Sokhary Chau is the first Cambodian American mayor in the United States. Chau made history, as not only the first mayor of color in the City of Lowell, Massachusetts, but as the first Cambodian American mayor in the United States.
Chau, who formerly served as a Lowell City Councilor, was elected Mayor by a unanimous 11-0 vote by the Lowell City Council on January 3, 2022. Lowell has approximately 115,000 residents where approximately 25% are of Asian descent and is home to the nation’s second-largest Cambodian American community.
Chau’s strategic vision for Lowell as Mayor is to create and foster a safe, sustainable, and equitable future for every resident. Chau is a uniter and works tirelessly to create strong partnerships with federal, state, municipal, and neighborhood stake holders. Collectively, Chau and his Council colleagues are prioritizing economic empowerment, housing affordability, homelessness, environmental stewardship, green infrastructure investment, equitable healthcare and racial justice, and inclusive education. Actively promoting systemic change and compassionate leadership, Chau envisions City Hall to be a welcoming place for every person residing in Lowell.
Chau fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia with his mother and six siblings in 1979. His mother, who unfortunately died last year, managed to keep her seven children alive through for four years of the Khmer Rouge genocide escaping through “landmines, jungles, hunger, sickness and great uncertainty” to get them safely to the U.S.
During his Mayor inaugural speech, he not only recalled his family’s journey but memories of his father, who was a captain in the Cambodian army and was one of the first executed by the Communists during the Cambodian Civil war.
Emotional and humble, Chau notes the significance of his election to the wider Cambodian diaspora and called on other minority groups to have the courage to collaborate with others and lead in their respective communities. “We can no longer be just victims,” he said in closing his inaugural remarks. “It is our time now to be leaders and to succeed.”