It was a long ride, but she made it.
Davis resident and current Yolo County supervisor Mariko Yamada won the race for California’s 8th Assembly District in last week’s election. The district includes portions of Solano and Yolo counties and Benicia, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville, West Sacramento, Winters and Woodland.
Yamada, a Democrat, is replacing outgoing State Representative Lois Wolk, who won the 5th Senate District in the election.
Yamada described her campaign, which was about two years in length from the primary to the general election, as the “longest job interview of my life.”
After Election Day, however, she was back at work the next morning maintaining her duties on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. All members of the California legislature will be sworn in on Dec. 1.
Yamada is focusing on health and human services, water issues, fire, agriculture, education, transportation and employment to build “healthy and sustainable communities.”
Yamada believes the biggest challenge in the next few months will be the $25 billion budget deficit in an anti-tax environment.
“We’ve got to do something about people who already made up their minds [and] are not going support any revenue discussion and already said no new taxes,” she said. “We’re living in a state with 38 million people, which requires a level of service. Last time I checked nothing was getting cheaper.”
The budget is also at the top of Wolk’s list.
“I am looking forward to serving in the Senate and continuing my work on the critical issues currently facing both the 5th Senate District and the state – water and Delta issues, education, reforming mortgage practices, transportation, and health care,” Wolk said in an e-mail. “But right now, my highest priority is stabilizing the state budget.“
“[Wolk is] dedicated to good policy rather than partisan politics,” said Jim Provenza, another Davis resident who was elected to be Yamada’s successor on the Board of Supervisors. “Now going into the state senate she will be able to do more for us.”
She earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California and calls professional social workers “professional problem solvers.” With a background in local government, Yamada has extensive experience at the county level. She is looking forward to taking a local government perspective to Sacramento as well as opportunities to bring a unique social work perspective to California legislation.
“Because a lot of the time regulations at the state level are not always favorable to local government, we want to be sure we establish better communication and dialogue,” she said.
Yamada said an honest discussion of what the state wants to be is necessary, including a discussion about both physical and social infrastructure.
“Social and health infrastructure are no different than building bridges,” Yamada said. “If you ignore what it costs to operate and maintain sound health care and social service system, you are going to end up paying more when people drop out of school or need an emergency.”
Yamada has lived in Davis for the past 13 years and has served on the county Board of Supervisors since 2003. She will be succeeded by Jim Provenza, who was elected in June.
Provenza is looking forward to making Yolo County a model county in the state.
“We have traditionally protected agriculture and resisted the urge to pave over farmland,” Provenza said. “I would like to see Yolo County as a model community and protect agriculture while preserving the character of communities.”
As Yamada completes her term on the Board of Supervisors she is working with Provenza to ensure an orderly transition. Yamada supported him during the campaign and encourages him to bring his fresh ideas and own leadership style to the table.
“We have been working very closely,” Provenza said. “I’m working with her to make sure I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Yamada and Provenza have been working together in the community for the past 15 years. Provenza recalled a particular task when the two worked to repeal a 1945 city ordinance, which not only advocated the internments of Japanese citizens but also said they were not welcome to return to Davis. In the process of trying to rename a school after a prominent Japanese individual, the two came across the ordinance and approached the Davis City Council.
“I think Mariko is going to be an excellent assemblywoman,” Provenza said. “[She] was in the freshman class in the state assembly and will be in the top five percent and emerge as a leader.”
POOJA KUMAR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.