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Political Consultant Joy Atkinson becomes first to move into top executive positionLos Angeles African American Women's Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI), a non-partisan, non-profit public policy and leadership program, has appointed Joy Atkinson as the organization's first executive director. Atkinson, a founding member of LAAAWPPI and Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee (LAAAWPAC), previously held the position of program administrator for LAAAWPPI. "We are thrilled to have Joy as LAAAWPPI's first executive director," says LAAAWPPI President and Chair Angela Reddock, "She has such a passion and commitment to the program and the women that go through the program. She is a natural fit and the logical first choice." Introduced in 2002 at LAAAWPAC's Tenth Anniversary Celebration, LAAAWPPI's mission is to increase the numbers of African American women in leadership positions in the public policy, civic and political arenas by providing professional development through educational programs, seminars, workshops and personal networking strategies and opportunities. The program components consist of intensive classroom study including role-play and evaluation of leadership skills as well as panel presentations with academic, corporate, public policy, public affairs and community leaders.Atkinson has been a fixture in the political arena at both the local and state level for more than 30 years. Her political passion comes from lessons learned from her politically and community conscious parents, Eddie and Antoinette Atkinson. "My parents were always involved in the community - NAACP, Urban League, ACLU - as a young kid I was always going to all these meetings with my parents," said Atkinson. Eddie Atkinson was the first African American to run for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council and reach the general election. He ran in the late '50's and lost by only 1500 votes. The experience put the Atkinson family in the political realm of figuring out the fascinating world of politics. The young Atkinson was hooked. After graduating from the University of Southern California, Atkinson started her professional career as deputy probation officer for the county of Los Angeles and immediately became involved in the Probation Officers Union Local 685. Reflecting on her supporting role in politics, Atkinson said, "I never wanted to run for office, but I always enjoyed politics and working with people who I thought were really good candidates running for office. It became a real passion of mine to support people that I liked in office that I thought had a lot of integrity." For 16 years, Atkinson served as chief of staff for her friend, former Assemblywoman Gwen Moore in the 47th District. During her tenure with Moore, she served as Legislative Assistant on the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce, a committee chaired by the assemblywoman, where she researched issues, witness preparation and legislative strategy. Atkinson worked as a special consultant for Karen Bass when Bass was Speaker of the California State Assembly. "Through her leadership at LAAAWPPI, Joy has developed a whole new generation of African American women ready to lead our city, our state, and even our nation into the next decade," said Bass. "I have personally witnessed LAAAWPPI women go from enthusiastic recruits to competent leaders prepared to serve at every level of government and private sector leadership. It is only natural that the woman who has quietly led LAAWPPI continue to lead as its first executive director."Atkinson has also worked closely with Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and the2nd Supervisorial District's Empowerment Congress. "Joy has been an instrumental part of helping fulfill the mission of the Empowerment Congress. Her deft skills as a community organizer have been vital in educating and informing the public about how government works," said Ridley Thomas. "Her leadership skills have benefited Empowerment Congress committees in developing strategies that shape public policy and legislation. She is definitely an asset to the political community."As LAAAWPPI's program administrator, Atkinson was responsible for the program and on-going logistics of the 10-week program, including coordinating faculty, acting as student liaison, working with tuition and scholarships and interacting with the host campus, USC. In her new expanded duties as executive director, Atkinson will play more of a role in the administration of LAAAWPPI, provide more support to LAAAWPPI's board and to the increasingly expanding Alumni Association, which currently has over 135 members. Her new position will allow her to concentrate on LAAAWPPI's goals of board development, fundraising and pursuing collaborations with other ethnically-based leadership development groups. Atkinson will also seek funding sources to enable LAAAWPPI to implement an additional 10-week session each year. "Ultimately, we'd like to do another 10-week program because we have to turn away women," says Atkinson. "The faculty and the curriculum committee said that in order to really work well with the class, you can't have more than 20 or 21 women. If you have 50 or 60 women applying, that means you're turning away a lot of women." Another one of LAAAWPPI's future goals is to conduct a basic workshop specifically to train women interested in running for public office.
Atkinson says she is proud to be a part of one of the few leadership training organizations in the nation uniquely designed for African American women to learn to the public policy and government affairs process. "If a woman is interested in making a difference in their community and they care about public policy, then LAAAWPPI is the organization that will help them focus that desire." LAAAWPPI is a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to prepare minority women for leadership in public policy, government and public affairs through its intensive women's leadership course. LAAAWPPI Founding Board Members include: Melrita Evans-Fortson, Gwen Moore, Celestine Palmer, and Barbara Perkins and Angela Reddock.Hosted on the campus of the University of Southern California, LAAAWPPI offers a 10-week educational institute for women interested in pursuing careers and opportunities as corporate leaders, elected officials, campaign consultants, public affairs consultants, fund-raisers, community activists, legislative staff members and members of boards and commissions. The instructors for the classes include individuals who have distinguished themselves in the public policy governmental affairs, and political arenas. LAAAWPPI's ultimate goal is to create and train a talented pool of women prepared to assume leadership positions at the local, state, and national levels. LAAAWPI corporate sponsors and corporate board member include Sempra, Southern California Edison, AT&T, Turner Construction, GeM Communications, Verizon and the University of Southern California.LAAAWPPI will begin accepting applications for the Class of 2012 in the fall of this year, with the program scheduled to begin in January 2012. Applications may be obtained by contacting (323) 954-3777 or via email at