As she looks ahead to this weekend’s in Burlingame, Virginia Chang Kiraly, a director on the board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (MPFPD), hopes she and the fellow members of her party will walk away with one thing—a return to core values.
“My hope is the focus of our party this weekend is looking at the core values of fiscal responsibility and sustainability, and personal responsibility. I think those issues should be talked about, and that we're focused on that as a community,” she said earlier this week. “I think we've gotten too far away from what those core principals are, and unfortunately, we're not understanding what our community at large needs.”
Kiraly’s history of local community service and leadership is extensive. She has served countless organizations such as the Redwood City Police Activities League (P.A.L.), the Sequoia High School Education Foundation, the Junior League of Palo Alto/Mid-Peninsula, the Las Lomitas Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), the Las Lomitas Education Foundation, the Palo Alto-Menlo Park Parents Club, Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, The Tech Museum of Innovation, the Silicon Valley Red Cross, the Survive Alive House, and more.
What all that experience has taught her, she said, is that national problems such as the country’s current economic and budget crises can really hit home at the local level.
Therefore, what she feels members of the Republican party need to remember—particularly as the country looks forward to this year’s presidential election—is that, above all, the needs of the people are paramount.
“[All of it] goes right down to the local level too,” she said. “Therefore, I believe, if we [as a party] stick to those core values, we can meet the community’s needs. I hope this convention will focus on that, versus what I view as the ‘far-right’ values, which have no place in our party right now.”
Kiraly said that for too long, party politics has been a major focus of campaigns and elections. She said that, in her opinion, the best candidate for president, or even any local office, should be the one with “the most common sense.” That is most important, she said, rather than someone’s political party affiliation, or whether someone is male, or female, or even of a certain race.
“[Even though I’m a Republican,] I have a lot of Democrat friends, and we share a lot of the same values on the issues that people care about, such as financial sustainability in public agencies to keep the services that our tax dollars fund,” she said.
In regards to the upcoming presidential election, she says Republicans should “Campaign on the issues. We need to throw our egos out the door. Everyone is affected. We all pay taxes. So, we all have to be part of the solution. That doesn't mean a hard line on not paying taxes, but it also doesn't mean misspending taxpayer funds.”
When asked what events in this weekend’s convention she is most interested, Kiraly said the Asian and Latino town halls are at the top of her list.
In the district’s 96-year history, Kiraly is only the second woman to serve on the MPFPD’s board of directors, and the first Asian-American female.
“I'm going to be participating in the , and I think that's important, because the Republican party in San Mateo County supported a couple of races in our county—mine was one of them, and also Foster City’s City Council, and in both of those races, an Asian-American won their spot.”
As far as her campaign for MPFPD and that of Steve Okamoto, who won his seat on the City Council in Foster City, Kiraly said, “It wasn't that we were promoting Asian values; I think we were promoting common sense, financial sustainability, and financial responsibility.”
When it all comes down to it, that is what Kiraly said she hopes everyone gains from this weekend’s convention—a return to those values, and a focus on preserving public services.
“I want the Fire Protection District to be around for future generations, for my kids. And the firefighters want that too,” she said. “They know if that goes away—if the Fire Protection District goes out of business—they're out of a job.”
Kiraly joins many other peninsula city and community leaders who are participating in this weekend’s convention, including Peter Ohtaki, the vice mayor of Menlo Park; Jeffrey Gee, the vice mayor of Redwood City, Harmeet Dhilon, chairman of the San Francisco County Central Committee; and James Fang, director of BART, San Francisco, District 8.