, Jean traveled to cities throughout the United States and learned how cities partnered with their school districts to improve education.

She is the past chair of the Asian American Municipal Officials and currently a member of the US Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, Central City Caucus, Big 10 California Cities, Emerald Cities (green jobs/technology) and chair of the Local Government Commission focused on smart growth planning policy.

Jean Quan