Oakland mayor-elect Sheng Thao plans 'hiring blitz,' town halls in first 100 days

Oakland's mayor-elect Sheng Thao said Wednesday that in her first 100 days in office, she will focus on filling significant vacancies in the city's workforce and hosting town halls across all districts.

Thao, 37, whose campaign earned the support of Oakland's major labor unions, said she's going to begin a "hiring blitz" in the next three months, which begins Jan. 9. 

"We can't deliver services if we have 30 percent vacancies in all departments of the city," Thao said in an interview with KTVU.

Thao, who has been serving as Oakland city council president pro-tempore, said she's already started meeting with labor unions, several of which endorsed her campaign, and plans to create an exemption for civil service employees in order to get the many city vacancies filled. 

Adding more police officers is also part of her comprehensive plan to address public safety.

Thao has also vowed to host town halls in each district to meet directly with residents and understand their needs. 

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She said she wants Oaklanders to know she's part of the community, and prepared to roll up her sleeves to tackle difficult issues, including the city's growing unhoused population.

"The first thing we want to do in my administration is we open up public spaces, so that we can have dignified housing," said Thao, who was once homeless herself. 

As a young single mother in her early 20s, Thao escaped an abusive relationship and lived out of her car with her infant son. 

She rose out of poverty, worked and took classes at Merritt College, and eventually transferred and graduated from UC Berkeley. 

Her political career began as an intern for Rebecca Kaplan, now Oakland city council member at large. 

Thao rose through the ranks to become Kaplan's chief of staff before running for city council.

On the steps of city hall Wednesday, in her first news conference as mayor-elect, Thao said she wants to unite Oakland, boost tourism, and crack down on crime.

"We're going to work to make Oakland the most proactive city in California for housing and homelessness," Thao said. "Let's get to work."