Written by The Business Journal Staff
Blong Xiong, Principal Consultant
What we do: Provide consultation in the areas of nonprofit, government relations and community building.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business, MBA
Family: Married to Maila Yang, who has been a teacher at Tarpey Elementary for 20 years. No children, and have a pet dog named Max.
How and why did you first get involved in politics, Blong?
I just thought that politics was a transition to public services. I’ve been involved in community services almost all my life, and believe this is what politics is about, serving the community. Although I initially hesitated to get involved in politics, now having served for 8 years (on the Fresno City Council), I think it was one of the best experiences of my life.
What are your thoughts on the current city council and mayoral races? Are you supporting any candidates, Blong?
Having been in their shoes, I have a tremendous amount of respect for candidates and those that are serving our community. I think the Fresno City Council District 6 will be a very interesting race, but I think our Mayor’s race will draw the most attention, and probably be the most exciting local race for us. I also believe that the Fresno County Board of Supervisor races will be extremely important as well, especially when there will be two changes on the board.
Do you miss the public spotlight — and would you ever consider another run for public office, Blong?
You do miss it a little, but it does come with its own drawbacks as well. When in office, people are always paying attention to what you do, and that can be unfair at times. But that is part of the public life. I am currently enjoying being on the private side and getting back to doing some community advocacy. The opportunity would have to be right for me to consider public office again.
What are the most important issues facing the Central Valley Hmong community today, Blong?
Like any new immigrants that come to the U.S., the challenges are pretty similar. Making sure that our community has access to equity in the areas of education and jobs, making sure that our community is civically engaged, and building a strong foundation for our community’s growth. That means that we have to participate in the community that we live in. Education equity means that our Hmong students have access to resources and opportunities to be successful in the classroom, so that they move on to college or post-secondary education. In addition, it means that we have Hmong who are also employed at these institutions, at all levels. This gives our young Hmong students hope and the belief that when they are finished with their education, they can come back and work to help others as well. I believe that job equity follows a similar pattern. Whether we are farming, working with others, or being self-employed, we want to make sure that resources are available to help them to be successful. The more successful the community is, the better we can contribute and have economic and social impact in our community.
Cultural identity is also important for our community, in terms of our community’s growth. As we become more assimilated into American society and lose more of our cultural identity, I think it’s important that we also work harder to keep those aspects of our culture that help us identify who we are. I believe that this adds to the strength of our “American fabric,” and why we are such a strong community and country.
What advice would you give a young person today who is considering running for public office, Blong?
If you have an opportunity, go and work for a nonprofit that provides services, programs and activities to people. This will give you a basic understanding of what public services is like, and a better perspective of working for a diverse community, having limited resources, and having to collaborate to get things done. Working for a nonprofit is not about you, and that is what public office is all about.
What was the best advice you ever received and who did it come from, Blong?
“There is the difference between doing the right thing and doing what is right.” I am not sure if I read it or heard from someone, but I thought it was appropriate, especially when I was in office.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career, Blong?
My parents have had the biggest influence in my career. Seeing how they have struggled coming to this country and having to start all over again was something that I didn’t appreciate until I was much older. In addition, their early work in a nonprofit that helped the first wave of Hmong refugees resettle in America was pretty incredible due to the fact that they really didn’t know much about how the system worked.
What are your roots in the Central Valley?
Moved to Fresno in 1991, and have lived here ever since. I love this city and its diverse community.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Blong?
First job was at 14, working for Neighborhood Community Center. Learned about responsibility, leadership and community.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Blong?
I used to play a lot of soccer. I still like to go fishing, but have picked up a new hobby, golf.