IRVINE WEEKLY: Irvine's Anthony Kuo is the City's Quintessential Man About Town
Evan J. Lancaster, Irvine Weekly
If the city of Irvine ever had a #1 fan, Irvine City Council member and lifelong Irvine resident Anthony Kuo would be a top contender.
Kuo, who was elected to the Irvine City Council in 2018 after serving on the Irvine planning commission for eight years, says his family’s roots within Irvine’s Woodbridge neighborhood date back to 1978.
Considering his longevity in Irvine – as both a resident and an elected official – paired with a self-described characterization as Irvine’s biggest cheerleader, Kuo could simply be considered Irvine’s quintessential man-about-town.
With a newly formed City Council, Irvine’s newest Mayor Farrah Khan and Kuo have become equal in years of experience on the council, as they both ran in 2016, but lost. However, both prevailed in 2018.
Similar to Khan, Kuo added that both of their families come from the hospitality industry, which he said plays a significant role in their relationship as colleagues, and the approach he takes in serving his community.
“From that perspective, we very much get along. She and her family own a catering business, so we commiserate on that point a lot, coming from the hospitality industry. And I think few people understand how to serve better than those who come from the hospitality industry,” he said. “Serving someone dinner is not really very much different than serving your community. You make sure people are happy, and that people have what they need.”
Kuo is an Irvine lifer, sharing that he guiltlessly enjoyed living life vicariously through supporting local Irvine events. Pre-pandemic, Kuo said a normal evening might consist of some take-out food and a performance at a local school.
“I really don’t have a life – my life is Irvine. Pre-pandemic, my day might look like s conference call in the morning, going to work, and then after work, I would look at my calendar, I see Chipotle happens to be having a fundraiser for Stonecreek Elementary PTA, well guess what, that’s where I’m going for dinner,” he said. “Then when I’m done with whatever I’m having, University High School might be putting on a spring musical – well, that’s going to be my entertainment. Now, a lot of those activities obviously stopped.”
He admits that he was born in Newport Beach – not Irvine – but he also points out that he was born before Irvine built its first hospital.
Nonetheless, it seems Irvine was meant to accommodate Kuo.
On any given day, Kuo can be found somewhere in Irvine, showing his support for local restaurants, participating in a local fundraiser, and surely providing detailed COVID-19 updates to share on social media.
Kuo’s insightful demeanor, and thoughtful personality pair well with his infectious smile, which is documented often in his detailed social media posts.
Those who follow the city councilman can expect his weekday-themed posts. “Where am I Wednesday” is regularly scheduled programming, where he spends time showcasing some of Irvine’s popular – and most obscure – attractions.
Yet, despite his undying enthusiasm for the city of Irvine, Kuo says his social media presence does not come free of criticism, from both political peers as well as the public.
Kuo says he is aware that some qualms range from benign comments about what he chooses to post and the frequency. His COVID-19 updates, for example, can be labeled by the public as fear mongering.
On the political side, Kuo said his constant reinforcement of the pseudo-brand “Anthony Kuo” can be taken as shameless self-promotion.
To block out that negativity, Kuo leans into his self-labeled moniker as Irvine’s biggest cheerleader, which helps anchor his unwavering enthusiasm for civic engagement in Irvine.
“If not to be a cheerleader for your hometown – then why else are you here, what is the point?” Kuo asks of the naysayers. “Why am I doing it? It’s to get people engaged, because someone might say, “I know exactly where you are,” or, “I have no idea where you are, but it looks good!”
Still, Kuo’s knack for showcasing all-things-Irvine on social media has not gone unnoticed. Kuo was recently recognized by Engaging Local Government Leaders, an association “focused on fostering authentic and meaningful connections that are grounded in practices of equity and inclusion,” according to the ELGL mission statement.
More specifically, last year, ELGL awarded the top 100 influencers in local government across the nation with the Traeger Award.
The award is aptly named after the fictional Pawnee Indiana City Manager Chris Traeger, played by actor Rob Lowe, in the well-known series Parks and Recreation. Although fictional, Pawnee’s Traeger came to be known for his extreme energy and commitment to improving local government.
Irvine residents can surely draw parallels between the two. And if not, ELGL made the connection on their own.
Thanks to his commitment to local government, and drive to spark civic engagement through social media, Kuo ranked 15 out of 100 on the 2020 Traeger Award list.
Regardless of the acknowledgments of awards, Kuo’s admiration for the city of Irvine is based in an amalgamation of lifelong experiences that he has collected over the decades.
“For me, I have to say it’s growing up here. I used to tell people if you chose to move here, there was a reason – a job, you like the parks, or you appreciated that it was a safe community – all of those things that drove many people to move here, I got to grow up with those,” he said. “I’m literally the product of all the things that we think are right about Irvine.”
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