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Sukhee Kang stepped down from his Irvine mayoral seat at his last City Council meeting as mayor Monday night, ending his four-year stint as the first Korean-American mayor of a major U.S. city.

“This is something that I never imagined in my whole life,” Kang said.

Kang immigrated to the United States in 1977 and was elected mayor twice, in 2008 and 2010. Previously he had been a councilman for four years. He ran this year for the House of Representatives in the 45th district but was defeated by incumbent John Campbell.

As mayor, Kang was a member of the council’s Democratic council majority, a bloc led by longtime council member Larry Agran that for years was considered unbreakable. Yet the mayor broke ranks last year when he voted against the Democrats and for a multi-thousand housing development around the Orange County Great Park, stunning many council observers.

Kang received plaques and medallions in recognition of his service, including one from Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins. “In your eight-year tenure you have continually lead by example, helping to place Irvine on the list of the safest cities in America,” Hutchins said.

Among other figures from Orange County to make presentations were Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell; Assemblyman Don Wagner, who represents the 70th district; and Orange County Fire Authority Chief Keith Richter.

Before Kang made his final remarks, the council presented him with a gold gavel encased in a wood box.

“Rather than say goodbye to you, I would prefer that I say farewell, that is, until we meet again,” Kang said.

Kang didn’t elaborate on his next move or whether he planned to return to politics, saying only that he will make a decision over the next two months.

— BRENDAN WILES

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