A Heart for Family, Community
Councilman Michael Xiong gives back to the city that welcomed him 34 years ago
Eight daughters aged 6-27, a grandson, and a loving wife are the reason why Michael Xiong, who has served on the Eau Claire City Council as an at-large representative since 2013, will not pursue a third term of service come April.
Family and community have been central in Xiong’s life since he came to live in the Chippewa Valley in 1984. His family came by way of Thailand from Laos to be with one of his older stepbrothers, who suffered from leukemia. He, his many brothers and sisters, and his parents were welcomed by area churches and support organizations, which helped provide food, funds, and clothes for them all while they found their footing in a new place.
Xiong pursued his college education at UW-Stout, earning a master’s degree in home economics with a concentration in Family Services in 1998. He applied his studies to a career in social work for Eau Claire County, where he still works as a case manager after more than 20 years.
In an effort to give back to the community that gave Xiong’s family the resources to build a home in the Chippewa Valley, Xiong has spent time supporting various area causes, including Lutheran Social Services and the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association. He served as the president of the association for two years before he was encouraged by a few City Council members to run for a seat on the council. Xiong saw it as a new opportunity to serve the region.
Since he was first elected, Xiong has approached his duties as a council person with gravity and thoughtfulness. The choice of whether to fund the construction of the Pablo Center at the Confluence was a hot topic he joined the council.
“It put a lot of challenge on me, but I’m glad the other representatives kind of helped me out,” he said. Xiong weighed financial concerns, community input, and the desire to build Eau Claire’s reputation as a great place to live and visit, and voted to support the project. “I felt like Eau Claire needed to be better,” he said.
“Back in 1984 it was a very small town,” Xiong said of Eau Claire. “Every year from there until now has been a huge improvement, especially the downtown area.” He has tried to keep avenues of communication open between the Hmong community and the City Council throughout his service in an effort to grow the city with an eye for diversity.
Both times that Xiong sought an at-large council seat – in 2013 and again in 2016 – he received the most votes of any candidate. “They elected me because of my commitment,” he said. He believes his passion, as well as his efforts to be a good listener and respectful to all people, have built the community’s trust in him. He strives to be a positive influence on the community, a role model, and a loving person.
When Xiong has free time, he enjoys hunting and fishing, spending time outdoors where the clean air can clear his head and he can let his mind wander from matters of work. But even this is a family affair: He enters the woods with his brothers and stepbrothers, and they work together during deer season to bring home the venison. He’s not the best cook, he said, so he is thankful that many of his family are restaurant owners in the area, able to put together delicious venison soup.
During Thanksgiving and Christmas Xiong’s daughters visit from all over the state where they work, live, and attend school. They catch up with one another and play games, make sure that everyone is doing well. Xiong gives credit to his wife of 27 years, Jennifer, for bearing the brunt of their upbringing while he has worked and served on the council. “When I’m done I kind of need to put myself into helping them, too,” he said. “I want to love my children, so they grow to be a positive person.”