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Emily Cheng becomes first Asian mayor of Los Altos Hills

Veteran Los Altos Hills Councilwoman Emily Cheng was selected to serve as the town's new mayor June 19, marking the first time a person of Asian descent has held the position.

Mike O'Malley was chosen by council colleagues -- minus an absent Dean Warshawsky -- to be vice mayor during last week's regular town hall meeting.

Cheng was first elected to council in a special election in March 2000, then re-elected November in the regular election. She served as mayor pro tem prior to taking over the mayor's seat, a one-year rotating position.

Cheng said that during her year as mayor, she plans to focus on putting an end to the hills' drainage system problems, as well as carrying on the goals of outgoing Mayor Bob Fenwick, which include the construction of a new town hall, the undergrounding of utilities project and the continued development of the hills' pathway system.

"(Fenwick) was a great mayor, and I'd like to continue the job he started," Cheng pledged to the audience. "This is the town we all love, and I want to be sure that it remains something we can all love."

The vote for Cheng was unanimously approved by the present councilmembers and met with loud applause from a packed house of Los Altos Hills residents and members of the Bay Area's Asian-American community.

Former Mayor Toni Casey, who ended her council term in 2002, made an appearance to pledge support to Cheng and point out the significance of the event.

"It's such a huge privilege to have an Asian mayor for the first time in the history of this town," she said. "(Cheng) has certainly earned this honor."

Cheng's first order of business as mayor was nominating councilman O'Malley as her mayor pro tem, which council also unanimously approved.

On giving up his center chair to Cheng, Fenwick offered some lighthearted words of wisdom to his successor.

"I don't see how anyone could do this job and stay sane," he said. "It isn't easy, but if anyone can do it, I'm sure it's you, especially someone who has been through the election process twice."

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