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While the U.S. Census estimates that minorities now make up 52 percent of West Valley City's population, only one minority member — onetime Vietnamese refugee Tom Huynh — has served on its City Council in the 37 years since it incorporated.

Huynh just filed to run for mayor in Utah's second-largest city, facing incumbent Mayor Ron Bigelow, fellow City Council member Karen Lang and University of Utah researcher Joshua Cameron. Bigelow, Lang and Huynh also faced each other in the last mayoral race four years ago.

"I think I can bring the city together," Huynh said Tuesday. "We're doing pretty well. But we need to unite and work together to get things done. We need to move forward."

He estimates that 95 percent of the votes he's received in pahunst elections have come from whites — mainly because data show that few minorities in the city vote. "I don't know why that is," he said, adding that his background may help mobilize the city's large minority population to serve the city more if he wins.

In 1986, when Huynh was 19, he escaped Vietnam — cramming into a small boat with a 15-year-old sister and 97 others.

They became lost at sea, and some panicked, but they were eventually found by a fishing boat and were taken to a refugee camp in the Philippines.

Eventually, he fulfilled a dream of immigrating to the United States — and he said he wants to give back to a country that has blessed him and his family.

"I started working two jobs the day after I arrived here, because I didn't want to be a burden to this country," said Huynh (pronounced HUN), who is now a real estate agent.

He said he saved enough on his own to pay for his Mormon mission to Washington, D.C., and to earn a degree in Asian Studies from Church of Latter-day Saints-owned Brigham Young University.

Huynh is halfway through his second term on the City Council, after defeating former longtime state Rep. Larry Wiley in his last election.

Huynh said people should vote for him because "I'm a hardworking man, and I have a vision for our city." He said he hopes to help improve its reputation, safety and services, adding that he rides twice a month with police to see public safety issues firsthand.

"I believe it is very important for minorities" for him to run, he said, quickly adding, "I think I can help everyone in our city. We need someone willing to represent everyone and to work hard."

He is also a member of Chamber West and a board member of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center Foundation.