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Mayor Gloria Honors Influential 'Women of Distinction' in San Diego


March 15, 2022


SAN DIEGO To recognize the contributions of women in our city, Mayor Todd Gloria and the San Diego City Council are honoring 10 local women who have made a significant impact on their communities and helped create a better San Diego for all of us.

San Diego wouldnt be what it is today if not for the positive contributions of the 10 women chosen to be recognized this year as part of the Women of Distinction event, Mayor Todd Gloria said. Their leadership is overcoming challenges and moving our city forward amid some of the most important issues we face environmental sustainability, human rights, growth and development, equity, public health and more. I am grateful for the incredible, selfless service they provide to our community.

For the past six years, during Womens History Month in March, Mayor Gloria has hosted the Women of Distinction recognition ceremony. This year, for the first time, each City Council office was invited to nominate a woman who lives, works or goes to school in their council district.

Ten women were selected, one person for each Council District and one selected by Mayor Gloria. These Women of Distinction honorees will be recognized on Tuesday, March 15, during the San Diego City Council meeting, which starts at 2 p.m.

Cody Hooven, chief operating officer for San Diego Community Power and a driving force in its successful launch, is the Mayors selection. Hooven was the first chief sustainability officer for the City of San Diego for over five years, where she ensured the adoption and implementation of the City's Climate Action Plan and supported adaptation and resiliency efforts. She explored how transportation, green buildings, renewable energy, climate resilience and social equity are included in the Citys approach to sustainable communities. She is committed to pushing toward 100-percent renewable energy for families and businesses while responding to community demands for equity and innovation.

Dr. Fonna Forman from Council District 1 is a political science professor at UC San Diego and the founding director of UC San Diegos Center on Global Justice, which was launched to advance research on poverty with an emphasis on collective action at community scale. Her research on climate justice, equitable urban development and border ethics has led to her being appointed to the Global Citizenship Commission, advising U.N. policy on human rights, as well as serving as a special advisor on civic and urban initiatives for the City of San Diego. Forman also co-chairs the Global Climate Leadership Council that advises the University of Californias president on climate change and sustainability policy, research and education.

Cathy Kenton from Council District 2 is a long-time resident of San Diego, and she currently chairs the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group (MPHCPG), where she is leading the effort to complete and adopt the 2018 Community Plan update. She has also co-chaired the campaign to successfully adopt Measure E and actively works with the City of San Diego to revitalize the Midway community. Kenton is also the founder and CEO of Legal Tech Media Group, a marketing and business development consulting company focused on legal technologies.

Pamuela Halliwell from Council District 3 is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, transgender, non-binary and gender non-confirming individuals, as well as homeless and transitional age youth and individuals in LGBTQIA communities. She is the president of the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition and member of the Black Staff Retention Taskforce, supporting trauma-informed care and racism trainings, along with being a member of The Gender Phluid Collective. Halliwell is the first Black Transgender Female therapist to work at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. As a therapist, a woman, a transgender woman and an African-American woman, she is working to empower and mobilize the community to make change.

Cathy Ramsey from Council District 4 is a long-time community leader and volunteer at the Fourth District Senior Resource Center and has served as leader of the Greater Skyline Hills Town Council for several decades. The organization has been instrumental in putting together community cleanups, graffiti paint-outs, street fairs and jobs fairs, and Ramsey has pushed for grant funding and community involvement in these projects. Additionally, she was a member of the SkylineParadise Hills Community Planning Group, where she was instrumental in the campaign to get a new Skyline Hills library, advocating for a library that would meet the needs of all the residents within her community.

Dr. Darshana R. Patel from Council District 5 is a community leader focused on raising the level of local civic engagement. Now in her second term as an elected trustee, she is the vice president of the Poway Unified School District Board of Education. Patel is the president of the San Diego County School Boards Association, a representative body furthering public-education advocacy, in addition to serving with the San Diego AAPI Coalition, San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee and San Diego Police Department Northeastern Division Captains Advisory Board. She has held executive positions on the Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board and Town Council and, as a second-generation American-born Indian woman, she has been a committed and dedicated member of the community.

Lee Ann Kim from Council District 6 is a native of Seoul and a first-generation Korean American who has had a distinguished career as a journalist, nonprofit leader, media producer, public speaker and advocate for the Asian Pacific Islander community. As a San Diego news anchor and reporter for KGTV, she garnered numerous awards for her work, including an Emmy Award for investigative reporting. Kim established a minority reporter internship program and helped revive the local chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, where she served as president for two years. She was also the founding executive director of the Pacific Arts Movement (Pac-Arts) and, under her leadership, Pac-Arts became one of the largest media-arts organizations in North America that focuses on Asian American and Asian international cinema.

Rebekah Hook-Held from Council District 7 is an experienced policy professional who joined The Center in 2014 to spearhead public policy and justice-focused advocacy efforts on behalf of the greater LGBTQ community. She leads The Centers civic engagement and leadership development programs, aimed at empowering and building power within the LGBTQ community. Committed to leading in her community, and investing in leadership development, Hook-Held is a 2013 Alumni of New Leaders Council Institute, a member of the Board of Directors for the Coalition for Reproductive Justice and the San Diego Leadership Alliance.

Claudia Rodriguez-Biezunski from Council District 8 is a small-business owner who lives and owns a business in Barrio Logan. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she created and distributed more than 10,000 face masks for free to families in need across San Diego. She also organized local businesses to create Walk the Block, a weekly outdoor market in Barrio Logan that kept many businesses and street vendors afloat. This further led to the creation of All for Logan, a new nonprofit where Rodriguez-Biezunski is focused on strengthening the businesses and artists along Logan Avenue in her role as president of the organization.

Amina Sheik Mohamed, MPH, from Council District 9 is a dedicated public-health leader who has gained national, state and local recognition for her work advancing health equity in San Diego County. She has helped launch and implement multiple programs, including the UC San Diego Youth Advisory Council, Interfaith Wellness Program and the Advancing Health Literacy Program. As founder and director of the UC San Diego Refugee Health Unit, she also established the San Diego Refugee Communities Coalition. Bringing together 12 ethnic, community-based organizations to work collectively, Mohamed has worked to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 services and shaped responses to challenges during the pandemic such as housing, health and employment, striving to ensure that community voice and agency are foundational in all aspects of her work.