The Women Who Inspire Us: Donna Mercado Kim

The National Foundation of Women Legislators

by Elysian Magazine

Born and raised in Kalihi, Hawai’i, Senator DONNA MERCADO KIM is the daughter of a Korean father and Spanish-Filipino-Portuguese mother. She completed her freshman and sophomore years at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and graduated Cum Laude at Washington State University.

Senator Kim has served at every level of state and local government. This year marks her 40th year in politics—a shining career that commenced in 1982 as a State Representative of Hawaii from 1982 to 1984, she served on the Honolulu City Council from 1986 to 2000 and was elected to the Senate in 2000, representing Senate District 14, a seat she continues to represent to this day. She has chaired the Committee on Tourism, the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Government Operations, the Special Committee on Accountability, and the Committee on Tourism & Intergovernmental Affairs; served as Vice President of the Senate from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2011 to 2013, and from 2013 to 2015 was President of the Hawaii State Senate. She is Senate President Emeritus and chairs the Committee on Higher Education.

As chair of the Higher Education Committee, she led House Bill 2024 Relating to Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii whose peak elevation, at 13,803 ft. above sea level, is the highest point in the state and the second-highest peak of an island on earth and a dry prominence second in the world only after Mount Everest. To protect this topographically unique, area, she has worked to develop a workable management structure that is in harmony with the diverse interests of astronomy, conservation, and culture, defining regulatory uses of a volcano held sacred down the centuries by all peoples, indigenous and foreign alike.

In business, Senator Kim has consulted for Motorola Communications, Bank of America, The Pacific Institute, and Models of the Century, among others. Closely tied to her community, she is associated with the Kalihi Business Association, the Filipino Chamber of Commerce, the Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce, and the Special Committee on Studying Effects of Economy on Judiciary.

A member of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL), she held an at- large position as Southwest Regional State Director, then State Director, before becoming Board Chair from 2019 to 2021. Senator Kim is a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Legislative Advisory Committee, National Conference of State Legislators Education Committee, National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, Board of Latino Legislative Leaders, and the Latina State Legislative Caucus.

“Take advantage of the opportunities,” Senator Kim advises.“Be more involved in the community and more opportunities will present themselves.” When asked what she cherishes most in life, she replied, “My son, Micah.”

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