In being elected Boynton Beach’s new mayor, Ty Penserga is now the first LGBTQ plus Asian American mayor in Florida history.
Penserga won against three other candidates with 57% of the votes, while Golene Gordon and Cindy Falco-Di Corrado each finished with 18% and Bernard Wright received 6% of the votes.
Born in the Philippines and raised in Palm Beach County, Penserga has been a part of the Boynton Beach City Commission for almost three years and worked as a high school teacher teaching chemistry and biology prior to becoming commissioner in 2020.
The 33-year-old celebrated his win at a local Boynton Beach brewery on Tuesday and gave a victory speech thanking his supporters.
“This is a surreal moment for me,” Penserga said during his victory speech. “What you have taught me and what you have given me is an opportunity to fight for all of you. This is the opportunity to do the work.”
Penserga also shared how his experience as an Asian American shaped him to become more dedicated towards his community.
“When I was in college my friends and their siblings were getting attacked,” Penserga said. “And they were Asian-Americans. We did not know why we were being attacked. Whether they were waiting at the subway, or at the grocery store. We were afraid and we felt powerless. Nobody was there to fight for us. Where are the protests? Who’s going to City Hall? We didn’t have anyone.”
“That’s where my story began. I realized that not only did I need to build myself up, but I needed to build others up to create a leadership pipeline. We need to build a community of leaders.”
While campaigning, Penserga endured several homophobic comments from his opponent Bernard Wright, who stated during a Facebook Live that he “ain’t with the LGBT” and that Penserga would turn Boynton Beach into a “gay city.”
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was also passed on the same day as Penserga’s election win. HB 1557 bans “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” from kindergardens to third grades in the state’s primary schools.
Annise Parker, the CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, praised Penserga for his victory and expressed hopes that his leadership will bring a beacon of light to the LGBTQ community in Florida.
“While legislators in Tallahassee were trying to silence us, voters were making their voices heard at the ballot box. And with resounding enthusiasm, they chose equality,” Parker said in a released statement. “Not only did Ty shatter a lavender ceiling in Boynton Beach tonight, his election is a clear call of hope to LGBTQ people in Florida and across the country who are tirelessly battling legislatures bent on stripping away our basic human rights and freedoms.”