In June, Councilwoman Maria Tu was appointed Plano’s new Deputy Mayor Pro Tem. For the past 27 years, Tu has called Plano home, where she launched a wholesale sushi grocery business with her late husband, gave birth to her miracle baby and launched her practice as a criminal defense attorney.
Now, in her new role as Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, Tu wants to be a source of representation for the local Asian community and maintain a balance of family life and business opportunities for the city’s growing population.
After living in the city for nearly 30 years, Maria Tu never plans to leave, and as long as she’s here, she maintains a long term vision of growth and prosperity.
Local Profile (LP) : As Deputy Mayor Pro Tem, what do your duties entail?
Maria Tu: “Mayor Pro Tem basically is a replacement of the mayor when the Mayor is not available. So as a deputy mayor Pro Tem, I'm sort of the second person in line in case both the mayor is not available, or the mayor Pro Tem is not available, or if the Mayor Pro Tem is assisting the mayor in another capacity and they needed me for a second person in assistance.”
LP: What made you want to get involved in local government?
Maria Tu: “Politics was never in my [career path]. I think I got inspired because I think at the moment when I decided to run, there were a lot of controversies in place. There were people who were expressing opinions that I do not believe represented the entire Asian community. And I wanted to be an alternative voice, so that the Asian community doesn’t get lumped into one category.
We all have different views. We all have different perspectives and things. Also because I wanted to be able at that time to be a part of Plano’s development. At the point of my election [as councilwoman], two years ago, my daughter had graduated from college. She was employed and my husband had already retired. I was on the verge of thinking about retirement. So I wanted to look at the next phase of how I could help other people.”
LP: What does your vision for Plano entail?
Maria Tu: “I want a stable development. We cannot stop progress. We must accept that progress, progress and developments are going to happen. But we want to do it responsibly, so the unique features of Plano continue to be unique. We have recreation centers for families, we have parks for families, we have great education facilities, we have libraries.
The entire [city] was built around having families. We encourage family, we encourage neighborhood. And we encourage the interaction of families in the neighborhood. Yet, we also have a separate part of the development, where we have large corporations, we have headquarters, but I don't want that to interfere with the unique quality of Plano, which is designed to have a kind of a small community family feel, even in a large city.”
LP: How do stability and long-term progress look to you?
Maria Tu: “I believe that businesses, in which they need to grow and expand, need to do it in certain areas, and not affect or interfere with families. We also understand that we, as a community, want our neighborhood to be neighborhoods. We don't want our neighborhoods turned into an afterthought to business development. I think a lot of cities, their primary focus is on business development. I believe our primary focus is the balance of family and business development, hand-in-hand.”
LP: Which local causes ignite your passion?
Maria Tu: “I know [councilmember] Rick Grady's pet project has always been the homeless groups. And my pet project, which is mental health, is related to that. I have a lot of resources because I'm a criminal defense attorney. I deal with a lot of mental health criminal defendants. And consequently, I've been appointed to many of the mental health programs in Collin County Courthouse. And I am trying to expand that into the city of Plano.
Because I think mental health is going to be our next project, coupling with the homeless groups. I think mental health is going to be an issue that needs to be addressed, head-on. We don't have a lot of places that offer mental health assistance. So that is something that I want to explore and see whether or not there's something that we could do to develop mental health resources and mental health assistance.”
LP: How has living in Plano impacted your outlook on life?
Maria Tu: “I believe that I'm more optimistic about things. I've never been a pessimist in my life. But I think Plano provided resources for me to be more optimistic. I recently lost my husband in February. And I joined these groups where they all talk about the difficulties of loss, how they're struggling and the challenges they face.
But what I found was that, because I am able to be a part of Plano, I think I'm able to walk out of my own sorrow faster, and be able to look at the world in a more global way. I think, in essence, the fact that I'm able to walk out of the house and be in a neighborhood where we're surrounded by trees and parks.
The fact that we're able to see children running down the streets, that helps in a lot of ways, because being able to see happiness makes you happy. And being able to have a home where you are safe and you know that you're safe, I think that also contributes to an optimistic view of life.”
More Plano news: Plano ISD is requesting authority to mandate masks as school starts, contrary to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order. Read more.