Annual Dinner 2013 Honorees
Anne Shen Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Southern California Gas Company
Anne Shen Smith is chief executive officer of Southern California Gas Company. Prior to this, Smith was the chief operating officer of SoCalGas, a Sempra Energy California regulated utility. SoCalGas is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility serving over 20 million consumers through 5.8 million gas meters in more than 500 communities.
Previously, Smith served as the Senior Vice President of Customer Services and Vice President of Environment and Safety for SoCalGas. She started her career with SoCalGas in 1977 and held management positions in public affairs, strategic planning, demand forecasting and market research.
Smith served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Public Advisory Committee of the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission, Los Angeles City Environmental Affairs Commission, and the Federal Advisory Committee on Personal Vehicles and Greenhouse Gas Reduction. She is a former board member of the Coalition for Clean Air. Currently, Smith serves on the Board of Directors for the American Gas Association, California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Southern California Leadership Council. She also sits on the Hank Lacayo Institute for Workforce and Community advisory board; the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center board of advisors and the Board of Governors for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. Smith is also a member of The Trusteeship, an affiliate of the International Women’s Forum.
Smith immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1964. She received her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Michigan and has a master’s degree in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of California at Berkeley.
Senator Mazie K. Hirono
The Norman Y. Mineta Legacy Award
Born in Fukushima, Japan, Mazie Hirono was nearly eight years old when her mother brought her and her older brother to Hawaii to escape an abusive husband and seek a better life. Although the family struggled in those early years, the challenges taught Mazie the value of self-reliance.
When she arrived in America, Mazie knew no English and her family struggled to make ends meet. It was in elementary school that she got her first job, serving as a student cashier at lunch. As a young person, Mazie decided early on that she wanted to give back to her community and help others get through hard times like those she experienced as a child.
Mazie served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1981 to 1994 and earned a reputation as an advocate for consumers and workers. In the legislature, she worked with her colleagues to reform auto, homeowners’, and employee compensation insurance.
After being elected as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor in 1994, Mazie led efforts to support Hawaii's vital tourism industry through visa reform. She also revamped Hawaii's workers' compensation law and saved businesses an estimated $85 million in its first year of operation. Mazie was also a leading advocate for improving early childhood education for Hawaii’s keiki.
Voters in Hawaii’s second congressional district elected Mazie to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. It was her family’s trials as a child that taught Mazie to be self-reliant, and in Congress, Mazie fought to make Hawaii energy and food independent too. While Hawaii is the most oil-dependent in the nation, Mazie knows first-hand that Hawaii residents are not a dependent people. As a congresswoman, she worked closely with leaders on both sides of the aisle to make Hawaii’s economy and way of life more sustainable by advocating for more research and development of renewable fuels, better funding for math and science education in Hawaii schools and improved transportation infrastructure on the islands.
The people of Hawaii elected Mazie to the Senate in November 2012 by a 25 point margin. Upon her swearing in, Mazie became Hawaii’s first female senator, the country’s first Asian-American woman senator and the first immigrant woman to ever serve in the upper chamber.
Mazie was appointed to sit on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Veterans Affairs committees. In the U.S. Senate, she will continue to be a strong voice for the people of Hawaii. She plans on using her committee assignments to make the case for why Hawaii should continue to play a vital role in our country’s national security. She will also continue her efforts to make Hawaii sustainable and energy independent and fight to cut government red tape that makes it harder for foreign tourists to visit Hawaii.
Mazie lives in Honolulu with her husband Leighton and mother Laura.
Congressmember Mark Takano
The Inspirational Leadership Award
For more than twenty years, Mark Takano has worked to improve the lives of Riverside County residents, both as an elected official and as a teacher at Rialto High School.
Born and raised in Riverside, Mark's commitment to public service began at an early age. His family roots in Riverside go back to his grandparents who, along with his parents, were removed from their respective homes and sent to Japanese American Internment camps during World War II. After the war, these two families settled in Riverside County to rebuild their lives.
During Mark’s long history of public service in Riverside County he has served on the Community Advisory Board of the Children's Spine Foundation and the Board of the Chancellor's Asian Pacific Islander Community Advisory Center at the University of California, Riverside. He has served as chairman of the Riverside Mayor's Task Force on the Digital Divide, as a charter member of the Association of Latino Community College Trustees, as a member of the Association of California Asian American Trustees and as a member of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education. He is a recipient of the Martin Luther King Visionaries Award.
Today, Mark Takano represents the people of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Jurupa Valley and Perris in the United States Congress. He serves on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
The Community Impact Award
The History of the APALS Network
APALS was founded in 1992-1993 during the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest. The idea originated during meetings of APANLA (Asian pacific Americans for new Los Angeles), a coalition of APA community groups convened by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) to identify the needs of our communities and to provide grassroots advocacy to ensure that the voices of the APA community was heard as Los Angeles was striving to rebuild.
In the early 90s, email and social media did not exist and many staffers relied on face-to-face meetings, personal phone calls, and fax blasts to stay connected. To this very day, APALS continues these traditions through informal gatherings and its Monday Minglers program.
Furthermore, when APALS was first founded, there was only a handful of APA elected officials in California: Congressmembers Robert Matsui and Norman Y. Mineta represented northern California, while Assemblymember Nao Takasugi was the only APA representative in the California legislature. Councilmember Michael Woo served a brief term in the Los Angeles City Council.
Although there were few APA elected officials in office, our community was fortunate to have several APA individuals who cared about the community, serving in government offices throughout the state of California.
During APAL’s founding years, Candice Kim, from Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard’s office, and Jeri Okamoto, from Assemblymember Louis Caldera’s office, served as co-coordinators, working with a team that included: State Controller John Chiang, from Senator Barbara Boxer’s office; Kim Tachiki; Janet Lim; Mayor Chi Mui; Gerald Gubatan; Marissa Castro-Savanti; Audrey Noda; Maely Tom; and Georgette Imura.
Our founding members focused on assuring that our elected officials were well-informed on issues of concern to their APA constituents, mentoring incoming staffers and helping them with community networking and providing practical advice on political and cultural protocol. APALS also served and continues to serve as a leadership pipeline as we recruit incoming APA staffers and helped each other move up through the ranks.
Many in our network have gone on to serve on commissions and as elected officials themselves such as: Controller John Chaing, Assemblymember Warren Furutani, Garvey School Boardmember Henry Lo, and Councilmember Mark Pulido, just to name a few.
For almost 20 years since, APALS continues to serve the mission our founding members set forth for us of increasing the political influence and participation of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and providing direct access to all levels of government for the APA community, as we look forward to forming new partnerships and strengthening existing ones in the years to come.