Peng Her, a longtime Hmong leader from Madison’s north side and current CEO at the Hmong Institute, announced Friday that he is a candidate for Wisconsin lieutenant governor. Her is looking to become, according to his campaign, the first Hmong-American in statewide office in the United States.
Her is the founder of the Hmong Institute, an organization in Madison that focuses on providing education, training, and outreach to improve health care and educational achievement for communities of color around Wisconsin. His statewide experience includes serving as a member of Governor Tony Evers’ Early Childhood Advisory Council and Racial Equity Working Group on Homelessness.
“From starting a small business to building strong neighborhoods to managing public-private partnerships that boost Wisconsin’s economy, my career has proven that working together we can make good things happen,” Her said in a statement. “I want to partner with Governor Evers to advance our shared values. We need to build a sustainable, fair economy and strong communities where everyone has the chance to succeed. I will put my skills and experience to work to serve all the people of this great state and make Wisconsin even better.”
A first-generation American, Her and his family came to this country from Laos when he was 5 years old. Sponsored by a church in Oskaloosa, Iowa, the Her family landed in Des Moines on December 12, 1976. They became United States citizens in 1986.
Her earned a bachelor’s of science in physics from Central College in Iowa in 1994 before earning his master’s degree in applied physics from DePaul University in 1997. After working at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, the first Hmong physicist to do so, Peng moved to Madison with his wife Mai Zong Vue.
Her has been a small business owner, opening and operating a successful restaurant on Madison’s east side for five years. He has worked with the nationally renowned UW Madison Institute for Research on Poverty where he was part of the DreamUP Wisconsin initiative, a community-university collaboration to expand economic opportunity. According to his bio, Her has also served as the associate director for the Center for Resilient Cities, as vice president of Promise Zones and Partnerships at the Urban League of Greater Madison, and as the executive director of the East Isthmus Neighborhood Planning Council where he facilitated community-driven planning and action and helped inspire residents.
“As a public servant, I am a strong advocate for building strong and safe communities, helping small business succeed, and increasing access to quality health care,” Her says at his campaign website.