SAN DIEGO, California -- In honor of Women’s History Month, Speaker Toni G. Atkins will honor 11 local women for their generous contributions of time and effort, and one of those women is from of the LGBT community.
In the past, the speaker has chosen one woman from the 78th Assembly District as “Woman of the Year” — this year Betty Peabody from Point Loma — who will be honored March 9 in Sacramento for her achievements.
Atkins decided to expand her Women of the Year project for 2015, and asked local community groups to nominate women from 10 different San Diego communities. Atkins will honor these women, along with Peabody, this month at a private luncheon held at the Catamaran Resort in Mission Beach.
Local LGBT community leader Rebekah Hook of North Park was nominated by the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA), and will be one of the women honored at the local ceremony. Other women from the district to be honored at the luncheon include Rommie Amaro, La Jolla; Hazel Bailey, Imperial Beach; Lisa Marie Harris, Mission Hills; Linda Katz, Del Mar; Lisa Montes, Solana Beach; Laura Mustari, Pacific Beach; Maria Nieto Senour, University City; Doug St. Denis, Coronado; and Midori Wong, Downtown.
Hook is the director of public affairs for The San Diego LGBT Community Center and demonstrates the type of commitment to community that the SDLA said they were looking for when they nominated her.
Originally from Indiana, Hook earned her bachelor’s and master's degrees in political science from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. After receiving her degree, she moved to San Diego with her partner Shawna, and began focusing on finding a career in America’s Finest City.
Hook said her colleagues in Washington state were surprised by her move, given the amount of important connections and networks she had developed there. Encouraged to prove she had made the right decision, Hook attended an event with the San Diego Young Democrats club, where she met partners Vanessa Cosio and Barb Moreno.
“They were quick to welcome me to San Diego and suggested I get involved with The Center’s Young Professionals Council (YPC).” Hook said.
From there, Hook became heavily involved with the YPC and through that work was introduced to the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA). She said that within a year she applied for and was accepted into the 2013 Leadership Institute; a local organization sponsored through the National Leadership Council (NLC).
Although SDLA separated from the NLC in 2014, Hook remained and now sits on the SDLA board of directors. She said there are a great many young people who are interested in politics nationally, and San Diego is prime example of that.
“The biggest thing I have noticed that is changing, is that younger leaders — who are qualified and strong candidates — are being elected to serve their community,” she said. “I think the norm was that people had to be a certain age, but all of that seems to be changing — and for the better.”
Hook also said the political climate for the LGBT community is changing as well. Not long ago the thought of meeting an openly gay elected official — or even be one herself — was extraordinary.
“When I moved to San Diego, I couldn’t believe how many LGBT elected officials there were from the eighth largest city in the U.S.,” she said. “And now, not only are LGBT people being elected to office, they are leaders of their party and their elected bodies, like the Honorable Speaker Atkins.”
Atkins said she is very proud of Hook for the diversity of her contributions.
“Rebekah Hook is a dynamic leader in San Diego’s LGBT community,” she said. “Her work at The Center has helped increase civic engagement and shape smart public policy. She has also dedicated her time to mentoring other young leaders with San Diego Leadership Alliance. Her work does credit to the community of North Park and all of San Diego.”
Hook is modest about the award and said she looks to Atkins for inspiration.
“I am very fortunate to call San Diego my family’s home, and to work in a community that I love,” Hook said. “Speaker Atkins is a tremendous role model, and I am humbled and thankful for this opportunity.”
Hook said this recognition has inspired her to continue working to make changes and work within the community. She hopes to create diversity and opportunities for young leaders and civic pioneers.
“We have a lot of work to still do, and I look forward to being a part of that,” she said.
—Timothy Rawles is a local freelance writer. He and his husband live in Mission Hills with their two children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Editor's note: This article was originally published on SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)