After a 27 year human services career with Los Angeles County, Lily Lee Chen became the first Chinese-American woman mayor in the United States in 1983. During her term, the city of Monterey Park was one of the seven cities selected by USA Today to receive the All-America Cities Award in 1985.
During her career for Los Angeles County, Lily established the county’s first Asian American Human Services Program, making the services accessible to the APA population. She was eventually promoted to the position of Families and Children’s Services Administrator for LA County.
In 1984, the Democratic National Committee appointed Lily to serve as a member of the Platform Committee. The 40-member Task Force on “Peace and Security” elected her as Chairperson. During the 2000 National Democratic Convention, Lily chaired the Asian Pacific Leadership Council.
One of Lily’s Presidential appointments include the National Council on Adult Education, where she proposed the ESL (English as a Second Language) Program to aid the new immigrant population in participating in the mainstream of American life. Her proposal later became a federal legislation.
The Secretary of State appointed Lily as a member of the Board of Governors of the East West Center in Hawaii in 1998 to further the institute’s understandings between the U.S. and Asian Pacific countries. While serving on the U.S. Industry Policy Advisory Board and a member of the California State World Trade Commission, she led many trade delegations to Asian Pacific countries.
Lily was honored by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in 1985, receiving the Distinguished Community Service Award for her commitment to encouraging harmony among cultural groups.
In 2015, Lily was honored by APAPA with the Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing her contributions and services to the community.
Lily is a Founding Board Member of Committee of 100 in 1989.