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Stories from the valley

An American Story

Elk Grove has changed much since my childhood. From rural farmland with more cows than citizens, this Sacramento Valley community has seen explosive growth and tremendous cultural diversity.

Just like the city he will soon lead, Elk Grove’s Mayor-elect Steve Ly has seen many changes in his life.

When Ly takes office next month, he will be America’s first mayor of Hmong descent.

“Had it not been for the Vietnam War and my father’s involvement working with the American pilots in Laos, I would not be here,” Ly said.  “Every American has a story and that’s what makes America strong. For me, it started out 38 years ago when I came as a four-year old to this country, speaking no English and having the opportunity to participate in a free, public education.”

Public safety, traffic and maintaining quality schools will be among the priorities for Ly, who also has a full-time job working with troubled kids as a juvenile hall counselor.

As with many Hmong refugees, Ly first settled in the Central Valley to be a farmer.

The Mayor-elect says he hopes his story can motivate others moving forward.

“It’s extremely important not to forget where we’re from and to celebrate our diversity here in the United States,” he said.