Steven Choi

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Steven Choi
최석호
Steven Choi Official City Portrait.jpg
Mayor of Irvine, California
Incumbent
Assumed office
December 11, 2012
Preceded by Sukhee Kang
Member of the Irvine City Council
In office
December 14, 2004 – December 11, 2012
Personal details
Born (1944-01-15) January 15, 1944 (age 70)
Seoul, South Korea
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Janie Choi
Residence Irvine, California
Alma mater Kyung Hee University
Louisiana State University
University of Pittsburgh
Profession Politician
Website Campaign Site
Official City of Irvine Bio

Steven Seokho Choi (Korean: 최석호 Seok-Ho Choi; born January 15, 1944) is a U.S. Republican Party politician from Orange County, California. He is the current mayor of Irvine, California. Prior to that, he served as one of two Korean Americans on the Irvine City Council and was the first Asian American to have been elected to a four-year term on the City Council. Choi came to media attention in 2008 because of his remarks on CAIR that sparked a public outcry.[1] He subsequently led an unsuccessful campaign for California State Assembly 70th district in 2010. In 2012, Choi successfully ran for Mayor of Irvine, defeating Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran.

Education and teaching career[edit]

Born in South Korea, Steven Choi earned his B.A. degree from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea.[2] He came to the United States from South Korea as a Peace Corps language instructor for the State Department in August 1968. He then continued his post-graduate education, earning his master's degree in Library Science from Louisiana State University, and his Ph.D. in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

He has taught at several universities and colleges including USC, UCI, California State University, Los Angeles, Henderson State University in Arkansas, Saddleback College, and most recently, Coastline Community College. He founded and serves as Director of Dr. Choi's Academy.

Political career[edit]

Choi was elected to the Irvine Unified School District school board on November 3, 1998 and reelected on November 5, 2002. He was elected to the Irvine City Council on November 2, 2004, becoming the first Asian American elected to a four-year term on the council. He and Sukhee Kang (elected to a two-year term on the same day) became the first two Asian Americans and Koreans elected to the Irvine City Council. Choi served on the Irvine City Council until 2012, when he defeated councilman Larry Agran and was elected to a four-year term as Irvine's mayor.

The Irvine City Council is composed of 5 people, including the mayor. The council has 3 Republican members (Choi, Christina Shea, and Jeff Lalloway) and 2 Democratic members (Larry Agran and Beth Krom). Choi is a part of the conservative council majority, and has been able to promote programs he supports and stop policies he opposes from being enacted. During the course of new sister city negotiations, he successfully opposed the One-China principle demanded by Shanghai's Xuhui government in the People's Republic of China, which would have required Irvine to abandon its existing long-term sister city relationship with Taoyuan, Taiwan.

Choi serves as Chairman of the Orange County Public Library Advisory Board, which consists of Mayors and Council members from 27 Orange County cities, and is also Chairman of the Irvine Library Advisory Committee. He serves on the Orange County Great Park Corporation Board, the Irvine Redevelopment Agency, the Orange County Sanitation District Board and other countywide committees. His vision is to build a large Orange County/City Metropolitan Library at the Great Park.

In addition, Choi is a member of the Concordia University President's Advisory Council and is Irvine’s representative to Growth Management Areas 4 and 9 and the Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee. He formerly represented the 71st Assembly District on the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee. On June 3, 2008, he became the only incumbent to not be re-elected to the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee, coming in seventh with only 6.5% of the available vote. He is also a member of the Local Elected Officials Association and the 400 Club.

Family[edit]

With his wife, Janie, and their two children, Choi has lived in Irvine since 1993 and in Mission Viejo from 1981-1993. Both of their children attended public schools in the Irvine Unified School District. Daniel, a recent graduate of Stanford University, is currently a medical student at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Michelle did her undergraduate studies at UC San Diego, and is currently a law student at the University of Michigan Law School.

Controversy[edit]

On September 19, 2008 Steven Choi was the subject of a controversy based on his highlighting opponent Todd Gallinger's extensive legal work with the Council for American Islamic Relations CAIR. Choi called CAIR "a dangerous Islamic organization."

Weeks after the Choi made his comment Gallinger received a death threat stating, "I want to cut off your head just like all the other Muslims deserve." When asked regarding his statement which may have fueled the incident, Choi stated, "It's a ridiculous question...Am I responsible for someone else making a threat to him? No. This is not my intent at all."[3]

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