MAHWAH, NJ – Jonathan Wong, 23, is believed to be the youngest council member to have ever served the New Jersey township of Mahwah.
He is also believed to be the youngest Filipino-American in elected office in the United States today.
“I felt that resident’s voices weren’t being heard,” Wong said. “I wanted to be that person that knew what was going on and help to make the good decisions that was the voice of the community, and here we are.”
With a population of nearly 26,000, there are only about 165 Filipinos in the township of Mahwah. But that did not stop Wong from getting elected as township councilman last November.
New Jersey State Senator Gerald Cardinale said, “He is an extraordinarily young fellow to be taking on this great responsibility. But the people have elected him. They trust him. They love him. He has a great future and I’m sure he’s going to do wonderful things for Mahwah.”
“The residents saw something in him, something in him that represented change, a new vibrant and exciting personality,” Mahwah’s Mayor William Laforet said. “And I believe they think that he’s going to come here and take care of business in the community.”
Wong will be juggling law school, politics and business. This freshman law student at Brooklyn Law School is also a real estate broker and the president of Trinity Property Management company.
He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from City University of New York, Baruch College.
His mother Grace said the whole family is behind Jonathan every step of the way.
“We’re all here for you. If you want to become the next President of the United States, we’re here for you too,” Grace said.
Wong is one of four young Filipino Americans elected to city councils in New Jersey. The list includes Rolando Lavarro of Jersey City, Peter Mendonez of West Windsor and Arvin Amatorio of Bergenfield.
“It’s also my first term. There’s so much to learn and he should not rush,” Amatorio said. “In my case I’m also trying to learn all the processes, all the ins and outs of the council. But bottom line is if he needs to make a decision, it should be for the good of the town.”
Wong said, “I ran, I was concerned about my town issues. It’s nice that I’m Filipino and I love the Filipino community. But when it comes down to it, I’m worried most for my constituents and making the right decision for them.”
Kababayans say the rise of Fil-Am politicians in New Jersey is a sign that more Filipino communities are becoming more empowered in the United States.