Arlene Chin was hand-picked out of a group of 50 who applied for the Tempe City Council and was appointed by former Tempe Mayor, Mark Mitchell, in May 2019 after a spot on the council was left open.
Chin joined the council on short notice after former council member Kolby Granville was voted out of the council due to allegations of misconduct brought by former students of Tempe Preparatory Academy, where he was teaching at the time.
Almost three years later, she’s running in this year’s general election for city council.
Chin, a Tempe resident for over 40 years, has held community leadership positions for decades in both the city and in ASU and is grateful for the benefits the community has given her.
"Growing up here in Tempe, I really benefited from mentors, programs and services, and now it's my turn to give back," Chin said.
Chin says she wants to grow Tempe in smart ways. She says she doesn't see anything that needs to be changed dramatically, but is running on platforms of investing in infrastructure, greater citizen input, and following sustainable programs like the the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Chin graduated from ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1987, and is the director of scholarship advancement at the ASU Foundation. She has also worked with ASU’s alumni association and admissions department. She says her experience at ASU and the ASU Foundation has been valuable.
"Certainly the academic programs, but a big part of personal and professional development are the relationships you make, you keep and you sustain," Chin said. "I think that's one of the most important aspects of any professional career and in a place like ASU. I was really fortunate to connect with some really incredible people that are still in my life."
Her reputation in the community is bolstered by her passion for the city.
"Arlene grew up here and has friendships and connections that go all the way back to elementary school," said Nancy Puffer, Chin's campaign manager. "Because of that, she has a longstanding reputation for trust, integrity and working well with others."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Asian Americans make up approximately 9% of the city's population. Chin made Tempe history when she became the first Asian American to serve in the city's government. She called the experience "humbling" and said representation and inclusion are very important factors for her in government.
"I had some great mentors and role models, but they didn't look like me, and it became more important for me to realize that I want to help encourage other young people," Chin said. "Here's somebody that looks like them."
This is an important idea to Tempe residents and ASU students who are looking for more representation in city government.
Tempe City Council is more diverse now than ever. When Robin Arredondo-Savage was elected, she was the first Latina councilwoman and when Doreen Garlid was elected, she was the first Native American councilwoman. But one ASU student, Hoi Ming Lee McVey, said there is always more room for representation.
"Local governments have a much more direct impact on citizens therefore it is even more important that Asian American communities are being represented by their community members and leaders in those spaces," said McVey, who is a junior studying public service and public policy and serves as the vice president of policy in Undergraduate Student Government Downtown.
Chin worked with councilwoman Arredondo-Savage to found College Connect Tempe, a city government service that provides access to resources to all members of the Tempe community looking to go to college.
"She was one of the original partners that came in, worked with our youth and our families to teach them how to navigate the system of getting into college and applying for scholarships," Arredondo-Savage said. "She came and volunteered her time on Saturdays, it was just really awesome."
Bill Kavan, vice president for engagement and outreach at the ASU Foundation, spoke to how ASU graduates that stick around Tempe after they graduate have a unique perspective, and Chin is a good example of this.
"I think that is definitely something that is positive, when you truly understand the community that you're in," Kavan said.
One of Chin's biggest projects while working for ASU's international admissions department was traveling overseas to Taiwan to teach English to small classes of students, ranging from elementary school age to teenagers. Chin said the lessons she learned from that experience not only carry over to her work in the city, but also in life.
"Connecting with people is really important. So it's not just a political career. It is personal life, other professional roles," Chin said. "That's the kind of life lesson that resonates overall, that's why it's important to connect with people, to get to know people one on one, that everyone has a story."
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Kolby Granville taught the students who brought misconduct allegations against him. The story was updated at 9:04 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2022 to correct the error.
Shane Brennan is a politics reporter. He previously was a sports writer, and is currently working with Blaze Radio and Downtown Devil.