Sukhee Kang was first elected to the Irvine City Council in 2004 and was successfully re-elected in 2006. With his 2008 election, he became the first Korean-American to serve as Mayor of a major U.S. city. He was re-elected as Mayor with more than 64% of the vote in November 2010. Born and raised in South Korea, Mayor Kang and his wife Joanne immigrated to the United States in 1977 after his graduation from Korea University in Seoul. Mayor Kang received an Honorary Doctoral Degree in Business Administration from Dongseo University in Busan, Korea.
Mayor Kang has extensive business experience, beginning his professional career with Circuit City Store sales and customer service. He was quickly promoted to senior management positions and earned recognition for his service-oriented philosophy, ultimately receiving the company’s highest honor — induction into the “Colonel’s Club,” recognizing his dedication and service to the company and its customers.
The father of two adult children, Mayor Kang has dedicated his time to his family, his work and service to the community. Since Mayor Kang’s election to the City Council, his top priority has and continues to be excellence in education. Under his leadership, the City has invested significant financial resources to enhance the quality of education in the community. Such commitments include the Educational Partnership Fund that provides grants to enhance health and guidance services for Irvine children K-12. Most recently, he proposed a $1 million Challenge Match Grant to assist in academic class-size support in the Irvine and Tustin Unified School Districts, which ultimately led to the voter approved Measure R, the Irvine Schools Support Initiative, reinforcing Mayor Kang’s ongoing commitment to education and young people.
Mayor Kang is also deeply committed to the health and well-being of Irvine children and initiated the Irvine Children’s Health Program, ensuring that all young people in Irvine have access to affordable health services. Nearly 700 children have been enrolled into qualified health insurance programs at almost no cost to the City, marking one of the most efficient programs in the City’s history.
Known for his consensus-building skills, Mayor Kang worked collaboratively in 2010 with the Orange County Transportation Authority to preserve $121.3 million of Proposition 116 funds for Irvine, bringing forth needed money and a long-range transit vision for the City. This agreement supports the City’s iShuttle public transportation program for the next 30 years.
Mayor Kang’s own American success story has helped shape his inclusive and engaging leadership style. Active throughout the Irvine community, he has forged strong and supportive relationships with the business community, education community and many cultural, service and non-profit organizations that serve the citizens of Irvine. An advocate for the interests of all residents, he has demonstrated his ability to “listen, learn and respond” by walking door to door throughout Irvine, engaging in “doorstep dialogues” with Irvine residents, then working diligently to respond to their interests and concerns.
Mayor Kang was recently honored for his community leadership and citizenship by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which salutes immigrants who have made significant contributions to the country for its annual “Immigrants: The Pride of America” designation. In 2010, he also received “Public Servant of the Year” award from the International Leadership Foundation based in Washington DC.
Prior to his service on the Irvine City Council, Mayor Kang served as a Governor’s appointee on the California Workforce Investment Board. In addition to his official City responsibilities, Mayor Kang serves on the Orange County Great Park Board, Southern California Association of Governments Regional Council, Orange County Council of Governments, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National League of Cities – during his time on the City Council he has represented the City on the Orange County Sanitation District, Orange County Fire Authority and League of California Cities Orange County Division.
Mayor Kang and his wife Joanne have been residents of Orange Country for 35 years. Their son, Alan, earned his MBA from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and is currently a management consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Their daughter, Angie, a graduate from UC Berkeley’s School of Law (Boalt Hall), is currently Associate Director of the Legal Department at Hulu.