SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A 1984 Emory & Henry graduate was recently selected as majority leader of the California General Assembly, making her one of the most powerful elected officials in the state.
Assembly member Toni Atkins officially claimed the post Saturday, Sept. 1. The new office is the latest in a political career that began when Atkins was elected to the San Diego City Council and later served as the interim mayor of the city.
As majority leader, Atkins leads the Democratic Party in the General Assembly and has the power to expedite Assembly floor proceedings. She was selected for the position by California Speaker of the House John A. Pérez.
“I am humbled and excited by this opportunity to assist Speaker Pérez and am grateful for the trust the Speaker has placed in me,” Atkins said. "I also look forward to working with my Assembly colleagues in accomplishing the important work that lies ahead of us – continuing to balance the state budget, creating jobs, protecting the health and welfare of all Californians, and making the promise of the Golden State a reality through strong education and infrastructure programs,” she said.
Elected in 2010 and expected to be re-elected to a second two-year term in November, Atkins has served as majority whip for the past two years. The whip is responsible for coordinating legislative support for bills as they come to the Assembly floor for a vote.
Atkins also serves on the Housing and Community Development, Health, Judiciary, Veterans and Government Organization Committees. She is also Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Homelessness.
Once named by the Democratic Leadership Council in California as a “rising star,” Atkins has continued to live up to that expectation. In November, she was elected to the California Assembly, representing the 76th Assembly District.
She began working toward this goal in 2008 after ending eight years of service with the San Diego City Council (council members have eight-year term limits). For six months during that time, she served as interim mayor of the city after the previous mayor, Republican Dick Murphy, resigned amid a federal investigation of the city’s pension fund.
Much of her political reputation is built on the successful work she has done on behalf of disadvantaged communities in San Diego. She fought for and achieved affordable housing in San Diego’s challenging housing market. She has worked successfully on behalf of veterans, the elderly and the homeless while remaining focused on fiscal responsibility.
“I totally to continue to believe and be grateful that my time at Emory & Henry really helped prepare me for the role and path I’ve taken in civic engagement and public service,” Atkins said. “I continue to believe, as I was helped to understand as a student in Dr. (Steve) Fisher’s courses, that working with others on a common goal, I’d be able to make a difference.”
Atkins resides in San Diego with spouse Jennifer LeSar.