Oakland mayor-elect Sheng Thao determined to bring hope, change and services

One day after declaring victory in the race for Oakland mayor, Sheng Thao said she's ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work on issues that many Oaklanders want addressed.

She invited a KTVU crew into her home.  In a one-on-one interview, she spoke about her plans to bring hope, services, and change to Oakland.

She said she's excited and optimistic about moving the city forward. She has plans to meet with all the city's department heads and hold town hall meetings with Oaklanders.

"We were really struggling. We struggled for many, many years," the mayor-elect held a photo of herself with her son as she spoke about her struggles as a homeless single mom 15 years ago.

She said her life experiences prepared her uniquely to lead a city that is grappling with homelessness and crime.

When asked how she planned to solve these complex problems when others before her couldn't, she replied, 

"I'm very pragmatic and I work with everyone.  The unique skill set I have is I bring people together," said Thao.  

She wanted to use an old army base owned by the city to put up temporary housing in a centralized location to shelter and provide services to the homeless.

"With the pallet shelters that have electricity, what have you.  Having safe RV sites so our unhoused community is actually not haphazardly all around the whole city," said Thao.  

The 37-year-old said she will go on what she describes as a hiring blitz to fill empty city positions, fund the police department to hire more officers and not rely on overtime.

She said at the same time, funds should also go to crime and violence prevention.

"A lot of hope has been lost in the city of Oakland. Investing directly into community organizations and being intentional about creating community spaces," Thao said livening spaces such as Frank Ogawa Plaza with activities and events to bring people together will help make the area safer.  

"It's very important to keep the A's in Oakland," said Thao, but she also wanted to make it clear that she does not want Oaklanders to be responsible for any debt the A's may incur in building a new stadium at Howard Terminal. 

"There is a pathway forward to a fair and negotiated proposal, and I'm optimistic about keeping the A's here," said Thao.

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She said she never imagined that life's challenges would lead her to becoming mayor of a major city.

She is one of 10 children born to refugee parents. She says escaping from domestic violence while pregnant and coping with homelessness are struggles that she has turned into strengths.

"What I bring to this is grit and my determination, that Oaklanders, all Oaklanders especially those families that are on the margins that they're seen, that they're heard," said Thao.

She will be inaugurated as mayor of Oakland Jan. 9. 

Thao will be first Hmong American woman to hold that office.  

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU