On Tuesday March 14th, Mayor Todd Gloria named well-known television journalist Sandra Maas this year’s citywide “Woman of Distinction.” Maas, who serves as board president of the Women’s Museum of California, is an advocate for pay equity in the workplace.
In addition to Sandra, 9 women nominated by their City Councilmembers were honored during Tuesday’s City Council meeting for making a significant impact on their communities and helping create a better San Diego for all of us.
“It’s fitting that today, which is Equal Pay Day, we’re honoring someone who stood up for equal pay not just for herself but for all women,” Mayor Gloria said. “Sandra and all the women who were honored today dedicate their time and talent to improving our community, and we’re thrilled to recognize their contributions and accomplishments.”
Sandra Maas (Mayoral Citywide Honoree) is an award-winning journalist, medical reporter and advocate for women in the workplace. As a CBS Newspath medical correspondent, Maas developed her passion for health sciences and helped develop franchises with KFMB-TV and KUSI-TV that focused on covering life-saving medical breakthroughs and devices. Sandra merges her strong relationships and extensive connections in the philanthropic and business communities where she served on several boards including the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, the Matthews Foundation and the Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary. She currently serves as the Board President of the Women’s Museum of California, where she produces and hosts the Emmy-nominated video series, “Trailblazing Women.” She has been honored as a “Woman of Dedication” by the Salvation Army and a “Woman of Influence” by the San Diego Business Journal.
Marcella Bothwell, MD, MBA, (Council District 1 Honoree) lives in Pacific Beach and is a retired Clinical Professor of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. She is now a Founding Board member and Marketing Chair for the San Diego Parks Foundation. She’s also the Chair of the City of San Diego’s Parks and Recreation Board. She is the Immediate Past President of the Pacific Beach Town Council and the incoming Pacific Beach Planning Group Chair. Dr. Bothwell is active in the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church and spends most of her free time in local parks with her three dogs plus one foster husky.
Ana Gloria “Martha” Rodriguez (Council District 2 Honoree) is a local cultural leader committed to preserving her Kumeyaay history, culture and language. She is the founder of Tipey Joa Native Warriors, an international grassroots organization focused on health, education, culture, youth empowerment and strengthening the bond between those living on and off reservations. She opened the Kumeyaay Market in Old Town Historic State Park, where she showcases and sells traditional Indigenous baskets, pottery, clothing and more. Through the market, Rodriguez supports local Indigenous artists, primarily women from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Crystal Irving, (Council District 3 Honoree) is the President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 211, which represents over 13,000 workers in the healthcare, public services and property services sectors. She has always dedicated herself to service and purpose, from working for the Boys and Girls Club, to a protective services worker, social worker in Adoptions, and recruitment specialist for quality foster and adoptive parents. She became a member leader of her union while employed at the County of San Diego and worked her way up to President. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit United Way of San Diego County, which focuses on elevating children and families through community action, family stability, education and mitigation of inequities.
Claudia Thompson (Council District 4 Honoree) is a retired Grossmont College Counselor known for guiding many students through their journey in higher education. Though she’s retired, Ms. Thompson is actively engaged in her community and stresses the importance of providing resources to her neighborhood that reflect its rich culture and diversity. As a member of the Friends of the Oak Park Library, she collaboratively works with leaders to secure quality programming and events for youth and library patrons. In 2014, Thompson coordinated with the National Conflict Resolution Center and brought Congressman John Lewis to the Oak Park Library where he connected with community members. Thompson’s engagement has been instrumental in advocating for a new Oak Park Library.
Zeynep Ilgaz (Council District 5 Honoree) is an immigrant from Turkey and a 20-year resident of San Diego, dedicating much of her time to nonprofit public service in addition to her career in the Biotech Industry. She founded her award-winning company, Confirm Biosciences, and continues to dedicate a percentage of earnings to local community organizations. She has served on the Board of Directors of Interfaith Community Services while working alongside the National Institutes of Health Commercialization Accelerator, a program dedicated to bridging the gap between early-stage companies and their commercialization goals. Ilgaz has also been an active board member of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She also servers her local community of Rancho Bernardo on the Rancho Bernardo Community Council.
Bari Vaz (Council District 6 Honoree) transitioned her career from Information Technology to the non-profit sector when Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown and has served in various capacities to improve her local community since then. She has been a part of the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group, the Mira Mesa 4th of July Fair Committee, co-founded the Mira Mesa Community Foundation and is the current President of the Mira Mesa Town Council. In addition, she is the treasurer for Louisiana State University Alumni of San Diego, where she helps host the annual “Crawfish Bowl” fundraiser, which raises funds for scholarships granted to students in San Diego.
Rose Schindler (Council District 7 Honoree-In Memoriam) was born in 1929 and grew up on a family farm in Seredne, Czechoslovakia with her parents and seven siblings. In 1938, Hungarian soldiers, aligned with Germany, occupied Seredne and Schindler and her family were forced into a train cattle car destined for Auschwitz, Poland. While there, Schindler rapidly lost weight, had her hair cut off, was malnourished, and beaten. On May 6, 1945, Schindler and other survivors were liberated. Sadly, she lost her parents and five of her siblings. She eventually made her way to San Diego in 1957 with her husband, Max, and opened Roxy’s Fabrics, which she ran for 11 years. Until Schindler’s recent passing, she lived in the San Diego home she and Max built 56 years ago. Throughout her life, Schindler regularly spoke, mostly to students, about overcoming her struggles.
Alejandra Mier y Terán (Council District 8 Honoree) is the Executive Director/CEO for the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce and has transformed the Chamber into a binational economic development engine that serves industrial businesses on both sides of the border. She currently serves on the Board of the International Community Foundation, a San Diego-based community foundation that makes transformative investments in Mexico’s cross-border community. Alejandra is also a member of the Otay Mesa Planning Group.
Ana Gonzalez (Council District 9 Honoree) is an advocate and leader for her community. She immigrated from Mexico 15 years ago and is proud mom of three kids. Her passion is helping other parents in her community in similar situations to her: immigrants who struggled with the language and the lack of information. She is also passionate about creating her second teaching program, teaching parents and children good habits to improve their health.
Mayor Gloria has hosted the “Women of Distinction” recognition ceremony for the past seven years, dating back to when he was in the Assembly.
Mayor Gloria’s “Women of Distinction” annual recognition began seven years ago when he served in the State Assembly. As Mayor, he has invited City Councilmembers to select an honoree from their districts to be part of the ceremony.