SAN DIEGO — From San Diego city councilwoman to assemblywoman to speaker, Toni Atkins Wednesday rose to governor of California — at least in an acting role.
Atkins is the first San Diegan to preside over the state since the second term of ex-Gov. Pete Wilson ended in January 1999. She’s the third acting governor this week since Jerry Brown left for a trip to Mexico, which is scheduled to wrap up today.
“I recognize that my short time as acting governor will probably prove to be uneventful — and I hope it will be uneventful!” Atkins said. “But I’m also thinking today about how a young girl who grew up in poverty in Virginia ends up as speaker and therefore gets the opportunity to be acting governor. What that says about our opportunities as Americans and our democracy are profound.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom normally takes the reigns when Brown leaves the state, but he went away Tuesday and Sen. President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg filled the role. Steinberg left Sacramento on an out-of-state trip Wednesday.
Atkins became speaker in May, the first lesbian to lead the lower chamber of California’s Legislature.
“I wish my parents could see this,” she said. “Now I know that may sound hokey to many, but honestly, this is what is going through my mind. I feel so grateful. If Governor Brown wants a few more days away, I’m here for him!”
Atkins served on the San Diego City Council from 2000 to 2008 and was briefly interim mayor before Jerry Sanders took office. She joined the Assembly four years ago.