Thursday, August 6, 2020 12:30 pm

APAICS in Conversation: Maeley Tom

In 1996, an Asian Week publication described Maeley Tom as “one of the most powerful and influential non-elected political figure in the Asian American community because of her career accomplishments and contributions to the empowerment of the Asian American voice in politics and government at the state and national level.

Maeley Tom’s 20-year career in the State Legislature of California (1974-1994) was during an era when Asian Americans were struggling to find a voice in politics and public policy.  During this period she was able to break the glass ceiling twice in the State Capitol by becoming the first woman and ethnic minority to serve as the Chief Administrative Officer of the State  Assembly and subsequently serve as the Chief of Staff to the President of the State Senate. Today she holds the unique distinction of being the only professional to have served in chief executive positions of both houses of the California State Legislature.  When there was an absence of Asian Legislators in the State Capitol during the 80’s, she served as the Director of the Office of Asian Affairs to ensure that the Asian communities continued to have a voice in the legislative process.

During her tenure in the State Capitol, she worked to empower the Asian constituency by organizing legislative workshops and creating institutions to inspire and mentor Asians to become more engaged in the political process, run for elected office and advocate on behalf of policy issues affecting the community. 

In 1987, she organized the first national Asian American Democratic Conference inviting democratic U.S. presidential candidates to address Asian American issues before a national public forum for the first time in U.S. history.

From 1994 – 2000, she served as a Senior Vice President of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm, Cassidy and Associates. Subsequently, she and her husband formed their own California public affairs firm, Tom & Associates in 2001 until her retirement in 2014.

Her 30 years of campaign experience include serving as the Deputy Director of the California Dukakis presidential campaign. She was an advisor on Asian American issues to the Clinton/Gore presidential campaigns. Her last campaign was leading the Asian Leadership Task Force to re-elect California Governor Jerry Brown in 2010. 

She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the Women’s Business Ownership Commission in 1983 and was appointed by President Clinton to represent the U.S. at the United Nations Women’s World Conference Platform Committee in New York in 1995.  She became the first non-elected Asian to be appointed to the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee from 1989 – 1997 serving as a super delegate to three national conventions.  Ms. Tom also served on the California State Personnel Board and CalPERS Pension Board.

She was a political columnist for Asian Week from 1987 – 1995 and was the producer and host of Channel 40 (KXTL) local Central Valley channel program “Facets” highlighting Asian American issues.  Her proudest achievement is mentoring scores of Asian Americans who now hold offices at the local, state and national levels and she continues this effort as the Director of Government Relations for the Asian Pacific Americans Public affairs Organization (APAPA). 

She is the co-founder of the Assn. of Asian American Investment Managers and founding president of the California APIA Legislative Caucus Institute and Capitol Academy and a member of Committee 100.

Ms. Tom received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology/Psychology from the California State University of San Francisco and attended the Stanford Law School Executive Education Program.  

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