award was a surprise
She's one of the top island-By Pete Pichaske
born people in the Clinton
Phillips News Service
WASHINGTON -- Jeanette Takamura, former deputy director of the state Health Department and current assistant secretary for aging at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, went to the White House last week expecting to watch a friend receive an award.
Instead, it was Takamura who got the award -- the Lucy Stone Achievement Award, for outstanding contributions to women -- and one of the bigger surprises of her life.
"If I said I was shocked it would be an understatement," she said. "I was stunned. People went through a whole bunch of machinations to get me there and to keep this from me."
The award, named after a famous suffragette, was one of six given to high-ranking women in the Clinton Administration in celebration of Women's Equality Day. Among the other women honored was Cheryl Mills, the deputy presidential counsel best known for defending Clinton in the Senate impeachment trial.
And the award was another honor for Takamura, 52, one of the highest-ranking Hawaii residents in the administration.
"It's like icing on the cake," she said. "It's just an honor to be in this position, working on issues that are so important to me."
Born and raised on Oahu and a graduate of the University of Hawaii, Takamura was director of the Hawaii Office on Aging from 1987-1994, and first deputy of the state Health Department after that. In 1997, at the recommendation of U.S. Health Secretary Donna Shalala, she was nominated by President Clinton to oversee the Administration on Aging. As assistant secretary for aging, Takamura is responsible for developing and implementing national programs and policies for the elderly.
One of the most rewarding things she has done, said Takamura, is draft the National Family Caregivers' Support Program, aimed at helping the growing number of Americans who care for elderly family members.The program would offer information, respite care, counseling and more to those caregivers -- a group, she says, that is often stressed out and overwhelmed.
Earlier this year, Clinton proposed the program to Congress, where it is still pending.
For Takamura, the most difficult part of her job has been being away from her husband, Carl, and 16-year-old daughter, Mari. Carl Takamura is executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, and he and Mari live in Honolulu.
Still, she plans on staying on the job in Washington until Clinton's term ends in about 17 months.