TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Following the results of last week’s election, two officials will make history when they are sworn in.
Terre Haute Mayor-Elect Brandon Sakbun will be the first person of color to ever take office, and Kandace Hinton, who won her race to be the councilwoman in District One, will be the first Black woman ever to serve on the council.
Dr. Crystal Reynolds, a local historian, believes this is a major milestone for the city.
“100 plus years of us being who we are in Terre Haute there has never been a person of color as mayor, or a Black woman in the city council. So that in itself is historic,” she said. “Some people will say what took them so long, but at the same time, there are other cities in this great country that have never elected a person of color to any high role.”
WTWO spoke to both Hinton and Sakbun about their thoughts on the achievement.
Hinton said she wasn’t aware until about two or three months into her campaign that she had the opportunity to make history– but that motivates her even more to be an inspiration for other people around the community.
“For Black women not to be engaged in this way makes me want to stretch myself even more and challenge myself that I can mentor and inspire the next generation, the current generation actually, of leaders for Terre Haute,” she said.
She called it a “humbling” experience to be in this position– and she thanked others in the African-American community for supporting her.
“I think that they see representation now, that they see someone who looks like them who perhaps had many of their same experiences,” Hinton said. “The community has embraced me, the African-American community has embraced me, they’re very thankful and they’re so proud. It doesn’t matter I did not grow up in Terre Haute, it matters I’ve been a member of this community for a long time.”
Sakbun– who’s mom is from Jamaica and his dad from Cambodia– said he thinks those all across the country can relate to his background.
“I definitely think it is just a part of the small story of American history and the concept of chasing the American dream,” he said. “We are a country formed of immigrants, from Europe, from Africa, from South America, from Asia, from all different backgrounds, but really it’s representative that yes, even in 2023 we are still breaking down barriers.”
Sakbun said there were many other younger politicians he looked up to, but he wants to make his own impact as he looks forward to his time in office.
“You never want to be the second coming of another public official. I’m very pointed to say that, you create your own chapter. Take politics out of it. Whether that’s on the athletic field, the career field,” he said. “Be the first you, be your own individual. Yes, you look up to others and take their advice sometimes, but you always want to tailor to who you are and what your destiny is.”
Reynolds said she thought the representation at the highest levels of city government is important to celebrate.
“It’s important that we see role models, because that shapes us. Seeing people who look like us [in these positions,]” she said.
Hinton made a point to thank all those who came before her in fighting for civil rights across America.
“I’m grateful I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors. So many people who fought for the right just to vote. Now we have the right to elect folks who represent our community, who give us voice,” she said.
Reynolds echoed that sentiment– saying this is important to see in communities across the country.
“Nationally, we need diversity,” she said. “And this says a lot about our nation that we’ve come so far that we are now electing people who look like us and we’re electing people of all different ethnicities and all different backgrounds.”
Sakbun thanked his friends and family for making this possible, as well as those who came out to vote.
A Terre Haute native, he said he hopes younger kids, in his shoes– or those around the community– can be motivated by the progress in the community.
“I hope it inspires the youth in our community to get involved in the process,” he said. “Not just by voting, but by giving their time and energy towards making the country, the state and the city a better place.”