After almost three years as the Director of the Office of Women’s Rights, Elaine Ko has announced her resignation. At the same time, Mayor Norm Rice has announced her replacement — Vivian Luna.
The appointment must be approved by the City Council, but Ko predicts that the change will take place sometime in September of this year.
Ko said that she will be pursuing opportunities in the private sector and added that she thinks she’ll probably have even more time for community activities in the future.
Filipina American Luna is a Seattle native whose name may be familiar to many. She is a past Director of the Commission on Asian American Affairs, and Ko says, “I think Vivian will be absolutely fantastic in this position. I’m excited for the City. She has always been committed to women, people of color, and gays and lesbians.”
In fact, Luna has worked extensively on behalf of health care for women and families, civil rights, refugee issues, and bilingual education accessibility.
Luna is an attorney and a graduate of both the University of Washington and Seattle University. She’s a member of the Washington State Bar Association and the Asian Bar Association.
Ko said that while she’s excited about the future, leaving is bittersweet. She’s gratified by the work that the Office has focused on during the past several years, and quick to point out that she can’t be credited personally for the work. She said that it was the Office and all the team members which were able to work to get things done under her leadership.
Among the issues the Office has worked on and made strides in was to “increase funding for the victims of domestic violence, as well as to raise awareness in the City and broader community.”
According to Ko, the Office also took a major role in advocating for and convincing the Mayor to agree to city-wide mandatory training sessions for managers on sexual harassment. They’ve also worked to raise public awareness about hate crimes and specifically pushed for the inclusion of “gender” and “sexual orientation” under the new hate crimes bill.
Under her leadership the Office has worked closely with the Women’s Commission and the Commission for Lesbians and Gays. Ko said that they’ve provided guidance to the Commissions to help them raise their visibility and strengthen them.
Ko said that one of her sources of pride has been to work, through the Office, to start the Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Project and attain funding for the program. This program offers a conference for and by refugee and immigrant women and provides funding for leadership development.
“I personally want to say that I was really honored to work under Mayor Rice, and that I appreciate all the support I got from everyone. I feel very humble and grateful for the collaborative support I got, not only for myself personally, but for the Office,” said Ko.
“I still plan to be very active in the community and to work for women’s and gay and lesbian rights, in particular, on the Hands Off Washington campaign as well,” she added.