Maeley Tom is the first woman and first ethnic minority to serve at the highest level of California Legislature. Now she’s sharing her story. Her memoir – titled “I’m Not Who You Think I Am” – was published Sunday. And is Available on Amazon for readers.
Maeley Tom, currently serves as the President of the California State Personnel Board. She previously served on the CalPERS Board from 2005 – 2007 and part of 2009.
Ms. Tom spent 20 years in the California State Legislature serving as Chief Administrative Officer of the California Assembly under Speaker Willie L. Brown Jr. and Chief of Staff to the California State Senate President pro Tem, David Roberti. She also served as the Director of the California Senate Office of Asian Pacific Affairs.
Ms. Tom joined various boards
California State Personnel Board
California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) Board of Trustees
Co-Founder Association of Asian American Investment Managers
Founding President California Joint API Legislative Caucus Institute
Now retired, Tom wanted to speak publicly about the positive side of her struggles in climbing the political ladder, self-knowledge and sacrifices, as well as share heartfelt advice to the next generation of policymakers.
A child of Chinese opera celebrities, Tom grew up in Oakland’s Chinatown in the early 1940s, far removed from politics. After spending the first eight years of her life under foster care, Tom had to navigate her own path to adulthood. She began to support herself financially at age 16 and graduated from San Francisco State University four years later.
Getting into politics, which led to a lifetime career, was an accident, Tom recalled. In an nearly all-male and predominantly all-white working environment, she battled stereotypes every day to gain recognition. While she considered herself confident and outspoken, it was intimidating at first to work with few people who looked like her. But only the fittest could survive, she said. Throughout the years, Tom learned that merit alone does not grant one a leadership position, as exemplified by her own struggle, having to ask for the top position in the assembly, especially in a political environment.