Shattering the demure Asian female stereotype, this third degree martial artist broke through the double ethnic-gender barrier by becoming an Asian American woman mayor in January 2009. Margaret Abe-Koga, or “MAK”, as she is endearingly called, understands the importance of community diversity and is dedicated to the battle against racial biases that still linger in upper-middle class America, like Mountain View, California.
Margaret Abe-Koga was born in Palo Alto and raised in San Mateo by her Isei parents. Attending public schools through high school years, Abe-Koga went on to Harvard University and graduated with a B.A. in government in 1992. Her passion for public service drew her back to Palo Alto where she joined the staff of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for six years.
In 2006 Abe-Koga became the first Asian American woman elected to city council. Her husband Yotto and two daughters Aili and Aina attended her swearing in while Abe-Koga’s mother watched from home. After the proceedings she paid tribute to her father who passed away just a year and a half earlier: “He was the one that taught me about giving back to the community.”
In January 6, 2009 Abe-Koga was sworn in as mayor of Mountain View, California, making her the first Asian American woman to serve in this capacity. A strong advocate for civil rights, Abe-Koga is dedicated to promoting diversity and cultural harmony. However, recent anti-immigrant attacks tarnished her initial optimism. After receiving a racially derogatory email, Abe-Koga commented, “I know that when times are tough it is easy to scapegoat and blame others.” The nature of the attack was surprising to Abe-Koga given the fact that Mountain View has a 20% Asian American population. She vowed to take united action against further acts of hatred: “We must join together to declare that such sentiment and behavior is not acceptable in this community.”
Guided by the words of her father, Abe-Koga dedicates herself in giving back to the community, particularly in the area of youth development. She served as a recruiter for the Harvard Admissions Office and conducted outreach efforts to Bay Area high school students from underrepresented backgrounds. She also developed various scholarship programs for community organizations.
Abe-Koga remains consistently active in other areas of the community as well, taking on both large and small leadership roles. Some of her titles have included board member of the Japanese American Citizens League, treasurer for the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee, board member of Democratic Activists for Women Now, and founder of the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club.
Margaret Abe-Koga lives with husband Yotto and 10-month-old daughter Aili in Mountain View. She spends her free time developing her skills in the martial art of kendo (Japanese fencing), where she holds a third degree black belt as a former member of the Northern California Kendo Federation’s Women’s Team.