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HON. MIKE THOMPSON of California in the house of representatives

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


  Madam Speaker, I rise today, along with my colleague, Lynn Woolsey, to recognize Elizabeth Kemp, who has been named the City of Sonoma's 2009 Alcaldessa, or Honorary Mayor.

  The title, “Alcalde” or “Alcaldessa” when referring to a woman, is the Spanish word for “Mayor.” During the Spanish colonial period in California, the Alcalde was the primary civil authority. In modern times in the City of Sonoma, it is an honorary title and the contemporary Alcalde or Alcaldessa presides over ceremonial events for the city.

  Alcaldes and Alcaldessas are nominated by the community and are representative of individuals with a long record of volunteer work.  Ms. Kemp is no exception to this rule.

  Ms. Kemp attributes her community activism to her early years in London during WW II. That experience led her to be aware of the needs of others and to an understanding that anyone's circumstances can change in a matter of minutes.  She emigrated from England when she was 21 and has lived in Sonoma since 1969.

  In 2000, Ms. Kemp recognized that many migrant workers had no place to live and were sleeping under bridges.  She helped to organize one temporary camp, then joined with Vineyard Workers Services to create two more camps that are open during harvest.  She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of Vineyard Workers Services.

  Ms. Kemp initiated the Brown Bagger program in 2004.  The program prepares and distributes more than 180 nutritious lunches each week to the homeless and others who are unable to purchase food.  This past summer, Ms. Kemp organized a group of volunteers to provide bag lunches to students who normally receive free lunches at school when school is in session and to their younger siblings.  As a member of the Board of Directors of Sonoma Overnight Support, Ms. Kemp has also been involved in the development of the first permanent homeless shelter in Sonoma.

  And, lest we think her interests are only parochial, Ms. Kemp is an active member of Friends of Turkana, a local group that raises funds for two medical missions in East Africa.

  Madam Speaker, Elizabeth Kemp is a beloved and vitally important member of the community and it is appropriate that we acknowledge her today as Sonoma's Alcaldessa for 2009.

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