Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Many Important People In My Life Are Democrats, Too

It's much, much too soon to be writing another post like this after Will's death, but I am again grieving the loss of another mentor and role model - Charmette Bonpua.

I met Charmette during my Assembly Fellowship on the first day I reported to my assigned office - then Assembly Member (soon to be Speaker) Herb Wesson. I had been warned by the previous fellow not to try to talk to Charmette before she had her morning coffee. Soon enough, in stormed a short, fiery Filipina with a single, burning mission to get some coffee. She may have grunted hello, but not much else. Ten or so minutes later, coffee in hand, she came over to my desk full of fire for the days work and enthusiasm over my arrival. The difference that coffee made was impressive.

Charmette was Herb's chief of staff and most trusted aide at many levels of his public service - most recently as he serves on the LA City Council. They were great friends and partners in politics - a perfect match of skill and temperament and vision.

The woman was scary smart. Emphasis on the scary. Well, and the smart, too. She passionately devoted her life to public service and whatever time was left after her day job went to working with young people and encouraging others to think past low expectations, to aspire to great things. I recall her once saying, tearfully (in a rare display of that sort of emotion), that she was told once she'd never amount to much in the US because of her accent, because she was just an Asian immigrant female. I think her core mission was making sure every girl in the state knew she had the potential to lead and affect change. And man did she have fun and love her job.

Charmette was only 44 when she died.

Rest in peace, Charmette, you will be greatly missed. Thank you for your service and your example.

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