After only one year on the Milpitas City Council, Hon Lien has jumped into the November 2024 mayor’s race because she wants to bring stronger leadership to city hall.
Lien, 58, join the race knowing she will face stiff competition against former mayor Rich Tran, and the likelihood that Mayor Carmen Montano will run for reelection. She said she is driven to change the way the city is operates.
“We need a mayor who knows how to govern—not just getting him or herself elected,” Lien told San José Spotlight. “I have that leadership, and I do know how to govern.”
Lien was elected to the city council in 2022. Prior to that, she served two terms as a trustee on the Milpitas Unified School District board. She said she became involved in community service after retiring from her seafood wholesale business, Sunnyvale Seafood, in 2007 and joining the Rotary Club of Milpitas.
As mayor, Lien said her goals would be to improve the city’s public safety, increase affordable housing and support the city’s unhoused residents. What inspired her to run, however, has been the mass exodus of the city leadership. The city appointed its fourth city manager in the past six years in early October and, in the past year, has lost other high ranking officials, including two Human Resources directors, she said.
“You cannot run any business when you don’t have that kind of continuity and you continually are changing your leadership,” Lien told San José Spotlight. “You cannot get things done in a timely manner.”
As part of the Rotary Club, Lien worked to fundraise for a wide variety of community service projects, including STEAM classes — which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics— at Rose Elementary School. She now chairs the Rotary District 5170 Vietnam Project, which aims to combat human trafficking of children in Vietnam. She organizes groups of volunteers to teach English to students in Vietnam.
She said she wants to incentivize the construction of affordable housing, to bring down the cost of rent and encourage families to stay in the city. She said the city needs to partner with nonprofit organizations to support Milpitas’ unhoused residents.
“To treat homelessness is not one day, one week, one month,” Lien said. “You can bring them food, you can help clean them, but if you don’t treat (homelessness) to the roots, they’re going to be back on the street.”
There are 274 homeless residents in Milpitas according to the county’s 2022 point-in-time count, which is considered an undercount. The city has historically faced criticism for a lack of unhoused support.
Lien’s community service activities have demonstrated her capacity for leadership, said community organizer Joseph Weinstein, who managed her 2020 campaign for council. He first met Lien while she was working for the city’s Rotary Club to fundraise for the club’s various service projects. Weinstein said he was impressed by her leadership and community dedication.
“Her service level is unbelievable. Every place that I go with her … she is known so well for the service work that she does throughout the Bay Area,” Weinstein told San José Spotlight. “I wish we had more people like her.”