One-on-One With Oakland Mayor-Elect Sheng Thao

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After two weeks of counting, Oakland has a new mayor: Sheng Thao.

Mayor-elect Thao will be the first Hmong American mayor of a major U.S. city.

"So hopeful and incredibly humbled by the whole experience and just really thrilled to bring a new energy for the city of Oakland," Thao told NBC Bay Area Tuesday.

Thao's parents are refugees from Laos. She's a survivor of domestic abuse. And when she left that relationship, she found herself homeless with her young son.

Eventually, Thao went back to school and graduated with a degree in legal studies from UC Berkeley.

Oakland Mayor-elect Sheng Thao holds her first news briefing outside city hall.

Now, she’s been elected the next mayor of Oakland.

When asked if she ever thought she'd find herself in politics, Thao said no.

"I was headed to law school," she said. "That was my trajectory, but what happened was I couldn’t afford to pay for my son's clothes. During the very last year of my college career at UC Berkeley, I took on an internship that paired me with Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan’s office. That’s how I was introduced to her. As a paid intern, I really realized how local policies at the local level really impacted families that live on the margins, the most families, like mine."

Oakland Mayor-elect Sheng Thao speaks with NBC Bay Area's Gia Vang to discuss her goals and how she got into politics.

Thao's closest opponent, councilman Loren Taylor, formally conceded Tuesday morning.

While Taylor had more overall votes, he placed second in the city's ranked-choice voting instant runoff.

"While it hurts to admit it, I do not see a viable path to making up the 682 votes needed to alter the outcome of this election," Taylor said.

With the election over, Thao will step into leading a city she says is in crisis.

In a poll by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, gun violence and homelessness were top of mind for voters.

Thao, who said her home has been the target of a robbery and is a renter now herself, plans to have a hiring blitz for vacancies from the police department to the permitting department.

"I think that as Oaklanders we are also proud of the city that we live in, and everybody that lives here, they want to see a better, cleaner, stronger, safer Oakland, right?" she said. "In order to create that, we have to give these great paying, union-paid jobs at the city of Oakland to Oaklanders so they can continue to live here, work here and play here with their families."

Thao said she is guided by her own: her husband and two children as well as her parents, especially her mom right now.

The city of Oakland has a new mayor. Former Councilmember Sheng Thao said she plans to hit the ground running in January and as Cheryl Hurd reports, in her first 100 days, Thao plans to push for reform.

"My mom cried and has just been so happy," Thao said. "She’s actually really sick right now and so it’s really hard to see her this weekend because she said to me that she didn’t think she’d make it to see the successful campaign."

Thao is Hmong, a group from southeast Asia who fought with the U.S. CIA during the Secret War in Laos and are credited with saving American lives.

"To get the support from the Hmong community, and you’re absolutely right, I’m actually the first Hmong person ever to represent a big metropolitan city in the nation," Thao said. "We literally made history."

Thao will work toward making more history in her upcoming role.

"I’m real confident that I can bring people together to work together because at the end of the day we all want the same thing," she said. "Our north star is to create a safer Oakland, a cleaner Oakland and keeping the diversity of Oakland."

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