For as long as she has lived in San Diego, friends of Lijun “Lily” Zhou have asked her to run for public office. “I always said ‘no,’ because I knew nothing about politics, just business,” she told La Jolla Light.
But in March, at the Asian Pacific American Coalition gala, someone asked her again. “I said ‘no, no, no,’ ” Zhou insisted, “but the person next to me encouraged me, and I realized there were no women running for the District 1 City Council seat. I see opportunities everywhere and I think God gives everyone individual talent that just needs someone to discover and develop, so (eventually) I decided to say ‘yes.’ ”
The registered Independent, entrepreneur and UTC resident has filed to run for the seat in the 2020 election.
Over the last few decades, Zhou has started her own businesses (beginning with a restaurant when she was 23), and ever since, she starts and sells them. In 2009, she started ZMedia to “inspire young minds to become entrepreneurs and leaders.”
Locally, she founded the Start-Biz Club at the La Jolla Library in January 2017, through which entrenpreneurs with inventions or business concepts can “pitch” them to an audience, field questions and receive tips on how to grow their ideas. The group still meets monthly, and is “doing great,” Zhou said, and now she brings in senior citizens to provide their feedback. “They have so much wisdom, and they mentor the entrepreneurs. It gives both parties a sense of value and purpose.”
Zhou also sits on the planning committee for the San Diego Kyoto Prize Symposium, which brings the prize laureates to San Diego each March for community events and lectures.
She said the key to her candidacy will be bringing innovative solutions to day-to-day problems, and without providing too many specifics, said she would like to focus on reducing homelessness, promoting business, supporting the environment, repairing infrastructure, encouraging community spirit and mitigating the presence of electric scooters.
Addressing electric scooter proliferation, she said: “That’s where my entrepreneurial background can come in. I would create a set of rules, to which companies must apply. I would also support fines and regulations for parking scooters in areas where they are not supposed to be. I had a student, who was riding a scooter hit, by another scooter-rider because the other rider was texting. I would make it so that if both hands are not on the handles, the machine will not move.”
Zhou said she passionately feels that many District 1 issues could be solved with the community coming together in activism.
“I want to inspire people to get up, get involved, and see what they can do for their community,” she said. “For example, if something needs to be fixed right away, like potholes, we need to find a way to get them fixed. If the City says ‘we don’t have the budget or the resources,’ I’d work with my constituents to figure out what we could do together (to fix the potholes), and I would plan, every day, to work with the people.
“I know there’s a solution to everything, it’s just a matter of how fast we are executing it. So many of our problems could be solved quickly if we think creatively. If someone is not happy with something in their community, I want to help fix that, because that’s what life is all about: happiness, prosperity and hope.”
She added that she’s inspired by her three grown children. “I want to teach them how to be of value to society,” Zhou said. “So by me running this campaign, regardless of the outcome, I’m showing them the value of growing and learning. I’m also documenting this process because something in this is going to help someone else learn or inspire them to do something with their lives.”
In her candidacy thus far — which she said would not be marred with fliers and signage — Zhou said she is doing the footwork and laying the groundwork. “I’m getting to know the people of this District and familiarizing myself with the issues within the District,” she said. “I just want people to walk this journey with me.”
A campaign website is in development, but Zhou can be reached through her Facebook page “Lily City Council Woman 2020.”
Election season has begun. In less than one year, residents of District 1 will have the opportunity to vote in the San Diego City Council primary election (March 3, 2020). District 1 includes La Jolla, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines and University City. All of the candidates who have filed so far have been interviewed by the La Jolla Light and their profiles can be read online at lajollalight.com