CARSON — After 37 years of service, Carson City Clerk Helen S. Kawagoe tendered her resignation Tuesday, effective Dec. 31, for health reasons.
Kawagoe, 84, suffered a stroke in September and has been undergoing therapy ever since.
The Carson City Council has 60 days from Dec. 31 to either make an appointment or call a special election for the city clerk position, and will take up the issue sometime in January.
In the interim, Chief Deputy City Clerk Wanda Higaki, who has worked with Kawagoe for 31 years, will be responsible for the operation of the City Clerk Office.
Kawagoe was elected city clerk in 1974, and has been re-elected to that office continuously. She is only the second person to hold the position since Carson’s incorporation as a municipality in 1968. As city clerk, she oversees local elections, serves as clerk to the City Council, and maintains a multitude of vital official records.
“Helen Kawagoe, also known as ‘Mom’ in Carson City Hall, has served the people of the community with extraordinary distinction. She is the epitome of what any city would wish for in a city clerk,” said Carson Mayor Jim Dear.
Kawagoe is believed to be the first Japanese American woman elected to local office in the continental U.S.
She has a long history of community and professional involvement. She served on the Carson Planning Commission and has been active in such diverse activities as Carson Chamber of Commerce, United Way Crusade, Red Cross, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), which she served as the first female district governor. She served as national president of JACL and past president of Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials (APAMO) of the National League of Cities (NLC) in 1996.
Kawagoe has also represented city clerks on the League of California Cities Board of Directors and in 1986-87 was president of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, a professional association with over 9,700 members in more than a dozen countries.
Kawagoe has received citations from the California Legislature and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She was also named Woman of the Year for the 55th State Assembly District and was awarded the Order of the Precious Crown by the Japanese government.
“The contributions that Helen Kawagoe has made to other city clerks, new and experienced, across the United States establishes a legacy that few will ever come close to,” added Dear. “Her list of achievements is long and impressive. She is a role model for any public servant or any young person who strives to be the ultimate professional.”