Hai Huynh elected as newest Coralville city councilor

Huynh said she is grateful and honored to have the trust in her community and is eager to bring about positive change in Coralville.



Portrait of Hai Huynh

Rachel Schilke, News Editor

Hai Huynh will serve as the newest Coralville city council member, after a special election was held on Tuesday night to select a replacement for Tom Gill, the previous councilor who resigned after making remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement that were widely condemned as racist.

Gill said during a city council meeting on July 14 that Black Lives Matter was a “bunch of criminals” and that 80 percent of the community did not “give a damn” about what the organization was advocating for.

Huynh, however, said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that she does not believe Gill’s statements reflect the majority of the city’s views.

“The remarks Tom Gill made were racist,” she said. “I refuse to believe that my community is racist. Coralville is one of the most diverse cities in Iowa, and we need to show that in our leadership.”

Born in Vietnam, Huynh immigrated to the U.S. in 1993 with her family at 16. As an immigrant and woman of color, Huynh said when she attends events in the community, she does not see what Gill sees.

“We can’t remain in a bubble, I want to make sure that Coralville is not what Tom said,” she said. “It is proven tonight that Coralville does not believe his words, either.”

Huynh said she wants to focus on addressing racial and economic inequities in Coralville during her time on the council. She said she wants to establish a community police review board with representation from people of color and support minority-owned businesses in the city.

“My hope is that all who call Coralville home should be able to live a safe and healthy and dignified life, regardless of race or class or gender,” she said.

Huynh said she also wants to join with neighboring local governments to advocate for a higher minimum wage, and create a more unified transit system between Iowa City, Coralville, and the University of Iowa.

Barry Bedford, the runner-up in the election, said before the results were announced that in light of racial and social injustices, trust has been broken across the country and within communities between citizens, the government, and the police departments. Bedford is the former Coralville police chief.

“Trust is relational,” he said. “It’s responding to people and finding a way you can move forward. You have to earn and maintain and progress that trust, it’s ongoing.”

He said Gill’s comments were unfortunate, and despite him being a friend of his, it was inappropriate, and he thinks at this time others and even Gill himself might agree.

Coralville City Councilor Meghann Foster said Huynh’s election is very exciting as she will bring a perspective to the city council that has been long absent.

She said the council needs to reflect the makeup of the citizens in the community, and Huynh will bring a much needed voice.

“We are undertaking some important work when it comes to racial injustice, as far as looking at some of the policies and practices of our police department,” Foster said. “From conversations I have had with her, and hearing her talk, she clearly feels strongly about those issues. She will be another great partner in working on those issues.”

She added that Huynh’s election is a turning of the page for the council.

“Tom is a racist, and he is gone now,” she said. “Coralville residents are not going to accept that from their leaders. They want to move forward. We recognize that the community and the government needs to reflect the citizens. The voters have spoken and they have spoken for progress and the future.”