INUYAMA, Aichi Prefecture--An American-born assemblyman in this castle town has ascended to chairman of the municipal assembly on his second attempt, an achievement he says is the first of its kind in Japan.

Anthony Bianchi, 58, who was born in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, was first elected to the Inuyama city assembly, with the most votes among candidates, in 2003. It was his inaugural attempt at running for office after acquiring Japanese nationality.

He has been trying to reform the way assembly affairs are conducted.

Bianchi had been expected to lose before the chairman’s election in May, but he won by 10 votes to nine after calling for the “promotion of discussions between assembly members” in his speech prior to the vote.

“A chairman selected in the pecking order or based on prior consensus would not be able to move assembly reform to the next stage,” said an assembly member who voted for Bianchi.

Bianchi said he is “likely the first municipal assembly chairman from outside Japan,” although there is no data available at the National Association of Chairpersons of City Councils.

“If my taking office receives attention, that will help promote Inuyama,” Bianchi said.

After studying film at New York University, Bianchi visited Japan for the first time 30 or so years ago because he was interested in Buddhism and Zen.

He was so enchanted by Inuyama Castle, a designated national treasure along the Kisogawa river, and Japan’s traditional cultures, that he began teaching English at a municipal junior high school in 1996.

He repeatedly challenged the city's board of education over policy, and ran for an assembly seat to "change the precedent-based administration."

After being elected to the city assembly, Bianchi wondered why assembly members spent most of their time simply asking the city authorities questions.

“Monitoring the behavior of authorities is not the only role of the assembly,” he said. “They (assembly members) should show their presence much more by suggesting policy measures and revising bills.”

Acting on the idea, Bianchi persuaded fellow assembly members to actively hold discussions with each other at committee sessions and on other occasions.

Bianchi said his motto is “progression before precedents.” He is looking to establish a system for local residents to state their opinions and views at assembly sessions based on a similar mechanism in the United States.

“I have no idea about whether I can realize my goal, but continuing working to the finish and never giving up are the ‘Brooklyn way’.”