Fiona Ma, CPA, who earned a Master of Science in Taxation from Golden Gate University (’93), was elected California State Treasurer yesterday. Ma has been a commencement speaker for GGU and is just one the accomplished leaders among GGU’s network of 68,000 graduates. Speaking in a past issue of GGU’s alumni magazine, Ma said that she applied her tax education while serving in the California State Assembly (2006-2012) which meant that she did not have to bring on staff to interpret data: “I was far more familiar with the laws than aides, so it was more efficient and effective.” Prior to yesterday’s election, Ma represented more than nine million Californians on the California State Board of Equalization and is one of the few CPAs to have served on the Board in its history.
Ma’s younger brother, Mike, also a GGU alum (MS, Project and Systems Management ’96) describes Ma as a trailblazer who always leads by example. In the late 1980s, Ma landed a job at a Big Four accounting firm. Concerned that a glass ceiling would prevent her from reaching a leadership position, she changed gears. Ma was elected president of the Asian Business Association and found herself at San Francisco City Hall and at the state capitol lobbying for business issues that affected women and minorities. As a result of her work on behalf of the Small Business Association, she was elected as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business under President Bill Clinton. Her exposure to lawmakers and the national political stage made her believe in the importance of government and its ability to create positive change.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors appointed Ma to the Assessment Appeals Committee where she began to understand what she had to offer the world of politics. With her accounting and tax education, love of service and competition, drive and desire to help people, she was sure she could do a better job than the elected officials around her. In 2002, Ma was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 4, which includes the Central Sunset, Outer Sunset, Parkside, and Pine Lake Park. In her position, she authored the landmark Local Business Enterprise ordinance on behalf of women and minority business owners and passed legislation to tackle human trafficking.
My parents always said ‘go ahead, give it a try’ about everything while we were growing up and then made us feel good about the attempt, regardless of the outcome. Entering politics full-time wasn’t scary for me. Failure never occurred to me. I’m sure that was an advantage.
State Assembly Accomplishments
In 2006, Ma was elected to the California State Assembly District 12, which includes San Francisco, Daly City, Colma, and Broadmoor and contains some 460,000 constituents. She got off to an auspicious start when the Speaker appointed her as the Majority Whip, making her responsible for marshaling votes for crucial legislation to improve public education, expand health care access, and protect the environment. Ma was also the first Asian American woman to become Speaker pro Tempore of the State Assembly. As presiding officer and member of the leadership team, she ran the daily business of the assembly, responded to parliamentary inquiries, issued rulings on points of order, and was responsible for guiding legislative priorities. Ma considers helping to protect the nation’s children as one of her most important legislative wins. Her years-long effort culminated in a federal law (2009) that banned phthalates, which are known to be toxic, from toys.
“My parents always said ‘go ahead, give it a try’ about everything while we were growing up and then made us feel good about the attempt, regardless of the outcome,” says Ma. “Entering politics full-time wasn’t scary for me. Failure never occurred to me. I’m sure that was an advantage.”