By Ed Diokno
Views from the Edge
San Francisco just appointed a new sheriff — the first Asian American sheriff in California history.
This is the second time Paul Miyamoto has run for sheriff. In his first effort in 2011, Miyamoto described how his family spans the Asian American spectrum: “I’m a Chinese and Japanese American, but at home I eat Filipino food,” joked Miyamoto, whose wife LeeAnn is of Filipino descent.
Miyamoto was sworn in as the 37th sheriff of San Francisco on Wednesday, Jan. 8. He was unopposed in the November election and succeeds Vicki Hennessy, San Francisco’s first female sheriff.
Miyamoto, who began his career with the department in 1996, first ran for sheriff in 2011, but lost. He’s only the second sheriff in the department’s history to rise from the ranks to be elected sheriff, and the first of Asian descent.
When asked about this moment, Miyamoto said the historical context of his new position is not why he sought the position of sheriff.
As the first Asian American to hold a sheriff’s job, Miyamoto told KTVU on Tuesday, “It hasn’t really struck me, the historical import. There’s a humbling feeling, of being a groundbreaker and moving forward as someone of Asian American descent. Especially in this day and age, to be the first at something, is not just an accomplishment but a responsibility to be someone who models the positive behaviors I want to see in the department.”
The US Census data reports that San Francisco County is just over 35% Asian, or about 300,000 residents.
In his inaugural address, Miyamoto discussed how his grandfather immigrated to San Francisco around the time of the 1906 earthquake, built a successful dry cleaning business, and raised a family here.
During WWII, his family was relocated to a Japanese internment camp — even while Miyamoto’s grandfather’s brothers fought for the US in the war.
Miyamoto said that as Asian Americans, his family have faced discrimination and other challenges, but he expressed pride in serving the city and county of San Francisco.
“Every day I don this uniform alongside some of the finest people I’ll ever know… I’m honored to have worked for and with Vicki Hennessy,” he said.
Public service is at the core of his family, he added. His father, Phillip, served as a judge for 30 years in the State Court of Appeals. Mother Ella has been a longtime volunteer at the Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth in San Francisco.
His wife LeeAnn was a deputy when they first met each other. During his inauguration, she held the Bible on which he took his oath. Their five children also attended the historic ceremony.
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