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From Parent Volunteer to Mayor: My Journey of Civic Engagement in San Mateo

7 Sep 2023 9:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

I am proud to call San Mateo my home, I have lived and worked all over the world but this is where I found my true sense of belonging. My journey into civic involvement accelerated when I became a parent, and led me to the incredible privilege of serving as Mayor of this wonderful City. As a San Mateo mom, I want to share my story of the transformative power that all of us parents have in shaping our community.

I grew up on welfare and in public housing, working two jobs in high school. My life was transformed by good policies and opportunities that allowed me to succeed. This personal experience has driven my commitment to champion San Mateo's values of inclusivity, prosperity, and resilience. I believe in a future where everyone has the chance to be lifted by our community. 

I turned to the playgroups, forums and events to navigate those early years of parenthood and get my bearings! The San Mateo Parents' Club provided a platform for me to connect with other parents and start making a difference in our City. In 2019, I was appointed to the San Mateo City Council and then elected by over 24,000 voters, in the largest election in our City's history. In 2022, I was confirmed as the Mayor of San Mateo, a historic moment as I became the first Asian American woman and Jew of Color to hold this office. It was a proud moment for diversity and inclusion in our City's leadership. 

Leading the City through the pandemic as a single mom was not easy. When we went into lockdown, I saw our fragile childcare system nearly collapse as enrollment rates and attendance plummeted. Childcare is essential to working families and our County is already strained by the cost and shortage of childcare spaces. I assembled and led a coalition of women leaders, nonprofit and public agencies to launch the San Mateo County COVID-19 Child Care Grant Program, which distributed $5.5M to over 300 child care providers to help child care providers keep their doors open for working families. I’m grateful for these chances to bring my lived experience as a parent into my leadership to better serve families and help us recover from the pandemic. 

Now our public safety requires climate resilience. My first act as Mayor was to declare a state of emergency. Last Winter, we estimate 10,000 homes and businesses in San Mateo flooded. Our aged infrastructure is inadequate to protect the community from future flooding events and we need dedicated resources to fortify ourselves from the risks of climate change. 

Residents and civic leaders united to create Flood Free San Mateo to support bold action to address flooding risk in our hometown. The Coalition is leading a ballot initiative that will create locally controlled and sustained funding to safeguard our homes, businesses, and public spaces from flooding. 

Unanimously endorsed by the City Council and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Congressman Mullin, Senator Becker, San Mateo County Labor Council, San Mateo Police Officers' Association, San Mateo Consolidated Firefighters Association, San Mateo County Housing Leadership Council, small businesses, and neighborhood and faith leaders — all are encouraged to stay informed about the upcoming ballot initiative this Fall.

I encourage everyone to learn how San Mateo's stormwater management protects the well-being of our families, the vibrancy of our local economy, and the sustainability of our environment. Visit the Flood Free San Mateo website at:

Together, we can tackle the generational challenges of our time. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve your families and build bridges that bring us together and forward. Thanks to the San Mateo Parents’ Club for being part of this incredible journey! 

Want to learn more? Listen to Mayor Lee’s Interview with award winning radio host, Dr. Robert Franklin on NV-1. 

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