Vong Mouanoutoua ran unopposed for the seat vacated by former mayor Nathan Magsig, now a Fresno County supervisor. Although he ran unopposed, he said, he ran a full campaign: “We reached out, we shared our message and it resonated with the voters.”
A Clovis resident since 1996, Mounanoutoua was born in Laos before immigrating to the United States with his family in 1976, at age five. Although he is the first Hmong-American to sit on the Clovis City Council, he said, public service is considered an integral part of the Hmong culture.
“Hmong children have been raised to seek public office. It’s one of those core principles that is impressed upon you,” he said. “That was always there,” he added, “but I didn’t really jump into anything in Clovis until there was an opening on the planning commission.” He served on the planning commission, which he eventually chaired, from 2005 to 2016.
Mouanoutoua received his juris doctor degree from San Joaquin College of Law in 2002 and briefly worked in Fresno County Superior Court before opening, with his brother-in-law, the first Hmong law firm in Fresno. In his current role as solar director for the Fresno Economic Opportunity Commission, Mounanoutoua oversees a program that installs solar energy systems on low-income homes. He and wife Jane, a Clovis High School graduate, have five children, the oldest of whom attends University High School in Fresno. His three middle children attend Clovis schools.
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Mouanoutoua said he’s looking forward to getting to work soon after his March 27 installation. Of highest priority for the City Council, he said, is the hiring of a new city manager to replace recently-retired Robert Woolley. “That person is sort of going to set the culture for the rest of the staff who serve the residents,” he said.
Continuing to responsibly govern the city as it grows is another priority. Young families like his, he said, choose to live in Clovis for its high standard of living, which he would like to see remain even as its growth leads to new questions:“How do we maintain our sense of community? How do we maintain excellent services such quick safety responses, how do we maintain quality education in working in collaboration with Clovis Unified so it remains a city people seek out? How do we grow smart, how do we grow responsibly?”
A personal goal, he added, is his desire to for the city to continue to maintain its trails and parks. “We have a pretty good network of bike trails and walking trails all over Clovis, and we need to continue to expect that of all developers as they build so it’s pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.”
As the first Hmong-American to be elected to the city council, Mouanoutoua said his election has brought pride to the Hmong community. However, he added, of greater significance is its proof that America continues to be a place for everyone.
“I think it speaks to the simple fact that what America gives our working people is still evident,” he said. “A refugee from war-torn Laos can come, and 40 years later be on the city council. That means whatever we’re hearing in the news, it’s not that bad. America still offers you the opportunities to reach your dreams, reach your goals. That works for anyone, whether you’re a refugee, immigrant, long-time resident or fifth-generation American.”