Fairfax City voters elected two Korean Americans to their city council Tuesday night, a sign of expanding political influence among one of the Washington region’s fastest-growing ethnic groups.
So Lim, a local insurance company owner, and Sang Yi, a staff director for a congressional subcommittee, won two vacant seats on the council, which has never before included an Asian American representative.
Voters reelected Mayor David Meyer, and incumbent council members Janice Miller, Jon Stehle Jr., Jennifer Passey and Michael DeMarco, according to unofficial results posted by the Virginia Department of Elections.
Meyer said the victories for Lim and Yi — both born in South Korea — reflect the fact that Asian Americans are becoming more civically engaged in Fairfax City, which has nearly 25,000 residents, about 20 percent of them of Asian descent, according to Census estimates.
“This is a natural consequence,” Meyer said. “As the city matures, it will have more inclusive representation on the council.”
Elsewhere in Northern Virginia, local elections had few surprises in races that were largely driven by concerns over traffic, local zoning issues and new infrastructure. Several Maryland towns had elections as well.
In Purcellville, incumbent Mayor Kwasi Fraser sailed to victory with 56 percent of the vote, while incumbent councilman Ted Greeley also easily won. Murrell “Tip” Stinnette, chair of the local planning commission, and Joel Grewe, director of a local nonprofit targeting Christian youth, captured the council’s two open seats. Former councilwoman Karen Jimmerson recently resigned and moved out of town and councilman Doug McCollum did not seek reelection.
In Dumfries, councilman Derrick Wood won the mayoral election over Cliff Brewer, another councilman. Monae Nickerson, Selonia Miles and Cydny Neville won the three open council seats.
In Maryland, Chevy Chase councilman Barney Rush was the top vote-getter for the town’s three council seats, making him likely to succeed outgoing Mayor Mary Flynn, who did not seek reelection. Kirk Renaud and Wicca Davidson also won council seats, according to unofficial results. Fred Cecere, who was elected to the council in 2015 through a stealth write-in campaign, was on the ballot this year but did not win.
In Virginia, the growing Asian community has long struggled to find political muscle. There are no Asian Americans on the Board of Supervisors in Fairfax County, home to about 219,000 Asian Americans, though Korean-born Ilryong Moon sits on the county school board.
State Del. Mark Keam (D-Fairfax) and Grace Wolf Cunningham, a councilwoman in Herndon, are also Korean American. Freshman Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) is Vietnamese American.
Yi said his and Lim’s presence on the six-member Fairfax City board should not be construed as any sort of voting bloc. He noted that while he served as a lieutenant commander in U.S. Naval Reserve, Lim owns a business.
“She and I have extremely different backgrounds,” Yi said, “We have a lot of different views on things.”
Lim, a former president of the Korean American Association in Washington, said she intends to work to keep Fairfax City’s small-town charm intact and to highlight the area’s increasing diversity through cultural events.
“Being a first-generation Korean American, to step up and run for office represents to the community that we can do this,” Lim said. “To be embraced by the mainstream community represents something great.”