By Jennie L. Ilustre
Mayor Allan W. Fung of Cranston, the third largest city in Rhode Island, made history in 2008 when he was elected Cranston’s first Asian American mayor.
On meeting him, one is however struck at how humble he is. “That’s nice, to be sure, though if you ask me, it is an even greater honor to have the opportunity to be a public servant,” he said in a recent interview.
But mention Cranston and his face would beam with pride. “Cranston may not be as big as D.C., but it is a wonderful place with wonderful people – and it’s vital as well.” Mayor Fung was in the nation’s capital recently to attend a business leaders’ conference.
Mayor Fung’s climb in the political ladder started when he served as a city-wide Councilman from 2003 to 2007. He continues to look forward. Last September 10, he announced that he had formed an exploratory committee for a potential run for governor.
“I am planning to make a decision in due time,” he said in an email interview. The exploratory committee will help ensure “that what I have been doing in Cranston will also be successful in getting people back to work at the state level.”
Jason Chung, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, based in Washington, D.C, said in an interview: “Mayor Fung is an impressive elected official, an Asian American leader who has a record of accomplishment as Cranston’s chief executive. He exhibits the type of leadership Rhode Islanders need and deserve during these difficult times.”
Remarked Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick in Rhode Island: “As the longest serving mayor in the state, I have worked with many people. Mayor Fung is the brightest and best of them.”
“He is approachable, easily engaged, and heeds the comments that are made,” he added. “Sure, we are both Republicans, so you would expect me to support him. But I support him, not so much for his political party but for his principles, his prudent leadership, and his tireless energy to solve problems.”
A recent article in the Providence Journal quoted Republican Tim Costa as saying: “I’ve known Allan for a long time. He’s a good friend. I intend to help him in any way possible.” He added that as an active member with the Republican Governors Association-National Finance Committee and the National Republican Committee, he would “help Allan expand his network and raise funds.”
Mayor Fung is a strong believer in fiscally conservative values. He admires a strong Republican leader like President Ronald Reagan. He supports Senator Marco Rubio’s initiative on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill.
At the business conference that Mayor Fung attended, he agreed with panelists who urged more Asian Americans to get elected or appointed into office. Virginia Delegate Mark Keam (D), who is up for reelection this November, stressed the importance of Asian American involvement, regardless of party.
Since taking office in January 2009, Mayor Fung has focused on improving the city of Cranston. He has boosted economic development, supporting existing businesses and bringing in over 400 new jobs to Cranston.
He has reduced the city’s operational expenses. He continues to explore consolidation and other savings initiatives with other municipalities.
He was the first mayor in the state to successfully negotiate pension reform with a major union, by replacing the costly defined benefits pension system with a defined contribution plan.
Mayor Fung has held regular town hall meetings, the better to engage in a continuing dialogue with his residents and to respond to neighborhood concerns.
Before becoming mayor, Fung was the Government Relations Counsel for MetLife from 2001-2009. He also served as a prosecutor in the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General (1999-2001). From 1996 to 1999, he worked as a litigation associate with Mandell, Schwartz & Boisclair.
He was the former chairman of the Rhode Island Governor’s Insurance Council. Currently, he is the chairman of the Board of the Rhode Island Association of Chinese Americans. He also serves on the board of the Rhode Island College Alumni Association, Rhode Island Mayoral Academies and the Thurgood Marshall Law Society.
Fung graduated from Rhode Island College and Suffolk University Law School. He also completed the Leadership Rhode Island program.
Based on his travels around the state, Mayor Fung believes that the citizens of Rhode Island are looking for a new kind of leader,
He said the state needs a strong leader who can not only get it back on track, but also one with a long-term view. He underscored the importance of providing the best education for children, starting from K-16.
“People are telling me they are worried about paying their mortgage, putting food on the table, and having enough money to fill their tank for the next job interview,” he said, adding, “This is unacceptable.”
He stressed that the people in Rhode Island “are looking for someone who has both the private and public sector experience necessary to get Rhode Islanders back to work and get this state back on track.”
Mayor Fung pointed out: “We have to modernize our regulatory process to let business leaders know that we want their business,” he declared. “We need to market our assets of air, water, and rail to retain our current businesses and attract new ones.”
He vowed to make it his priority to make Rhode Island competitive not only in New England and the Northeast, but in the whole country as well.