Written for the South Pasadenan by Sally Kilby
Four residents of South Pasadena received awards from Senator Anthony J. Portantino at his 2023 Women in Business Legislative Update and Awards Luncheon held at the scenic Castaway event venue in Burbank on Dec. 6. A total of 41 women from Portantino’s 25th Senate District received awards. The annual program aims to recognize local businesswomen in the district, according to the event program. More than 400 attended the event.
Senator Portantino presented each award. Dr. Laurie Leshin, director at Jet Propulsion Laboratory since May 2022, served as the keynote speaker.
The following biographical profiles of the South Pasadena honorees were adapted from the official program:
Find & reserve investment properties in
Turkey or Dubai from the comfort of
Janet Benjamin received an award in the small-business category. She has worked for her family’s business, Shaw, Moses, Mendenhall Insurance, since 1994. Her experience in all levels of the insurance industry has given her the requisite knowledge to be an effective leader and partner. Benjamin is also a longtime volunteer and official with the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses and is dedicated to continuing the tradition of the city’s self-built float. In this, she is inspired by her father, Ted Shaw (deceased), South Pasadena civic leader, float supporter and one of the founders of the family insurance company. Now owned by Benjamin, her sister Sandy Miranti and brother-in-law Mark Miranti, the business continues to contribute to the float’s success.
Connie Chung Joe, JD, is the CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL), the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Her award was in the Law category. She has been a public interest lawyer since 2002. Her accomplishments include serving as executive director of Korean American Family Services, co-founding the API Human Trafficking Task Force of LA County, and being appointed by the Governor to the California Flexible Assistance for Survivors Advisory Committee and by the California Senate to the Domestic Violence Advisory Council. Chung Joe co-chairs the LA County Human Relations Commission’s LA v. Hate Campaign and serves on the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s AAPI Advisory Board.
Ellen Daigle received the award for “most inspirational” businesswoman. She is founder and president of Ellen’s Silkscreening, which she has operated for more than 45 years. She is a founding member and current vice president of Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Advocacy (WISPPA), an organization promoting accountability and transparency in local government. She has been appointed to several city commissions. Daigle serves on the executive board of Women in Leadership Vital Voices, which provides an understanding of the political process and encourages direct participation. She was a recipient of a Senior Champion Award from the Senior Citizens Foundation of South Pasadena in August 2023. She received a Shining Star Award from the South Pasadena Woman’s Club in 2019.
Leslie Ito is the executive director of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and is widely regarded as one of Los Angeles’ most skillful and entrepreneurial arts executives. Her award was in the Arts category. She is a Pasadena native and a fourth-generation Japanese American. She has more than 25 years of proven cultural leadership and fundraising expertise. Her reputation for cultural bridge-building and advocacy underscores her deep commitment to arts equity and access for all. Her previous experience included serving as president and CEO of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, program director for Arts and Health at the California Community Foundation, executive director of Visual Communications, and as a trustee for the Durfee Foundation.
Winners represented such other categories as trailblazer, nonprofit executive directors, volunteer, empowerment and science and technology. Several hundred nominations were submitted to Portantino’s office, according to the senator’s announcement of the winners. Former State Senator Jack Scott started this event during the late 1990s, Portantino said, and it has been continued by the sitting state senator of the District.