“It’s the people that matter”

Kou Thao was just a seventh-grader when his family came to Tracy from California. He’s fully invested in the city and wants to help move it forward in 2018.

Kou Thao, who will soon officially become Tracy’s first Hmong councilman, is looking forward to being a part of positive change in Tracy.

By Per Peterson

Don’t mistake Kou Thao’s shyness for a disinterest in the community in which lives.

In fact, it’s that reserved nature that pushes him to become more involved, and he will soon be as involved as he’s ever been in Tracy.

Last week, Thao was chosen among a field of seven candidates to fill a one-year term on the Tracy City Council, created by the resignation of Bill Chukuske. His unanimous appointment will expire on Jan. 14, 2019.

“I’ve always been a shy person, but I always knew that I wanted to be more involved,” he said. “It’s like, no matter where you live, you want to just be more involved. We’ve been in Tracy for a while, so it would be nice to be more involved.”

But there are a number of ways a citizen can become more involved. To make the leap into public service as Thao is doing takes that desire to a new level. Not knowing what to expect actually intrigues him.

“That’s probably one of the exciting aspects of it,” he said. “Sometimes when you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into — it’s a scary, but good feeling because you don’t know what to expect. In the community, it’s the people that matter.”

Thao knows sitting on the council comes with certain risks and even potential pitfalls, such as opening himself up to public criticism — and nothing, it seems, these days is off limits when it comes to that. But again, he’s coming into his new venture expecting anything and everything, and with eyes wide open.

“Being in the open, you know you’re going to get criticized; that’s a welcome thing; in order to get better, that’s what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m not perfect, I don’t claim to know everything. This is going to be a learning venture, just like anything else.”

Thao will be sworn in on the council on Monday as the city’s first Hmong councilman. While he can’t predict how this new venture will play out, he did say he can see himself running for a full-time seat in the November election.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.