Hanging on the wall in my office, just across from my desk is the cover of the 2007 Petaluma Almanac, it reads; a guide to our community. On it is a photo taken on my block in Petaluma, with my son Adam, our dog and neighborhood kids playing in the background. That photo reminds me every day why I do what I do, and why I love what I do…..but what does that have to do with being named 2014 California Woman of the year?
This year Assemblyman Marc Levine (D – San Rafael), named me as District 10 (Marin and Sonoma County) recipient of this honor. The honorees are chosen for being pioneers in the sciences, civil rights, the arts, education, our armed forces, our courts and government. It was an amazing ceremony held in March that commemorated women from all over California for their contributions and inspiration to women and girls in the state and beyond. What a thrill it was to meet all the other honorees at breakfast, to have my family get special seats to watch the proceedings, and to walk down the aisle with the Assemblyman. It was an honor to shake the hands of so many, who like me are letting their passion help guide their work, and that passion be driven by their community.
I’ll be honest, when Assemblyman Levine’s office called and let me know that I was this year’s honoree I really couldn’t figure out, “why me.” Then as I reflected on the honor, and of course stressed a bit about what to wear, the Petaluma Almanac caught my eye. You see, I am the executive director of Petaluma People Services Center, which for forty years has been dedicated to improving the social and economic health of our community by providing programs that strengthen the dignity and self-sufficiency of the individual. I realized that with this role I am charged with the responsibility to guide our community and that I must continue to lead in the direction that so many before me put into place. Also, I thought of my desire to make sure that everyone has access to all the services they need to be part of our community. Other work in the community helps to make the links, for example with the Petaluma Health Care District my focus is on providing quality health care to the entire community, as past president of the Chamber of Commerce ensuring that business understand the link between the economy and health, and with the many other boards that I sit on, I carry the message that we all must invest in our community. Community is what it is all about.
For more information contact Elece Hempel