Looking to be inspired? Just read the resume of Sen. Carol Liu.
She was elected twice to her present seat on the California State Senate. Before that she served the State Assembly and La Canada Flintridge City Council as well as working for 17 years in public schools.
Her bills signed into law have included those that improve community college student success, provide access to adult education, protect foster and homeless youth, prevent domestic violence, reduce poverty and homelessness and introduce programs for the incarcerated.
In 2012, she instituted her Pathways to Wellbeing and Economic Prosperity program. She pulled together representatives from several agencies to discuss how to better collaborate services for those living in poverty. The program continues to help veterans, seniors, foster youth, the formerly incarcerated and victims of domestic violence.
Liu’s accomplishments are closely aligned with the mission of the 80-year-old Zonta Club of Burbank Area — to improve the lives of women and their families in the community, which made her the perfect fit as the group’s 2016 Woman of the Year. She was honored by elected officials, colleagues and friends at a luncheon on Oct. 29 at Lakeside Golf Club.
Zonta President Samantha Mielke welcomed all and introduced the VIPs attending, including Mayor Jess Talamantes and City Council members Emily Gabel-Luddy and Bob Frutos. Zonta board member Brittany Vaughan gave the invocation.
Those serving on the committee with Mielke and Vaughan were Nickie Bonner, Sharon Cohen, Grace Farenbaugh, Francesca Gallard, Marva Murphy, Gloria Salas, Merisol Speat and Candy Williams.
Bonner captured beautifully the senator’s life in a video with touches of humor. After Liu started her first job at Santa Monica High School, she grew accustomed to the fact that when the surf was up, she didn’t have many students come to class.
Following the video, several colleagues took the podium and told about working with the senator.
District Director Talin Mangioglu told how while serving in the Assembly, Liu spent the night in a women’s institution and spoke with the women about their grievances. One that surprised the senator was inability of female prisoners to be allowed to see their children.
She arranged for youngsters to take a bus to an institution and came along. At first the group was turned away until prison officials learned that a state legislator was on the bus checking out how the system worked. Consequently the children were let in to see their parents.
Mangioglu had once heard someone call her boss unflappable and she had a classic anecdote to prove it. One rainy afternoon, a meeting had been scheduled with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Liu’s office. Parking was often an issue and sure enough Liu had to park a block away and walked in soaking wet with her Australian shepherd Max. She calmly asked Mangioglu for some paper towels, dried off Max, took off her shoes and walked barefoot into the meeting room. Her only comment — how refreshing it was to see the rain. What a trooper!
Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes had his own story to tell about the modest senator before presenting her with the Key to the City.
The mayor had been invited to visit Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon whenever he was in Sacramento. So one day Talamantes stopped by to say hello and the staff told him de Leon was too busy. But who should walk in the door — Sen. Liu who had an appointment with him. She invited Talamantes to sit down and wait with her — and they saw him together.
At the end of the program, Jamie Keyser Thomas, Woman of the Year for 2014, presented Liu with her Woman of the Year pin.
A donation of $500 was made in Liu’s name to Family Promise of the Verdugos, and then Liu received a standing ovation.
Liu said she is preparing for her “swan song” to leave state office having termed out after 14 years in the assembly and senate. She thanked Zonta and all of those attending the luncheon who work together to make the surrounding communities thriving, healthy and just the best they can be.
“There is no other agenda for any of us in public service but to give back from which we have all benefited and that has been my philosophy of life in general,” she said. “I know that many of you hopefully have been touched by some of the programs and activities that we have done across the district.”
Former Women of the Year attending the luncheon, in addition to Thomas, were Elaine Paonessa, Marsha Ramos, Janet Diel, Lucy Burghdorf, Barbara Howell and Shanna Warren.
Funds raised from the luncheon will go to projects of Zonta including its Wings program that provides grants to help women who are enrolled or recently graduated from educational or vocational training that will lead to employment and economic independence.