By Raiza Giorgi

Rep. Salud Carbajal announced the winners of the third annual Congressional Women of the Year Award, which included Solvang Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tracy Beard. The other five winners of this year’s award are: Kathleen Baushke from Santa Barbara, Noha Kolkailah from Arroyo Grande, Pandora Nash-Karner from Los Osos, Dr. Anne Rodriguez from Santa Barbara, and Biz Steinberg from San Luis Obispo.

“I am grateful to Congressman Carbajal and the staff leaders of the congressman. I am humbled and honored by your recognition for my work of women in business and the women’s commissions around California,” Beard said. “I appreciate the unwavering support for the Women of Santa Barbara County and Solvang Business community that nominated me for the work.  

“I would accept this award to all the women of Santa Barbara County who fight for social justice, equality, gender oppression. This is the year of the women for 100th anniversary for the right to vote. We would like all our rights for all women in social justice. I am honored to be one of the six women of the year you’ve selected for our 24th congressional district in 2020. The resolution was passed on election day Nov 6, 2018,”

The Congressional Women of the Year Award honors exceptional women across the 24th Congressional District who have left a positive impact on their communities. Winners are nominated by their peers and span a variety of backgrounds and professions. The winners represent the thousands of women working tirelessly to improve quality of life on the Central Coast.

“The recipients of this year’s Women of the Year Award are all doing incredible work to make the Central Coast an even better place to live, often without the recognition or compensation they deserve,” Carbajal said. “I am honored to recognize these remarkable, trailblazing women for their indelible contributions and leadership in our community.”

Carbajal will recognize the winners by entering a special written tribute for each woman into the official Congressional Record, preserving their stories and their impact on the community. An award ceremony will be held at a later date and each recipient will also receive a special congressional pin.

Below are the biographies for this year’s honorees:

Kathleen Baushke, Santa Barbara

Kathleen Baushke has had an immeasurable impact on the community. She is the longtime executive director of Transition House, the multi-faceted shelter, housing, and education nonprofit based in Santa Barbara working to solve the community’s ongoing problem of family homelessness. Baushke also helped create the Landlord Liaison Program, within Transition House, that works with local landlords to house mainly homeless veterans and children. Beyond her work with Transition House, she is also a founding member of the advocacy group National Coalition for Homelessness Solutions. Baushke has served on the boards of other related nonprofits in Santa Barbara, including the St. Francis Foundation, Second Story, and the Storyteller Children’s Center.

Tracy Beard, Solvang

Tracy Beard currently serves as executive director of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Association of California Commissions for Women (ACCW), and as commissioner for Santa Barbara County. She is a champion for education and works to empower women to be entrepreneurs and create sustainable businesses.

As a board member of TV Santa Barbara since 2014, Beard is working to increase media literacy for youth at TVSB. She is co-founder and executive producer for the International Women’s Festivals, which began in Santa Barbara in 2008 and are now celebrated in cities across the country and around the world, including in China and Ireland. In March, she was named one of the most influential people in California by the International Women’s Festivals executive committee.

Noha Kolkailah, Arroyo Grande

A compassionate advocate leading with her heart, courage, and kindness, Noha Kolkailah currently serves as the assistant principal of academics at the Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School in San Luis Obispo. As a fierce champion for education and social justice, Kolkailah founded the Peace Academy of the Sciences and Arts, which offers an enriching summer program for children ages 6 to 11, with a focus on self-awareness, global citizenship, social justice and environmental awareness. She also helped start the Muslim Student Association at Cal Poly. In 2017, she organized a “Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors” event attended by over 800 people, advocating for compassion, kindness, commitment to diversity and unity, global awareness and responsibility.

Pandora Nash-Karner, Los Osos

A motivated community member, Pandora Nash-Karner, has been a consistent positive force in Los Osos and San Luis Obispo. Her interest and work to preserve multi-use trails into Montaña de Oro led to her appointment to the San Luis Obispo County Park Commission in January 1991.

Nash-Karner was elected to serve on the Los Osos Community Service District Board when it was formed in 1998. She has been instrumental in many successes, including Celebrate Los Osos, a 501c3 that utilizes volunteers to plant, paint, beautify, build, repair, refurbish and maintain projects. She has also been involved in the Morros Specific Plan Advisory Committee, Capps Memorial Grove, Los Osos Skatepark and many more in order to stimulate community pride and leave a legacy for all to enjoy.  

Dr. Anne Rodriguez, Santa Barbara

As one of only two gynecologic oncology surgeons that serve Santa Barbara and the surrounding communities, Dr. Anne Rodriguez has dedicated her entire professional life to surgery and care of women with gynecologic and breast cancer. For the last four years, she has served as the chair of the Department of Surgery at Cottage Hospital and sits on the board of the Santa Barbara Breast Care Alliance.

Aside from her professional life, Rodriguez is a founding board member of the local chapter of Boys Team Charity, a philanthropic organization that teaches young men from seventh to 12th grade about the importance of giving back to the community through volunteering. She has also volunteered with the Goleta Public Library, Teen Court, Art from Scrap, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Santa Barbara Bike Coalition, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, Montessori Center School and the MAD Academy at Santa Barbara High School.

Biz Steinberg, San Luis Obispo

Biz Steinberg currently serves as CEO of Community Action Partnership (CAPSLO); a position she has held since 1984. She is an outstanding activist who is working to establish sustainable community centers with a special focus on youth and women. In her quest to better our community, Steinberg helped develop the Adult Day Centers, Health Services, Homeless Services, and Energy Conservation branches of CAPSLO. She has been involved with several boards throughout the years, including the National Head Start Association, National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association, SLO Workforce Investment Board, SLO Housing Authority, The Children’s Services Network, the Mission Community Services Corporation, and the Child Development Policy Institute Education Board.