In all the activity of this week, the highlight was a lovely dinner hosted by state Senator Sheila Kuehl, in honor of Betty Perry.
Betty is a legend around Sacramento and the Capitol, for her long leadership at the Older Women’s League of California, where she serves in a volunteer capacity as their public policy director.
It was incredibly sweet of Senator Kuehl to honor her, because these tributes are normally done at retirement partiess, yet Betty “officially” retired a couple of decades ago. He was the guidance counselor at McClatchy High School here in Sacramento, and so knows many of the political class from their childhoods, from Supreme Justice Anthony Kennedy to former state Senator Deborah Ortiz. She recently spoke at the high-profile funeral of Rep. Robert Matsui.
But it’s not her connections, it’s her heart and values and work ethic and goodness that people appreciate. Nobody questions Betty’s motives, even those that question her positions (which I almost never do).
In my toast among many two night ago, I cited my amazement that she works so hard on so many issues, from housing to budget to civil rights. Even in the health care arena, she works consistently on several key issues. She’s a tremendous advocate for universal single-payer health care and SB840(Kuehl). She has been very active on Medicare Part D, on health budget cuts, and women’s health. These aren’t just “me too” positions: Betty Perry and OWL has taken a leadership role on the issue of people being denied for “pre-existing conditions”–working so much on the topic, I noted, that some might wonder if she was dating somebody named MRMIP.
For the past year and a half, she has been the chair of the 26-member board of Health Access California. My board members, from a very diverse range of organizations and positions, all respect her and voted her to the position, and she runs an efficient meeting, and provides good advice in her capacity as my President.
I didn’t mention that she is also an excellent representative for Health Access, and she has done so at the highest level, including with Governor Schwarzenegger himself. A couple of year ago, I was in Washington, DC, and could not attend a meeting with the Governor on prescription drugs. In comparison to the former Mr. Universe, I look like the prototypical 90-pound weakling. But he’s no match for Betty.
(In this photo of last year’s bill signing of the prescription drug discount program, she is on the left, in pink, with a watchful eye on the Governor, and keeping me honest, as always.)