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Speaker Toni Atkins Inaugurated in Capitol

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First San Diegan to Lead Assembly

(Sacramento) - In a ceremony in the Assembly Chambers today Assemblymember Toni Atkins of San Diego took the oath of  office to become the 69th Speaker of the California Assembly.  On hand for the ceremony were Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and the state’s constitutional officers, members of the State Senate, and Consuls General representing California’s economic and cultural partners from around the world. Former Assembly Speakers were also present, including Rep. Karen Bass, who administered the Oath of Office to Speaker Atkins.

“We are all here to do the people’s business,” Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego) said. “We must work to ensure stability, and that includes an adequate reserve for those rainy days when the economy again takes a downward dive.  And at the same time we must expand opportunity and lift up the most vulnerable who have suffered a great deal and need us not to forget them now.” 

In her swearing-in remarks Speaker Atkins emphasized the need to help California’s economy improve, including passing a Rainy Day Fund, increasing investment and access at UC and CSU, developing a strong water policy in the face of the drought, creating more affordable housing and ending veterans homelessness.

Noting that she is the first Speaker from San Diego, Speaker Atkins said, “Forty years ago San Diego had a Senate President pro Tem. Twenty years ago, we had a Governor. And today – we complete the Triple Crown for America’s Finest City as we gain a Speaker of the Assembly.”

Acknowledging Republican leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare), Speaker Atkins also noted this is the first time in California’s history that either house of the Legislature has two women leaders.  

The invocation for the swearing-in was given by her good friend from San Diego, Fr. Henry Rodriguez. The Colors were presented by Sacramento Valley Veterans, an LGBT veterans organization. Jamie Palmer of the Speaker’s staff sang the National Anthem and musical selections were provided by the Faith Fellowship Community Church Choir of Sacramento.

Special guests included Speaker Atkins college advisor and early mentor Dr. Stephen Fisher. Thirty years ago, Dr. Fisher inspired Speaker Atkins to “imagine the world you want to live in and then work to create it.”

Speaker Atkins proudly represents the people of coastal San Diego, from Imperial Beach, along the Mexican border, north to Solana Beach, and most of central San Diego. She previously served eight years on the San Diego City Council, and became a stabilizing force during a tumultuous period in 2005, stepping in as Acting Mayor after the resignation of the mayor.

Prior to her election as Speaker, Ms. Atkins held the position of Majority Leader. She chaired the Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness, and served on committees on Housing and Community Development, Health, Veterans Affairs, as well as the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

Speaker Atkins is a leading voice on affordable housing, women’s health, veterans and homelessness.

Speaker Atkins was born in Virginia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Emory & Henry College, and completed the senior executive program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Her life of public service began in San Diego in the mid-1980s as director of clinic services at Womancare Health Center. She became a staff representative of then-City Councilmember Christine Kehoe, later winning her mentor’s council seat after Ms. Kehoe’s election to the Assembly.

Speaker Atkins lives in the South Park/Golden Hill community of San Diego with her spouse, Jennifer LeSar, and their dogs, Haley and Joey.

As of now Haley and Joey have not announced plans for a Twitter feed or playing cards.

Below are photographs from today's events:

Below are links to audio of Speaker Atkins:

Former Speaker Karen Bass administers the oath of office to new Speaker Toni Atkins. (1:16)

Remarks from new Speaker Toni Atkins. (25:22)

Speaker Atkins talks about her top priorities at a news conference following today’s swearing in ceremony. (:51)

Speaker Atkins says affordable housing has always been, and will remain, one of her top priorities. (:43)

Website of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins: www.asmdc.org/speaker

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