White House Honors Gin, Iwamoto as ‘Champions of Change’

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WASHINGTON — The White House honored 10 openly LGBT elected or appointed officials as “Harvey Milk Champions of Change” on May 22 – Harvey Milk’s birthday — to pay tribute to Milk’s life, leadership, and legacy.

Michael Gin

Among them were two Asian Pacific Americans:

• Michael Gin, who is currently serving his second term as the 28th mayor of the City of Redondo Beach, having been re-elected in March 2009. As mayor, he has seen the city through several years of economic challenges with a consistently balanced budget and a thriving local economy. He has worked to bring the community together from all sectors on various issues, resulting in uniquely collaborative solutions. Gin has been in public service for over 20 years. In 2011, he was a Republican candidate in the special election to fill the congressional seat vacated by the resignation of Jane Harman.

• Kim Coco Iwamoto, a certified therapeutic foster parent, who was elected to Hawaii’s State Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. During her time in office, she was able to implement many of the policy recommendations of the Department of Education’s Safe School Community Advisory Committee, and in 2011, she drafted the Hawaii Safe Schools Act, which gave the Legislature and the governor an opportunity to join the effort to reduce bullying and harassment in public schools. The bill was signed into law later that year. In 2012, Iwamoto was appointed and confirmed to the Hawaii State Civil Rights Commission.

Kim Coco Iwamoto

Established in 2011, the White House Champions of Change program regularly spotlights Americans who are doing extraordinary things for their community, their country, and their fellow citizens. The LGBT officials honored as Harvey Milk Champions were chosen for their strong commitment to both equality and public service.

In the words of Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, “When President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom in 2009, he praised his leadership and courage in running for office. Today, we honor Harvey Milk’s legacy in these 10 outstanding public servants, who will surely inspire the next generation of public servants.”

Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was assassinated in 1978, less than a year after taking office.

Also honored were:

Simone Bell, Georgia state representative (Atlanta)

Angie Buhl O’Donnell, South Dakota state senator (Sioux Falls)

Karen Clark, Minnesota state representative (South Minneapolis)

John Laird, California secretary of natural resources (Santa Cruz)

Ricardo Lara, California state senator (Long Beach)

Kim Painter, Johnson Country recorder (Iowa City)

Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati City Council member (Cincinnati)

Pat Steadman, Colorado state senator (Denver)

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