Hon Lien’s passion for service is palpable.
Whether she’s out impacting others through her work in various organizations or serving on the Milpitas Unified School District’s (MUSD) Board of Education, Lien has been deeply embedded in the fabric of the community.
Now she’s running to serve on the Milpitas City Council in this November’s election.
Should she make it onto the Council, Lien would focus on ensuring that Milpitas is well-maintained: clean parks, trimmed trees, filled potholes, and new street lights.
Lien feels that the current Council could use her experience and support in helping to make Milpitas a city that all its residents feel fortunate to live in.
“I’d like to see some action. I’d like to see results. I want to hold the Council accountable, the City accountable, for us, so that we have a city where we feel safe, and we’re happy that we made the right choice to live here,” said Lien.
Having served for six years on the School Board, Lien is proud of the ways that she, her fellow board members, the superintendent, and MUSD staff have impacted education in Milpitas.
For example, Lien’s thankful that the community passed the Measure AA bond in 2018, which has enabled the school district to recently start building its new Innovation Campus for high-schoolers on Calaveras Blvd., where Calaveras Hills High School and Milpitas Adult Education are located.
Lien also wants to get ahead of any chatter from critics who say that she’s simply using her time in the School District as a stepping stone to City Council: “This wasn’t something I planned out years ago,” she said.
Indeed, it was while she kept on top of the happenings in City Hall that Lien felt the call to serve…
“I’m so proud that we have such an excellent school district, and I want to bring that strategy that was used there over to the City,” said Lien, “because I think the City needs help right now.”
More specifically, Lien feels that when it comes to the City, way too many initiatives and committees are being introduced. “You can’t even keep track of it all,” she said.
As a successful entrepreneur who drove her first business toward generating $60 million in revenue, Lien knows what it’s like to work hard and achieve positive outcomes. And as a two-term President of the Milpitas Rotary Club, she also knows what it means to work well with others, and to create real, tangible change.
Lien has also spent over a decade working to support the youth in the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall. She often purchases and delivers food to the kids housed there: “I get a count from the officers [to find out how many people to buy food for]. Sometimes there’s 100 or 80…sometimes a little more or less. Whenever I see the numbers decreasing, I’m very happy,” said Lien.
Before Covid, when it was allowed, Lien would go into the facility and spend time with the youth, working with them on different activities, such as teaching them the art of arranging flowers.
“After they put their flowers together, we leave the room, and they have their parents, or their grandparents, or siblings…come in to visit them,” said Lien. “The kids give them a bouquet, and also write a handwritten note for them. It’s a way they can tell their parents, ‘I’m sorry, I did the wrong thing, I love you.’”
When asked what initially sparked the fire in her to serve, Lien mentioned her older brother, to whom she was very close…
“It all started out from my oldest brother who had the heart of a diamond,” said Lien. “I learned everything from him. He passed away about seven years ago.”
Back in her early twenties, when Lien was starting her first business, her brother had a vision for what she referred to as the Wheelchair Project. Located in Sweden, her brother had connections with hospitals in various countries. He would collect old wheelchairs from hospitals that no longer needed them; since Lien owned a manufacturing plant in Vietnam, they would export the old wheelchairs there. A group of workers there would clean up, repaint, and fix the wheelchairs so they were like new.
“We’d then give out the wheelchairs to victims of war, the blind, handicapped…as a way to help them not to sleep on the streets,” said Lien. “We’ve sent over 200,000 wheelchairs to Vietnam to help others. In doing the Wheelchair Project, I learned that there are so many people out there who are less lucky. And if we have something, and we’re able to share, we have to share it.”
Lien has three daughters and one son, all of whom are in their twenties. With her kids now busy and successful in their own lives, Lien has more time to focus on other things – like her current City Council campaign.
As she moves forward with her run, Lien will be thinking of someone else who was important to her. That person was Denny Weisgerber. A Korean War Veteran who was deeply respected in the community, Weisgerber served on the Milpitas City Council for 12 years, including 3 terms as Mayor. He passed away at the end of 2019. Before then, Weisgerber and Lien were part of the Rotary Club together.
“He was really my mentor, my teacher, my friend, my father…He would be so proud knowing I’m stepping up and running for City Council,” Lien explained.
Lien squares off in this year’s City Council race against former Councilmember Garry Barbadillo, Planning Commissioner Dipak Awasthi, Chamber of Commerce Board Member Juliette Gomez, and Milpitas’ current Mayor Rich Tran. There will be two open Council seats.