Sheng Thao
Thao smiling
Thao in 2022
51st Mayor of Oakland
Assumed office
January 9, 2023
Preceded byLibby Schaaf
President pro tempore of the Oakland City Council
In office
January 4, 2021 – January 9, 2023
Preceded byDan Kalb
Succeeded byDan Kalb
Member of the Oakland City Council
from 4th district
In office
January 2019 – January 9, 2023
Preceded byAnnie Campbell Washington
Succeeded byJanani Ramachandran
Personal details
Born (1985-07-18) July 18, 1985 (age 38)
Stockton, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationMerritt College (AA)
University of California, Berkeley (BA)

Sheng Thao (born July 18, 1985) is an American politician and the 51st mayor of Oakland, California. She is the first Hmong American mayor of a major city in the United States.[1][2]

Early life and education

Thao was born on July 18, 1985[3] and raised in Stockton, California.[1][4] Her parents were refugees from Laos who escaped Hmong genocide and eventually immigrated to the United States.[1] Thao was the seventh of ten children and grew up in poverty, spending some of her childhood in public housing.[5]

At age 17, Thao moved out of her home and began working at a Walgreens store in Richmond.[6] After moving to Oakland in her 20s, she became a victim of domestic violence while in an abusive relationship.[7][8] Thao left the relationship when she was six months pregnant, and then lived in her car and couch-surfed before and after her son was born.[7][5][1] When her son was ten months old, Thao began attending Merritt College in Oakland while raising her son as a single mother and working as a research assistant.[6][4]

After she completed an associate's degree in legal studies at Merritt College, Thao transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor's degree in legal studies and a minor in city planning.[8][9][6] While at UC Berkeley, Thao helped create the Bear Pantry, a program which provided food to food-insecure students.[9]

Early career

Following her graduation from UC Berkeley in 2012, Thao worked for At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan as a paid intern.[6][8] Thao later worked for Kaplan at the Oakland City Council, becoming her chief of staff in 2017.[6][1]

Oakland City Council

Portrait of Thao during her tenure on the Oakland City Council

Thao decided to run for office in 2018, when the election for the district 4 City Council seat was an open race, lacking an incumbent. Thao ran on the priorities of tackling Oakland's housing crisis, improving public safety with better response systems and community policing, and building public infrastructure such as libraries and parks.[10] Thao defeated six other candidates and won with 54% of the vote after seven rounds of tabulation. For each of the rounds, she had the most votes of any candidate.[11]

Thao began her term as a member of the Oakland City Council in January 2019.[12] Thao served in the Oakland City Council's 4th district seat, representing the neighborhoods of Montclair, Laurel, Melrose, Redwood Heights, and the Dimond District.[13] She was the first Hmong woman to be elected as a member of a city council in the state of California and the first Hmong person elected to the Oakland City Council.[2][14] On the city council, Thao served as president pro tempore.[8]

During her tenure on the city council, Thao led efforts to expand the number of police academies from four to five, and co-authored ordinances approved by the council to address housing insecurity by expanding access for code-compliant RVs and mobile homes in the city.[15][16]

Mayoral campaign

See also: 2022 Oakland mayoral election

On November 10, 2021, Thao announced her candidacy for Oakland mayor and the endorsements of council president Nikki Fortunato Bas, vice mayor Rebecca Kaplan, and Attorney General Rob Bonta.[17][18] Her campaign also received support from labor unions, the Alameda County Democratic Party, and Ro Khanna, the U.S. representative for the 17th congressional district of California.[1][19][20]

During the campaign, Thao related her own experiences, including childhood poverty, surviving domestic violence as a young adult, and being a renter, to her campaign for increasing funding for the Department of Violence Prevention in Oakland, increasing access to affordable housing and reducing homelessness.[21][22]

Loren Taylor, one of her opponents, was endorsed by Libby Schaaf, the incumbent mayor of Oakland, as well as London Breed and Sam Liccardo, the mayors of nearby San Francisco and San Jose.[23] By the end of the campaign, Thao and Taylor were considered to be the two front-runners.[24]

In June 2022, a former staffer filed an informal verbal complaint with the Public Ethics Commission that alleged Thao had Oakland City Council staff work on her campaign in a possible violation of state election laws, and the staffer was fired after refusing to work on Thao's campaign.[25][26] Thao denied the allegations and the ethics commission opened an investigation in June 2022.[25] After the matter was reported by a political blogger that supported one of Thao's competitors in October 2022, the allegations gained media attention.[26][25]

On November 18, 2022, Thao won the election by 677 votes through a rank-choice voting system.[1] On November 22, 2022, the margin of victory increased to 682 votes, and her opponent Councilmember Loren Taylor conceded.[27][21] A recount was formally requested, but the required funding was not raised for the costs.[28] Thao stated she supported the recount.[29]


Thao took office on January 9, 2023.[30] As mayor-elect, her proposals included the development of 30,000 units of new housing over eight years, rent control and other protections for tenants, improving safety and sanitation for unhoused residents, hiring more police officers, and increasing spending for education and violence prevention programs.[1][31][32]

After a law firm hired during the previous year by the City of Oakland released an investigative report on January 18, 2023, alleging misconduct in the Oakland police department, Thao placed Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong on administrative leave on January 19.[33][34] During a press conference on January 21, Thao said "it's important that we look at taking the corrective action that is needed to make sure that we stay on track to make sure that we get out of the federal oversight," referring to the oversight the police department had been subject to for the past twenty years.[33] Thao fired Armstrong on February 15, 2023,[34] and indicated she had lost confidence in his ability to reform the police department.[35]

For several months, Thao's administration continued negotiations with the owners of the Oakland Athletics for the team to stay in Oakland, which had begun during the administration of Thao's predecessor, Libby Schaaf.[36][37] In April 2023, the team president announced an agreement to buy land for a stadium in Las Vegas.[36][37] On April 20, Thao indicated she was open to continuing negotiations despite the announcement by the team.[37] In July 2023, Thao and other Oakland officials met with MLB Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem to discuss the proposal for the A's to stay in Oakland.[38]

In May 2023, Thao proposed a two-year $4.2 billion budget with city department mergers and hiring freezes proposed to help account for a $360 million budget deficit.[39][40] A $4.2 billion budget was passed by the city council in June 2023 to address the deficit with some department mergers, hiring freezes to prevent layoffs, and spending cuts.[41][42]

In September 2023, Thao announced $2.5 million in more funding for the 911 response system.[43][44] In her State of the City address on October 17, 2023, Thao discussed crime and public safety, including efforts to improve the 911 system, obtain new California Highway Patrol officers, as well as a grant application deadline that was missed by her administration for funding to increase efforts to counteract retail theft.[45]

Personal life

Thao has lived in Oakland during her entire adulthood.[8] She lives with her partner, Andre, and their two children. When she served on the Oakland City Council, she was one of three council members who rented their home.[46] She is the first renter to be elected as Oakland's mayor.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Singh, Maanvi (November 24, 2022). "From homeless to city hall: the Hmong American mayor making history in Oakland". The Guardian. Retrieved November 25, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Sheng Thao vies to be the 1st Hmong Am woman to lead a big city – AsAmNews". November 10, 2021. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  3. ^ Rosenthal, Ken (July 12, 2023). "'Keep the Oakland A's in Oakland' — Q&A with mayor Sheng Thao on fighting for the team". The Athletic. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  4. ^ a b Qin, Amy (December 28, 2022). "Oakland's Next Mayor Highlights Political Rise of Hmong Americans". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Lee, Amber (November 10, 2021). "Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao Announces Candidacy For Mayor". KTVU. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Sheng Thao Breaks Through". The City of Oakland. March 15, 2019. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Ravani, Sarah (November 10, 2021). "Second Oakland City Council member jumps into mayor's race". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 25, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e Baker, Alex (November 3, 2022). "Oakland mayoral candidate: Sheng Thao". KRON4. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "District 4 Councilmember Sheng Thao". City of Oakland. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  10. ^ "Tuesday November 6, 2018 — California General Election". Voter's Edge. November 6, 2018. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  11. ^ "Sheng Thao". Ballotpedia. November 6, 2018. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  12. ^ Veklerov, Kimberly (January 8, 2019). "New Oakland City Council takes charge". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  13. ^ "City of Oakland, CA - Council District Locator". Map Oakland. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  14. ^ "Sheng Thao of Oakland first elected Hmong American city councilwoman in California". KTVU. January 7, 2019. Retrieved November 20, 2022 – via
  15. ^ Sciacca, Annie (November 11, 2021). "Another Oakland council member launches bid for mayor's race". East Bay Times. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  16. ^ Ravani, Sarah (September 8, 2021). "One Oakland council member voted against adding more police academies. She's now backing them". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  17. ^ Laird, Cynthia (November 10, 2021). "Oakland councilwoman Thao jumps into mayor's race". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  18. ^ Lee, Amber (November 10, 2021). "Oakland city councilmember Sheng Thao announces candidacy for mayor". KTVU FOX 2. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  19. ^ Mukherjee, Shimok (November 19, 2022). "Sheng Thao is Oakland's next mayor, latest tally shows". East Bay Times. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  20. ^ Ravani, Sarah (November 22, 2022). "Sheng Thao is Oakland's next mayor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  21. ^ a b Breslau, Karen (November 22, 2022). "Oakland Elects First Hmong-American Mayor of a Major US City". Bloomberg News. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  22. ^ Oaklandside, The (October 11, 2022). "Oakland mayor's race: an interview with candidate Sheng Thao". The Oaklandside. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  23. ^ Rasmus, Allie (November 9, 2022). "2 frontrunners emerge in Oakland mayoral race". KTVU. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  24. ^ Lin, Da (November 19, 2022). "Sheng Thao leads Loren Taylor in latest vote count for Oakland mayor". CBS News. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  25. ^ a b c Ravani, Sarah (October 29, 2022). "Former staffer files ethics complaint against Oakland City Council member running for mayor". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  26. ^ a b BondGraham, Darwin (November 3, 2022). "City's investigation of alleged misconduct by Sheng Thao started in June—not October". The Oaklandside. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  27. ^ Taylor Jr., Otis R.; Green, Matthew (November 22, 2022). "'Let's Get to Work': Sheng Thao Outlines Plans as Oakland's Next Mayor, After Loren Taylor Concedes". KQED. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  28. ^ Mukherjee, Shomik (December 17, 2022). "No recount: Chaotic race to be Oakland's next mayor is officially over". The Mercury News. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  29. ^ Marzorati, Guy (December 17, 2022). "Oakland Mayoral Recount 'Forfeited' After Supporters Fall Short of Covering Cost". KQED. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  30. ^ Jones, Velena (January 9, 2023). "Sheng Thao Sworn in as New Oakland Mayor". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  31. ^ Lin, Da (January 8, 2023). "In revealing interview, Oakland's new mayor discusses her top priorities - CBS San Francisco". CBS News Bay Area. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  32. ^ Fernandes, Deepa; Locke, Ashley (December 15, 2022). "Hmong culture inspires the values of the next mayor of Oakland, California". WBUR-FM. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  33. ^ a b Lin, Da (January 21, 2023). "Oakland mayor says police chief's leave is not punitive". CBS News Bay Area. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  34. ^ a b "Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao defends firing police chief; Armstrong files appeal". CBS News Bay Area. February 23, 2023. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  35. ^ Halpert, Madeline (February 16, 2023). "Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong fired over response to misconduct". BBC News. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  36. ^ a b Janes, Chelsea (April 20, 2023). "A's buy land in Las Vegas as they plan a move out of Oakland". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  37. ^ a b c Swan, Rachel; Ravani, Sarah (April 20, 2023). "'Not good partners': Oakland officials shocked by A's decision to pursue ballpark in Las Vegas". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  38. ^ Pratt, Casey (July 12, 2023). "Oakland mayor takes big swing to keep A's, meets with MLB commissioner in Seattle". KGO-TV.
  39. ^ Sumida, Nami; Ravani, Sarah (May 2, 2023). "Charts show how Oakland mayor plans to spend $2 billion budget". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
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  41. ^ Mukherjee, Shomik (June 27, 2023). "No layoffs, but cuts to violence prevention in Oakland's new $4.2 billion budget". The Mercury News. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  42. ^ Wolfe, Eli (June 27, 2023). "In one of its first big fights, Oakland's City Council narrowly balances $4.2 billion budget". The Oaklandside. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  43. ^ Nguyen, Candice; Carroll, Jeremy (September 11, 2023). "Oakland mayor announces $2.5M investment into city's 911 system". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  44. ^ Johnson, Sydney (September 20, 2023). "Oakland Passes Broad Public Safety Resolution Amid Rising Crime Concerns". KQED. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  45. ^ Mukherjee, Shomik (October 18, 2023). "'The buck stops with me': Oakland mayor acknowledges struggles, crime problem in State of the City address". The Mercury News. Retrieved December 10, 2023.
  46. ^ "Meet Councilmember Sheng Thao". Sheng for Oakland. November 10, 2021. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
Political offices Preceded byLibby Schaaf Mayor of Oakland 2023–present Incumbent