Toni Atkins sworn in as California Assembly speaker

Toni Atkins came to San Diego at the age of 23 and took a job in a women’s health clinic. 29 years later, she’s one of the top politicians in the state. The swearing in ceremony had a distinctive San Diego flavor; a plane-load of San Diegans was in the Assembly Chamber, including Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Councilmember David Alvarez, Congressman Scott Peters, Assemblymember Brian Maienschein and former Councilmember and Assemblymember Christine Kehoe.

“Toni is a public servant whose dedication, compassion and sound judgement will serve this House and the state of California well,” said Kehoe

Atkins becomes the first openly gay person to lead the Assembly. Her rise to power began as a staff member for Christine Kehoe – the first openly gay member of the San Diego City Council.

“With Toni’s election, the California Assembly has again made history. As the 69th Speaker of the Assembly, she is the first Speaker to hail from our beautiful San Diego.”

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of L.A. spoke about her early days in San Diego.

“She has helped raise a nephew, work as a director of a women’s clinic, ran for and won a City Council seat, met her spouse Jennifer, was elected to the state Assembly, and now to the Speakership.”

Atkins served two terms on the City Council before being elected to the Assembly in 2010. Two years later, she’s the majority leader, and Monday, she’s the Speaker.

“As a San Diegan, we are proud,” stated Assemblymember Shirley Weber.

“For the first time in the history of our state, the people of San Diego can look proudly of their own as Speaker of the California Assembly,” declared outgoing Speaker John Perez

Atkins’ elevation to power was built upon being a pragmatist who came to issues well prepared, right down to the smallest detail. Her goal was finding solutions through negotiation and compromise; her priority issues are gay rights, affordable housing and reproductive rights; but Monday was about San Diego.

“40 years ago, we had a Senate president pro tem. 20 years ago, we had a governor. And today, we complete the triple crown for America’s finest city as we gain a Speaker for the Assembly,” said Atkins.

Atkins let it be known that she will work with the Republican minority leader Connie Conway.

“To have the opportunity to serve as Speaker alongside [Conway] is something that I’m definitely looking forward to. And take note: this will be the first time in the history of our state that either house of the legislature has had two women leaders.”

The oath of office was administered by former speaker Karen Bass. Atkins said the times have changed, but the issues facing California are really the same – centered around restoring California to greatness.

Categories: KUSI