Dr. Akilah Weber is getting accustomed to firsts.
In 2018, she became the first African American elected to the La Mesa, California, City Council. Then, in April, after winning a special election to represent the state’s 79th Assembly District, it was her mother—who held the seat for 10 years before her—who administered the oath of office.
Weber’s mother, Shirley Weber, was nominated in December by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to serve as secretary of state. The elder Weber is the first African American to serve in that office.
But that’s not all.
“It is the first time a mother who is a statewide officer has sworn in a daughter for state legislative office in California history,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said before the ceremony in Sacramento.
Weber is an obstetrician/gynecologist and founder and director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Division at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.
Like her mother, she has deep affection for the 79th Assembly District.
“The 79th is the district where I was born and raised and in which I am now raising my own children,” she says. “I am very honored that I have been given the opportunity to serve the district and the people who gave me so much and helped shape who I am today.”
For Mother’s Day, we asked Weber about her mom’s influence in her life, personally and professionally, and her plans for this year’s holiday.
With your advanced degree and service in the Assembly, you seem to be following your own version of your mother’s path. What was it about her influence that helped you dream big?
Both of my parents were very active within the community and politically. They instilled in my brother and I the importance of giving back and keeping doors open. I went to many, many speeches as a child that my mom gave, and I remember her often saying, “I did not get to where I am because I am so brilliant and beautiful (and I am both of those things), but because I stand on the shoulders of so many who knocked down doors so that I can walk in.” In all my activities, personal and professional, I have dreamed big so that others who come after me could dream big and achieve those dreams.
Did your mother spark your interest in certain policy areas?
Not a particular policy, but she did instill in me the importance of equity in all policy areas, whether it be health care, education, jobs and training opportunities, environmental issues, etc.
Did your mom give you any tips about running for office?
During my first campaign in 2018 when I ran for City Council in La Mesa, my mom spoke with me very early on about the importance of fundraising and starting early on that. Unfortunately, I did not listen at that time. During my campaign for the Assembly, my mom would always tell me to just focus on my race and not let all the external chatter and negativity distract me. That was an extremely helpful tip.
What do you think your mother has learned from you?
That children really do watch and listen to the words and actions of their parents. She is often surprised when I quote a speech that she gave when I was a little girl.
As a mother, do you hope to see your kids follow you into public service?
Yes, I bring my children to activities in the community and political events just like my mom did when I was a child so they will know not just by my words but also my deeds that service to others is an important family value and legacy.
What’s the best Mother’s Day memory you have of your mom?
Parents give so much to their children—love, time, money—and so the first time I had a real job, I was so happy to be able to treat my mother to a weekend getaway for Mother’s Day. That was special for me to be able to do that for her and she enjoyed our trip.
What are your plans for Mother’s Day?
On Mother’s Day, I will spend time with my family.
What else should people know about your district?
The 79th Assembly District, like California, is very beautiful and diverse. We represent many different ethnic and cultural groups, different political ideologies and different life experiences, but we are all connected in our desire to create a healthy future for ourselves and our families.
Kevin Frazzini is an editor in NCSL’s Communications Division. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.