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Fiona Ma: Record-breaking Chinese Female Elected Official in California

Fiona Ma, the 34th Treasurer of California, is the first female Chinese Treasurer in California history. In 1995, Fiona served as the representative of the White House Small Business Federation under President Bill Clinton. In 2002, Fiona was elected to the San Francisco City Council. She was also elected as the California House of Representatives in 2006 and served as the executive speaker of the California House of Representatives in 2010 (also translated as Deputy Speaker, Speaker pro Tempore). Fiona is the first Chinese-American woman ever to hold this position in the California Legislature. In 2015, Fiona was elected as a member of the California Department of Revenue, and as California Treasurer in 2018.

In November 2018, Fiona was elected California Treasurer with the highest number of votes in history (7,825,587). Her concurrent records include the first woman of color to hold the position and the first Treasurer to hold a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Fiona's office manages the finances of the nation's largest fiscal state, and in past tenures, she has used old bonds to refinance, saving California taxpayers more than $5 billion over the next 10-20 years.

Fiona is unwavering on the road of public service, and in 2022 she will again announce her candidacy for the election of California Treasurer. She will continue to work hard for the persistence and development of enterprises and immigrants. During the past two years, she has hosted/participated in more than 300 webinars, gaining insight and helping Californians by effective utilization of available federal, state, local, and private resources to actively fight against Asian hatred and promote ethnicity harmony.

Renowned family background and outstanding qualifications

People who know Fiona will relish her ancestry history of "one family of three generals". Fiona’s ancestral hometown is in Yunnan, China and she is the granddaughter of Ma Ji, a famous general in Yunnan during the war against Japanese invasion. Her grandfather, Ma Ji, was originally a lieutenant general in the Republic of China Army and served as the first mayor of Kunming and his two brothers were also general-level officers. The three Ma brothers made outstanding contributions to the victory of that war thus became legendarily known as "one family of three generals". Ma Ji was admitted to the Yunnan Army Academy in 1909, and served in the Yunnan Army after graduation. During the National Defense War, he served as the head of the fifth regiment of the army, and was later awarded the rank of colonel by Li Yuanhong and awarded the fourth-class Wenhu Medal. In 1920, he went to the Japanese Army Aoyama First Regiment to study abroad. He returned to China in 1922 and was appointed as a colonel's staff by Tang Jiyao. He was later promoted to Chief of Staff of the Fifth Army. Since 1924, he has successively served as the supervisor of the Kunming Municipal Office. In 1928, he served as the first mayor of Kunming City of the National Government. After 1929, he successively served as the commander of the Yunnan Army Gendarmerie Command. During the Anti-Japanese War in 1938, he served as the commander of Kunzhao Division in Yunnan. In 1944, he was promoted to deputy commander of the Yunnan Military Region. In 1949, he was transferred to the General Counselor of the Yunnan Appeasement Office and in October of the same year, he settled in Hong Kong. General Ma deceased in 1963.

Not only was Fiona born and raised in such a renowned family, her personal qualifications are also outstanding. Born in New York, Fiona graduated from accounting major of Rochester Institute of Technology (URI), holds a master's degree in taxation from Golden Gate University (SF) and an MBA degree from Pepperdine University. She obtained the California Certified Public Accountant qualification in 1992 and became the first finance minister in history to have an accountant qualification. Fiona indeed applied what she had learned in education into her professional accomplishments.

Fiona was determined to break new ground in the field of public service in her early years. She became active in public service when she started her accounting practice in 1994, when she was elected President of the Asian Business Association. She was later selected as a delegate to the 1995 White House Small Business Conference under President Clinton. At that time, Fiona realized that there were not enough women, minorities, and small business advocates in the political arena which she then decided to actively devote herself to the wider space of political affairs.

Entering the political arena and repeatedly setting records

As one of the few Chinese American women in politics, Fiona is young, enterprising, and energetic. After she entered politics, she was considerate of the people, determined to forge ahead, and created many historical records.

Fiona has comprehensive political experience, understands fundamentals, and is sympathetic to the people. She was elected to the San Francisco City Council from 2002-2006 and the California House of Representatives from 2006-2012, becoming the first Asian woman to be elected as Deputy Speaker. She was elected as the California Tax Commissioner from 2014 to 2018 and was successfully elected in 2018 as the California Treasurer. She also served as a one-time San Francisco inspector. She is married to firefighter Jason Hodge and has three adopted children from rescue workers.

Fiona once said that as a public official, she spends a lot of time and effort in social activities every day, and it is difficult to have her own time to develop a family and have children. Because her husband works in the fire protection system and must be on call at any time. Therefore, instead of having children of their own, they adopted the children of three rescue workers and passed on their love.

In November 2018, Fiona was elected as the Treasurer of California with a high vote. She was elected with the largest number of votes in California history (7,825,587 votes, accounting for 64.1% of all voters' votes), and was also the first California female minority to hold this position. She is also the first female CPA to hold this position.

Fiona seeks re-election in 2022. She said: "I am honored to serve as California's 34th Treasurer. I am running for re-election with the goal of doing even better and more services for California voters in terms of health care, housing, and education. This election is very meaningful. In California, Asian Americans are being discriminated against more and more seriously. As the Asian representative of the California state government, I will try my best to help all California people, especially our Asian community, and do more services! "

Fiona’s father, Professor Ma, also attended to support his daughter's re-election. Dr. William Ma is an outstanding retired construction engineer who has been very supportive of his daughter's political ideals for the past two decades.

Dr. Ma said: "I am very proud of my daughter's achievements. As a CPA, she was able to lead California's economic prosperity as California's Treasurer. When she initially ran for politics, I was hesitant because politics was challenging. But her achievements after taking office demonstrated her mind set, capability, and competence, which has inspired young people of different ethnic groups to strive for success!"

Breaking stereotypes Asian-American equality

Fiona has never forgotten of her origin as an Asian woman. She has been actively representing her ethnicity in the mainstream community, and fighting for the rights and interests of disadvantaged groups. As Treasurer, she focused on overseeing the creation of affordable housing, expansion of hospitals and schools, funding public transportation, green energy and advanced manufacturing companies, and oversaw three savings schemes, encouraging incentives for people with disabilities (CalABLE), universities (Scholarshare529) and Retirement Savings (California Savers).

As a woman, she is particularly concerned about the health and well-being of the people, and she has led many health-related public programs. Examples include mental health awareness, combating domestic violence and raising awareness about hepatitis B. In particular, hepatitis is more common in Asian immigrant families. She was born with hepatitis B, which is directly related to liver cancer. Hepatitis B disproportionately affects the Asia-Pacific (API) community: 1 in 12 immigrant Asian and Pacific Islander (API) adults in the United States are chronically infected with hepatitis B. Most people with chronic hepatitis B are completely unaware that they have the condition. Fiona helped launch the SF Hep B Free program in 2007 to promote the dangers of hepatitis for awareness and education.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in hate crimes against Asians. Fiona has actively participated in "Stop Asian Hate" rallies and press conferences, advocating for unity to protect the community, especially senior Asians.

Fiona is very focused on helping immigrants and small business owners to thrive. She has hosted/participated in more than 300 webinars over the past two years during the pandemic, educating Californians about available federal, state, local, and private resources. Fiona's work is always meticulous. She holds financial literacy conferences for high school students and is committed to reducing high student loan debt. She strives to help more low- and middle-income earners to buy their first homes and create multi-generational housing. She continues to expand access to COVID relief for small business owners, non-profit organizations, veterans and seniors, etc.

In early 2022, Fiona announced her candidacy for re-election as finance minister. This campaign is her fourth campaign. As Treasurer, she plays the role of "State's Banker," with $3.2 trillion deposited in her office last year, and also manages a $208 billion short-term portfolio and issues all of California's debt, including UC and CSU systems.

With an inextinguishable passion for public service, Fiona manages the finances of this big family (California) with the talent and audacity rarely seen by Chinese women, and is actively advancing toward the next term.

(Ennglish Translation by Joey Yu)