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Add to their accomplishments: Woman of the Year

By rgordon
Monday, March 5th, 2007 at 5:34 pm in Uncategorized.

South San Francisco City Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto was chosen by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, as the 8th Senate District Woman of the Year for 2007, and Pacifica attorney Helen Karr was chosen by Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-San Francisco, as the 19th Assembly District Woman of the Year. Both were honored in a ceremony today at the state Capitol.

Karyl MastumotoIn 1997, Matsumoto became the first Japanese-American elected to office in South San Francisco. According to Yee’s office, she is among the first Japanese-Americans elected to office in Bay Area. She is the former national director of the Japanese American Citizens League, where, according to Yee’s office, she stabilized the 23,000-member organization after a major financial and staffing reorganization.

She was also recently elected to the SamTrans board of directors, beating Daly City Councilman Mike Guingona in a close and controversial contest.

Matsumoto recently retired as a labor compliance officer for SamTrans. She also served as chief of staff to former state Sen. Quentin Kopp (who is now a San Mateo County Superior Court Judge) and as a legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton, when she was a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

“As a councilmember, volunteer and civil rights leader, Karyl has tirelessly served our community for many years and is most deserving of this recognition,” Yee said in a statement.

Helen KarrKarr is a San Francisco deputy district attorney elder abuse specialist and a legal research assistant for the State Bar of California’s Office of Media and Information Services. She volunteered as a senior assemblywoman in the California Senior Legislature for six years, testifying before the Senate and Assembly. Two of her proposals to prevent elder abuse from her time in the Senior Legislature have been signed into law.

Karr is a volunteer for Seniors Against Investment Fraud (SAIF) and is a member of the county Ombudsman’s board of directors. She received the “2005 Spirit of Service Award” from the Corporation for National and Community Service and she was selected as U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s delegate to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging.

Karr was not admitted to the California Bar until her 64th birthday. A former beauty salon manager, she was first motivated to begin her crusade against elder abuse by stories she heard from her salon clients who were cheated of their life savings by family members. She was in her late 50’s when an article about two older, female attorneys providing low-cost legal services to seniors inspired her to enroll in law school.

“I know that countless San Mateo County seniors join me in thanking Helen Karr for preserving the financial well being of our most vulnerable and beloved community members,” Mullin said in a statement.

The Woman of the Year event was started in 1987 and is sponsored by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. One woman from each Assembly and Senate district in California is invited to come to the Capitol each March (in honor of Women’s History Month) to be honored for their accomplishments.

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