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2024 Distinguished Women of the Year

Every March, the State Assembly honors women from across the state for their remarkable contributions to the community in celebration of Women’s History Month. This year, I am pleased to honor ten distinguished women from across the 56th Assembly District who have exhibited qualities of courage, strength, and vision in their communities.

We look to each of these honorees to uplift and support our neighbors, youth, and future leaders. This very commitment has enabled women everywhere to shatter the glass ceiling and thrive in their respective fields. Although there is much work left to do, I know that we can get the job done with strong women like these in my district.

Barbara A. Fitzgerald - Legislative Honoree

Barbara Fitzgerald

Barbara A. Fitzgerald represents employers in all areas of employment law. Her practice emphasizes litigation, primarily the defense of claims for wrongful termination, workplace harassment and retaliation, employment discrimination, and individual and class wage and hour claims. Barbara’s clients include companies in entertainment, health services, financial services, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and transportation.

Barbara defends clients in employment tort claims, including alleged discrimination, harassment and retaliation; intentional infliction of emotional distress; defamation; intentional interference with employment contracts; invasion of privacy; assault and battery; and negligent hiring, training, and retention. In addition to her litigation work, Barbara advises employers on employment terminations, employment contracts, wage and hour compliance, and investigations of alleged employee misconduct. She also helps clients develop employee manuals, policies, and procedures.

Barbara completed her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis and subsequently attended the University of Southern California Law School to receive her Juris Doctorate. She also completed graduate studies at the UCLA School of Public Health. She also holds a certificate, with honors, in business and management of entertainment from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Barbara has received recognitions and was named Employment Law - Management, Los Angeles, The Best Lawyers in America (2023, 2024); Litigation – Labor and Employment, Los Angeles, The Best Lawyers in America (2020, 2022–2024); Most Influential Women Attorneys in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Business Journal (2018); Southern California Super Lawyers (2007, 2009–2017, 2021–2024); and many more.

Ms. Fitzgerald is an active Board Member of the Board of Advisors for the Institute of Corporate Counsel and the Editorial Board for Matthew Bender's Labor and Employment Law Bulletin. She is also a Member of the American Bar Association and State Bar of California, Labor & Employment Law and Entertainment Law Sections; the American Bar Association, The Motion Picture, Television, Cable, and Radio Division of the Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries; and a Lifetime Member of Women in Film.

Bibi Fai Ying Leung

Bibi Leung

Bibi Leung, a dynamic entrepreneur since 1995, is also an enthusiastic animal lover; she aspires to ensure all animals find a safe and caring home. Originally from Hong Kong, she settled in Rowland Heights in 1995 with her husband. Bibi's vibrant spirit and dedication inspire those around her as she advocates for animal welfare and actively participates in the Rowland school district and local parade community, contributing to the organization of city events.

Bibi is the President of Marketing Promotion Image, Inc., a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) certified Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB). She currently serves as the Treasurer and Vice President of Rowland Council PTA and is the treasurer and co-chair of the Rowland Heights Buckboard Days Parade Committee. In her spare time, she volunteers with Priceless Pet Rescue.

Billie Saavedra

Billie Saavedra

Mrs. Saavedra has been Director of Food Services for 21 years and a member of El Rancho Unified School District (ERUSD) since 1995. Leading with compassion, her role has been pivotal in connecting and increasing food access to thousands of students in the City of Pico Rivera and surrounding communities.

She is a strong proponent of breakfast having a real and powerful effect on students' education and, through her leadership and advocacy, created a district-wide adoption of the Breakfast After the Bell (BAB) program at all El Rancho Unified School sites. Participation at those sites went from an average of 75-80 breakfast to over 225 per site. In addition, she vigorously advocated for a Nutrition break to be implemented at all three middle school sites, increasing average participation from 40-50 to over 250 breakfasts per site. Through the lens of equity, Mrs. Saavedra applied and was approved for Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This allows all ERUSD students to eat at no cost for the next four years without the need to apply.

Mrs. Saavedra is an exceptional woman, leader, advocate, and hunger hero. She cares about her students, employees, and the well-being of future generations. Mrs. Saavedra is always willing to go beyond with two goals: "leave the world better than you found it" and "feed as many students as possible." She is truly a great and innovative leader and, after almost three decades of service, deserves to be recognized as one.

Catherine “Cathy” Marcucci

Cathy Marcucci

Catherine Marcucci is a dedicated public servant for the City of Industry. She serves on the California Contract Cities Association and the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control board.

A graduate of Cal State Long Beach, she is a lifelong resident of Southern California.  Cathy is married with one daughter and has worked in the financial industry for the past 25 years, specializing in writing policy and procedures, and fraud and compliance before her retirement.

She is dedicated to her public service and supports partnering with regional and local law enforcement to share best practices to address homelessness throughout the San Gabriel Valley.  Cathy is active with the California Contract Cities Association, serving on their Legislative Committee. Additionally, Cathy represents the city on the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control board.

Cathy is an avid animal lover and is involved with several nonprofit animal rescues in the San Gabriel Valley. She led the effort to the opening of a Priceless Pets Adoption and Rescue Operation in the City of Industry, which is now a regional benefit.

Christine Garibay

Christine Garibay

Christine Garibay is the President of Murphy Ranch Little League. She grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, where she participated in and benefited from Little League Baseball.

In her seven years presiding over the youth baseball organization, league mergers and organic growth has grown the league from about 240 players in 2018 when she took over, to more than 735 participants in 2024, overcoming the challenges of the COVID pandemic.

Christine has always been passionate about working with children and serving her community. She began volunteering for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, where she organized fundraising events, participated in fire safety and burn prevention campaigns, and became a camp counselor at Champ Camp, a summer camp for young burn survivors.

Erika Herrera

Erika Herrera

Erika Herrera is the co-founder and owner of DOMESTIC, a restaurant specializing in California-style barbecue with two locations in the San Gabriel Valley. As a small business owner, Erika has dedicated her business to partnering with organizations to give back to her community through fundraising for a refrigerated delivery van to distribute food to underserved communities, providing meals to transitional housing families, and participating in weekly meal distributions for families in need.

As a pillar of the community, she has also hosted a “Yellow Heart Memorial," dedicated to lives lost during the pandemic, helped provide hygiene essentials for at-risk youth, partnered with local high schools to donate 100% of the proceeds to their basketball and baseball program, fundraised money for the Diamond Bar Library and the Taste of Walnut event.

Beyond her partnerships, Erika provides meals to our local first responders, local youth at the neighboring skate park, donated over 400 pounds of barbeque meat to feed the local community.

Any small contribution that can uplift someone, DOMESTIC is always willing to help.

Grace Andres Salazar

Grace Salazar

Mrs. Grace Andres Salazar has served the City of La Habra Heights and its residents for over 20 years. She began her service as a volunteer 911 dispatcher and fire inspector and was promoted to the position of Deputy City Clerk and finally to her current position as the Public Works Specialist, where she plays an important role in monitoring, maintaining, preserving, and enhancing the city's streets, parks, public trails, buildings, and facilities. She is also the city's liaison to nonprofit organizations such La Habra Heights Improvement Association, Highland Riders, and the Pet Prescription Team.

During the recent winter storms, Grace was instrumental in the city's emergency response efforts to rapidly restore and reopen main streets and narrow roads that had become flooded with mud and debris. These actions were vital in preventing residents from being trapped in their homes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Grace created and delivered weekly care packages of food, water, PPE and activities to promote mental health and well-being for homebound and high-risk residents. Grace collaborated with local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and churches to obtain donated water, food, hand sanitizer, and hand-sewn masks for residents and the fire department.

Grace currently serves as the president of her local Parent Teachers Association, where she helps provide accessible field trips and after-school events for students.

Joanna C. Lo

Joanna Lo

Ms. Joanna C. Lo is the Founder of Heart of Hope, a nonprofit that supports youth with intellectual developmental disabilities and partners with local high schools to provide students with internship opportunities. She dedicates herself to planning programs for special needs students and their families, ensuring everyone has access to the transformative power of music by fostering inclusivity and accessibility in the arts.

Ms. Joanna Lo is a highly accomplished music educator and adjudicator with a diverse range of qualifications, experiences, and professional affiliations. She earned her Master of Music degree from The Royal Academy of Music in London, specializing in Pipe Organ and Church Music. Following her passion for music education, she completed the requirements for the California Teaching Credential, Pedagogy, and Certificate of Music Therapy and Special Music Education from the University of California, Los Angeles.

In addition to her roles in education and adjudication, Ms. Lo is a passionate advocate for community engagement through music. She volunteers her time leading music programs at three senior living facilities, enriching the lives of elderly residents through the joy of music. After retiring from teaching high school in 2018, Ms. Lo dedicates her time to teaching private piano lessons full-time. Her comprehensive expertise, tireless dedication, and passion for music education make her an invaluable asset to the music community, and she continues to inspire both students and colleagues alike.

Lillian Cruz Rey

Lillian Rey

Lillian Rey served as the Executive Director for the El Monte/South El Monte Emergency Resources Association, which has provided aid to needy families in the San Gabriel Valley region for the last 43 years. 

Ms. Rey was responsible for the administrative tasks of the agency, which included fundraising, being the community liaison, and volunteering supervision. More often, you could find her loading groceries into her van to deliver to a family amid a personal or financial crisis. If not providing the necessary resources, Ms. Rey might be at a local motel arranging emergency shelter for a family who has just lost their home.

Lillian is able to respond to the needs of the community from a position of compassion and knowledge, providing assistance in a way that will enable persons served to maintain their dignity, regain their independence, and return to the community in a productive fashion. Her commitment to El Monte goes beyond the organization she headed.

She sits on the governing board of the Greater El Monte Hospital, has volunteered with Meals on Wheels for nearly three decades, volunteers with organizations that help people with disabilities, and volunteers for the El Monte Police Department through the VCAP (Volunteers Caring and Patrolling) program and many more.

As a single mother, she raised six children in the El Monte area; despite the demands of keeping her family together, she has made thousands of lives better through her dedicated service to the community.

Linda Jacqueline Argumosa

Linda ArgumosaLinda Argumosa is a 32-year Walnut resident with decades of commitment to the community that warmly welcomed her and her family. Linda has donated her time and resources to various Walnut Valley Unified School District fundraisers and locally run sports organizations. She has raised thousands of dollars for Walnut student-athletes whom she has encouraged to graduate high school and attend college.

Over the years, Linda has strived to teach her children the rewards of giving and receiving, especially during the holidays. Linda and her family have fed people experiencing homelessness at the Los Angeles homeless shelter, adopted numerous local families during times of need, and given children gifts in hopes of seeing them smile and feel special. Linda’s hope has been for her family to value all of life’s blessings and the feeling of bringing joy to others.

Today, Linda continues to maintain her local insurance agency in the city of Walnut. She appreciates all her clients and treats them like family by listening to their needs, showing compassion, and providing a shoulder to lean on, many times conducting business free of charge and making house calls to residents who are unable to visit her office. Linda continues to donate to the local schools, high school volleyball program, Walnut Valley Educational Foundation Teddy Bear Tea, and other local fundraisers.

Linda is proud that she and her husband, Frank, of 37 years, have raised two responsible, kind adults, Corey and Katie.

Noelia Saucedo

Noela Saucedo

Ms. Noelia Saucedo serves as the Senior Recreation Leader at the South El Monte Senior Center. Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life is something that Noelia embodies.

She began as an active community volunteer assisting older adults with transportation and medical healthcare provider appointments. Her dedication to her community led to her being hired and promoted in the Center to organize events for families and older adults. Every year, she hosts Grandparents Day and Health Fair, drawing hundreds of participants and bringing resources back to her community through federal and state partnerships.

Noelia also serves on three City of South El Monte Commission Boards: Community Services Commission, the Patriotic Commission, and Advancement of Women and Girls Commission where she reports the needs of the community to her City Council.

Aayati Sangal - Emerging Leader

Aayati Sangal

Ms. Sangal is a resident of the City of Diamond Bar.

She is the founder of SweetsNTreats, a local pastry business that donates proceeds to food banks.

Ms. Sangal is a Member of the Miss Diamond Bar Pageant, a nonprofit that promotes and enhances personal growth through community service.

She has dedicated her time outside of school to supporting the City of Diamond Bar by volunteering, fundraising, and planning events through the Pageant.

Aayati will be attending the University of Southern California during the Fall of 2024.