Reps. Kazarian, Ackerman Elected Whip, Deputy Whip
The House Democratic Caucus, at a virtual meeting tonight, elected the following slate to its Leadership Team:
n Whip: Rep. Katherine Kazarian, District 63, East Providence
n Deputy Whip: Rep. Mia Ackerman, District 45, Cumberland, Lincoln
n Caucus Chair: Rep. Grace Diaz, District 11, Providence
n Deputy Speaker: Rep. Charlene Lima, District 14, Cranston, Providence
n Speaker Pro Tempore: Rep. Brian P. Kennedy, District 38, Hopkinton, Westerly
At a Democratic Caucus in Warwick on November 5, 2020, Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi was nominated as the House Speaker, which was officially voted upon by the entire House on January 5, 2021, and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski was elected as the Majority Leader.
“I am very excited about our Leadership Team, which brings a combination of new energy and vast experience on all matters pertaining to the House,” said Speaker Shekarchi. “We will work with our Democratic colleagues to embrace their ideas and talent and reform the way business is done at the State House. Collectively, we will help our economy recover in a manner that works for all Rhode Islanders and protects our most vulnerable populations.”
“Rep. Kazarian and Rep. Ackerman are excellent additions to the leadership team because they are deeply committed to public service and will bring fresh ideas and perspectives to our public policy," said Leader Blazejewski. "We look forward to working with them -- along with Caucus Chair Diaz, Deputy Speaker Lima, and Speaker Pro Tem Kennedy -- to continue reforming how business is conducted in the House and helping Rhode Islanders recover from the economic instability and public health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic."
Whip Kazarian and Deputy Whip Ackerman have both served in the House since January 2013.
Whip Kazarian has sponsored numerous bills to expand the scope of health insurance coverage for Rhode Islanders, including a law that requires health insurance plans to provide for a 12-month supply of birth control to all those who are insured. She has also sponsored legislation to reduce the burden of student loans and successfully created a process for the Department of Education to collect and organize information concerning the duties and responsibilities performed by school social workers.
She has a strong background in the tech field, having previously worked at both Upserve and Virgin Pulse, and was previously a Senior Planner for the City of Pawtucket. Engaged to Sam Daniel, she will be attending law school in the fall. Whip Kazarian received a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and economics from Columbia University’s Barnard College and was inspired to run for office by President Barack Obama’s commencement address to her graduating class in 2012.
With eight great-grandparents who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915, she and her family have been very active in Rhode Island’s Armenian community. She was the sponsor of legislation which made Holocaust and Genocide education mandatory in all of the state’s middle schools and high schools. Deputy Whip Ackerman was a co-sponsor of the law.
Deputy Whip Ackerman has been a strong consumer and health care advocate, championing a law protecting the consumers’ right to pay in cash, which garnered national attention. She worked closely with the Cancer Society to ban the use of tanning beds for minors. She also successfully passed a bill calling for the adoption and implementation of a five-year update to the state plan for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
With a lifetime commitment to public service, she is a former member of the Cumberland Town Council from 2006 to 2012. Deputy Whip Ackerman holds a bachelor’s degree in political economics from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is a self-employed Real Estate Title Examiner. She and her husband, Barry, are the parents of Sam, a student at Columbia Law School, and Ellie, a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island.
The three other members of the Leadership Team are retaining their positions. Caucus Chair Diaz has been a House member since January 2005 and has been in her present role since January 2015.
Deputy Speaker Lima has served in the House since January 1993 and has been a member of the Democratic Leadership Team since 2003.
Speaker Pro Tempore Kennedy is the senior-ranking member of the House, serving since January 1989, and is the former long-time chairman of the House Corporations Committee.