A More Inclusive Leader

L-R: “FIRST MAN” JOSH YAMASAKI, MAYOR RYAN TOUSSAINT

The gay Mayor of Solvang, Ryan Toussaint on preconceived notions, social change movements and being a voice for the future.

BY SEAN GALUSZKA

Elected Councilman at age of 29 in 2016 then running for Mayor of Solvang in 2018 and receiving 61.47% of the vote, Ryan Toussaint says that serving as a city council member provided him “the opportunity to really listen, analyze, and understand some of the challenging issues Solvang confronted, as well as hear concerns about the city’s future.”

“I’ve always been interested in city building; what makes a city sustainable and thrive socially and economically. I wanted to ensure we’d continue to thrive, grow, and welcome a diverse population with a more nuanced vision of our city,” states Mayor Toussaint in an interview with THE FIGHT.

“When I decided to run for this office I wanted to make a difference, not simply as a white male, a businessperson, or a concerned citizen. I wanted to be a leader as a gay man who witnessed and confronted non-inclusive environments and people first hand, whose participation in civic discourse had been discounted.  I wanted to be a voice for the future with a strong and thoughtful approach to problem solving to achieve goals many think impossible, similar to what our LGBTQ community achieved the past decade.”


“I wanted to be a leader as a gay man who witnessed and confronted non-inclusive environments and people first hand, whose participation in civic discourse had been discounted.” 


“Witnessing LGBTQ and other social change movements with potential to galvanize ideas and win, I was motivated to gather diverse community leaders, organize our shared ideas, spark energy, stir the pot, be aspirational, and go into action,” says Toussaint.  

On a personal note, “one of the most torturous things you could probably do to a partner is run for office,” reveals Toussaint. 

“Josh, my ‘first man,’ my husband (married last November), was a campaign walker and spent a lot of time knocking on doors, talking to people, and distributing flyers. To this day, I still hear about the ‘cute man that came to my doorstep.’ I’m lucky to have found a wonderful guy and even luckier to not lose him to campaign craziness.  Our love and partnership was strong enough to sustain the chaos. Josh attends events and some council meetings.  He’s always interested in my work and I in his.  Overall we have had very positive reactions from the community.” 

When asked to describe the LGBTQ community in Solvang, Toussaint says that it is “very welcoming and close-knit, a smaller subset within an already small community.”  

“I grew up here and even now, as an adult, feel welcome,” he reveals. “While I do not directly experience certain types of discrimination as a white male, being gay has given me eyes to see the world as straight, white men do not; the absence of certain members of our community in the room, preconceived notions, stereotyping, and misperceptions of people who do not fit the majority demographic. This has empowered me to be a better listener and to strive to be a more inclusive leader.” 


For more about Mayor Ryan Toussaint and his mission visit: www.ryanformayor.org.