Class of 2023
UC Santa Cruz
Associate Director of Community Relations
Audries Blake has more than 20 years of progressive administration and leadership experience. She is in her 10th year at UC Santa Cruz, and currently works as the Associate Director of Community Relations. She also worked as the Assistant Director of Personnel and Facilities at the Center for Agroecology and in the Social Sciences Development Department. Audries is passionate about people and serving in her community. A native Californian and proud resident of Watsonville, Audries grew up exploring the forests and seashores throughout Santa Cruz, Monterey County and around the state. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Redlands and her Master's in the same field from the University of Iowa. Audries enjoys being of service through volunteerism, and currently sits on the board of the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County. Hobbies include cooking, singing, going for walks, exploring new places, art galleries, and being with friends. She can also make a mean buttermilk biscuit.
California Water Service
Brenda has lived in Monterey County all her life. She currently resides in Soledad with her husband and three daughters. Brenda is the District Manager for California Water Service (Cal Water), where she has worked successfully for the past 20 years. Brenda has earned her Water Distribution Grade 4 and Water Treatment Grade 2 certifications with the State of California Water Resource and Control Board. She also earned her Cross Connection Control Specialist Certification with American Water Works Association. In addition to these certifications, she holds a BA in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University. Brenda enjoys her career in the Water Sector and works within the community to share knowledge on conservation, sustainability and infrastructure. Brenda serves as Board Director on the following agency and non-profit organizations: Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin Sustainability Agency, Rotary Club of Salinas, Sun Street Centers, and Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce. Brenda enjoys attending music concerts, sip and paint events with girlfriends, as well as family vacations.
Bay Federal Credit Union
Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer
Cameron Haste is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Bay Federal Credit Union. Cameron fosters a strategic, creative, and collaborative work environment in order to achieve financial results, in guiding the credit union’s award-winning service to members, and engagement in the community at large. Cameron is active in the community and supports a number of causes focusing on youth engagement, education, social services, and diversity and inclusion. He serves as the President of the San Lorenzo Valley Rotary Club, Board Chair of Hope Services, Corporate Secretary for the Board of Trustees for Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County, and serves on the Measure S Bond Oversight Committee. Cameron holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Cameron enjoys adventure travel experiences and spending time with his husband and their children.
Bay Federal Credit Union
President and CEO
Carrie Birkhofer has served as President and CEO of Bay Federal Credit Union since 1995. Carrie’s passion is to help the community thrive and expand economic opportunity. Since 2015, Bay Federal’s award-winning culture and service has consistently been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work and the Best Places to Bank. Carrie was recognized as a Junior Achievement of Monterey Bay Hall of Fame Laureate in 2023 and Woman of the Year in 2018 by the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce. Carrie is Secretary for Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, past President and scholarship chair of Scotts Valley Rotary Club, audit committee member for the Cabrillo College Foundation, board member for the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation, secretary of the Fiserv DNA Client Association and she serves on the audit committee for the California Credit Union League. Carrie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Economics from University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a Certified Public Accountant. She lives in Santa Cruz where she raised her three adult children. She loves to walk her puppy, Ollie, on the ocean cliffs, take pictures, read novels, and travel.
Salinas Valley Memorial Health
Patient Experience Manager
Cynthia is the Patient Experience Manager for Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. Cynthia was born and raised in Salinas. She has been with SVMHS for 13 years. Cynthia started her journey at SVMHS as a Volunteer Coordinator working closely with high school and college students wishing to gain more experience in the healthcare industry and/or with community members wishing to giving back. In the last 8 years, her focus has been patient experience where she has the privilege of influencing the systems, processes, and behaviors that cultivate positive experiences. Prior to SVMHS, Cynthia worked at HSBC for 15 years where she worked in the IT department working as a Quality Assurance Liaison/Testing Coordinator. Has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix. Recently earned her certification as a Patient Experience Professional and is part of the leadership team for the Monterey Bay’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Office of Monterey County Supervisor Askew Policy Analyst
Eric Mora (he/him/él) is a Policy Analyst for Monterey County Supervisor Wendy Root Askew. Prior to joining Supervisor Askew’s team, Eric worked in the nonprofit sector in communications and community outreach roles, notably organizing county-wide reading projects with support from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read Program. In 2021, Eric was one of ten statewide art administrators honored with the California Arts Council’s Art Administrators of Color Fellowship in recognition of his work in the arts. Passionate about the arts, LGBTQ+ issues, and community building, Eric serves on the board of directors of the Arts Council for Monterey County, Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations, and Community Builders for Monterey County. A proud Salinas native, Eric completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
City of Monterey
Bio coming soon.
Salinas Police Department
Gabriel Gonzalez has been a police officer for 19 years and is currently assigned to the Investigations Bureau as a Detective Sergeant. While at the Salinas Police Department, Gabriel has served in the Violence Suppression Unit, the Investigations Bureau, Hostage Negotiations Team, and SWAT. Gabriel was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1984. Gabriel graduated from Everett Alvarez High School, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and served for four years. Gabriel has a BS in business administration from San Jose State University and an MBA from Faulkner University.
Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula
Registered Nurse/ MPUSD Board of Trustees Vice-President
Jessica Hare is a dedicated and hardworking registered nurse, elected official, and parent of two school-aged children who is deeply committed to serving her community both within and beyond the scope of her professional duties at CHOMP. In addition to being a highly educated healthcare professional who graduated from MPC’s Maurine Church Coburn School of Nursing and who now holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from California State University San Marcos and a graduate degree in nursing from California State University Dominguez Hills, she is also highly skilled and has extensive experience in acute care medical-surgical nursing, metabolic bariatric quality improvement, orthopedic program management, and nursing administration. Jessica is also passionate about community service and previously served as the chairperson of the City of Seaside’s Homeless Commission before being elected to the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Board of Education where she currently serves as the vice chairperson. In her free time, Jessica enjoys traveling with her partner and two children, reading, and spending time in the Fort Ord National Monument. She grew up on the Peninsula and is proud to give back to the community that has given her so much.
Monterey County Business Council
Building Business Back Program Manager
Originally from Soledad, Jesus has lived all over California. From Fresno to Sacramento, to finally settling in Salinas. Jesus' background contains an array of industries from construction to staffing and administration. His current position, Program Manager for Building Business Back, helps local entrepreneurs and businesses gain access to resources, funding, and support. Jesus is passionate about his role and is grateful to be in a position where he can give back to our community. Jesus and his wife have built an amazing family with their two beautiful children.
City of Soledad
Community Engagement Manager
Jesus Valenzuela is the Community Engagement Manager for the City of Soledad. Prior to joining the team, Jesus worked at several nonprofit organizations focusing on marketing, fund development, and community organizing. He was part of the marketing and outreach team for both the VIDA Project and the 2020 Monterey County Census Complete Count Committee. Jesus received his Bachelor’s in Sociology from UC San Diego and moved to Monterey County in 2011. He spends his free time reading, writing, and searching for the best food and wine spots he and his wife can find.
Sustainable Ocean Alliance
Program Operations Manager
While working on his Masters degree at Northeastern University, Jon was a coach for 'Idea: Northeastern's Venture Accelerator', one of the premier university entrepreneurial ecosystems in the US. He joined one of the Big Four Accounting firms as an auditor to develop a stronger understanding of operational processes and system design. Jon was then responsible for the US expansion of a multimillion dollar product line at a major international retailer. After the launch he transitioned to leading an IOT solution decreasing waste in thousands of office buildings. Through that process Jon discovered an opportunity and passion and launched an operational and events consulting firm. Jon has and continues to support organizations that focus on improving the wellbeing of life on earth. Jon cares about connecting personal wellbeing, environmental wellbeing, and technology. In every aspect of his life these three pillars are reminders of what he finds most important.
City of Salinas
Community Safety Administrator Library & Community Services Department Director of the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace
José Arreola was born and raised in San Diego, CA and is currently the Community Safety Administrator for the City of Salinas Library & Community Services Department and Director of the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace. Jose is loving husband the proud father of three girls ages 2, 8 and 12. He graduated from San José State University with a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Studies and a minor in Mexican American Studies. He served as the City of Salinas Liaison to President Obama’s National Forum on Youth Violence for four years and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the California Violence Prevention Network, Harmony at Home, the Children’s Council of Monterey County, the Siembra Latinos Fund and as Chair of the Monterey County Juvenile Justice Commission. José is the lead for the City of Salinas Governing for Race Equity work and their representative in the Towards a Racially Equitable Monterey County (TREMC) regional collaborative. José has completed four years of training in the Government Alliance on Race Equity by Race Forward. He stands for Love, Equity and Empathy for himself and all others.
Monterey Private Wealth
Julie Roth is a Wealth Manager at Monterey Private Wealth. Prior to joining MPW, Julie spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2013. She worked in acquisitions conducting data analysis on newly developed weapons systems, and later in international relations advising senior leaders on military-political affairs. Julie holds an MS in Financial Planning (University of Georgia), an MA in Organizational Management (The George Washington University), an MS in Applied Statistics (University of Northern Colorado), and received her BS in Mathematics (University of Arizona).
Julie serves on various non-profit boards to include the Community Foundation of Monterey County, the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation, and the Rotary Club of Pacific Grove. Julie resides in Pacific Grove with her husband and son. She enjoys traveling, golfing, and soaking up the beautiful scenery in Monterey County.
Katherine is a service designer with experience bringing a human-centered approach to businesses spanning a variety of scales and industries, from innovation consulting to scrappy startups. She specializes in helping teams bring the voice of the customer to the forefront of the decision-making and storytelling process, and is currently doing so at Money Canvas, a completely free financial coaching service, where she uses her skills as a researcher, project manager, and strategist to support the team. Originally from the east coast, Katherine’s spent the last 8 years in New York, where she was deeply involved in both interest-based volunteer organizing and her neighborhood. Since moving to Salinas in 2022, she’s set out to understand Monterey County and how she can best participate in its community.
Scudder Roofing & Scudder Solar
Maia Oman is a Senior Accountant at Scudder Roofing & Scudder Solar in Marina. Originally from San Jose, she attended CSUMB where she graduated in 2018 with a BS in Management & International Business and fell in love with the Monterey Bay area. Maia has been involved as a builder with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered as a Small Business & Entrepreneurship instructor at Monterey High School, and participated in San Jose Leadership Academy. She is now excited for the opportunity to learn more about the driving forces behind Monterey County’s unique economy, as well as its critical areas of need where she can become involved. In her free time Maia enjoys cooking, camping, running with friends, and exploring new places with her boyfriend and pup.
Fenton & Keller PC
Marco is an associate attorney at Fenton & Keller PC in Monterey. His practice focuses on all aspects of civil litigation, including labor and employment law and general business litigation. In his employment practice, Marco helps employers minimize risk by counseling them on complex rules and regulations and drafting workplace policies that meet their particular needs. He also defends employers against a wide variety of claims, including claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage and hour violations. Prior to joining Fenton & Keller, Marco clerked with the California Attorney General’s office, the United States Attorney’s office, and the Honorable James M. Lorenz (United States District Court, Southern District of California). As a Monterey Peninsula native, Marco enjoys working with local individuals and businesses.
Community Foundation for Monterey County
Director of Community Initiatives and Partnerships
Michael Castro serves as the Director of Community Initiatives and Partnerships at the Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC) where he proudly co-leads the VIDA Program and other important community initiatives. Prior to that he served as Scholarships and Community Impact Officer where he managed the Foundation’s scholarship strategies and programs. Before joining the Community Foundation, Michael was Program Coordinator for two separate grant-funded programs at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB). Michael has a Bachelor’s degree from CSUMB and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from San Jose State University. His community volunteer experience includes Loaves, Fishes, and Computers and the National Prevention Science Coalition. He spends his free time chasing down his son Oli and daughter Leah all around the house and backyard.
California State University Monterey Bay
Associate Director of Campus Planning
Matthew S. McCluney has supported the development of the campus at California State University Monterey Bay as a Planner since 2016. Matthew focuses on transforming aging infrastructure on former Fort Ord into new academic facilities that support student success. His work has involved him in region impacting projects such as the FORTAG Trail and preparations for CSUMB to be the home for the Monterey Bay Football Club. Before joining the Otters, Matthew was a Transportation Planner at Old Dominion University. He graduated with a BA in Political Science from Boston College and earned his Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon. In the Monterey area, Matthew has served as a Traffic Safety Commissioner for the City of Pacific Grove and serves on the Advisory Board of the Monterey Bay Air Resources District. He is an avid runner throughout the Fort Ord National Monument, and he takes pride in his local family roots from Watsonville.
Natividad Medical Center
Associate HR Analyst
Bio coming soon.
CEO & Co-founder
Michael E. Gibbs is an entrepreneur and internationally recognized speaker on international negotiation and process redesign. Dr. Gibbs has been an adjunct professor at Penn State and University of Texas. He delivered seminars on negotiation to executives in 22 countries for the University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business, International Executive Program. Dr. Gibbs helped launch Silicon Valley technology start-ups including Employment and Success Factor Systems. Dr. Gibbs led team building for the CFM-56 engine joint venture between GE and French aerospace partner, SNECMA, and was project manager for the GE Aircraft Engines “China Program”. He is also the CEO & Co-founder of Silicon Valley education companies BizSmart Global and Camp BizSmart. With Gibbs and Associates, he completed a 24-month assignment in the Navy’s “Smart Carrier” initiative to streamline systems aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the “John C. Stennis”. Dr Gibbs served on the board of “Leading to Play”, a non-profit education organization started by Stanford All American and Hall of Famer George Selleck. Dr. Gibbs holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Organization/Industrial Psychology from Texas Tech University. He currently serves on the Economic Development Commission for the City of Pacific Grove.
Center for Homeland Defense and Security
Molly grew up in Marina, attended Monterey Peninsula College and graduated from San Francisco State University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Electronic Communications Arts, which lead her to work at KION and KSBW as a morning producer, assignment editor and fill-in traffic reporter. She then moved to San Diego and was a journalist for community, regional and national publications. In 2008, Molly returned to Monterey and started freelancing as a video producer for local non-profits and small businesses, while working as a front line employee in the hospitality industry. She also contracted with the Americans for United Nations Population Fund for five years, traveling between New York City, Seattle and San Francisco, assisting with donor relations and fundraising efforts for maternal health, worldwide. She was also a charter member of the Carmel Sunset Rotary Club which promotes and advocates for youth and the arts. Today, Molly’s focus and interest is on emergency management, and critical infrastructure – primarily issues effecting the region’s water supply. As a current resident of Pacific Grove, she recently graduated from the Pacific Grove Citizen’s Police Academy and completed the Community Emergency Response Team training (CERT). Since 2020, she has worked at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School as an educational technologist. This fall, she will earn her Master of Science degree in Instructional Sciences and Technology from CSU Monterey Bay.
Dole Fresh Vegetables
Vice President of Human Resources
Nora Cortez is Vice President of Human Resources at Dole Fresh Vegetables where she partners with business leaders on employer of choice strategies for frontline workers. Nora has over 25 years of experience in Human Resources within the produce and manufacturing industries. She served as a Board member for the Manufacturers Council of the Inland Empire, working in partnership with workforce development and community college leaders to support and align the region’s workforce skills development programs with employer needs. Nora is originally from Southern California and relocated to Monterey County in 2021. She attended Cal Poly Pomona where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a focus on Human Resources, and she is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Nora resides in Seaside with her husband and two children and enjoys spending time with family, reading, and discovering all Monterey County has to offer.
Growers Ice Company
Russell grew up in the Salinas Valley and has been involved in the agriculture industry since a young age. Russell holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Oregon and is a Project Management Professional (PMP). He has worked for Growers Ice Company since 2009 and manages its portfolio of properties in Salinas and California and their operations. He has a deep understanding and knowledge of the dynamics of the fresh produce industry, the precooling and logistics of commodities, renewable energy and power management, and operating and managing facilities and businesses. He is playing a key project management role in the design and redevelopment of the historic Growers Ice campus in Salinas and other development projects through PHT Development Group. This has given him great insight into local city and county political dynamics and the needs of infrastructure improvements for effective development and growth in the local economy. In his free time Russell enjoys travelling and spending time with his wife and two daughters.
Monterey County Ag Commissioner's Office
Agricultural Inspector / Biologist III
Shayla Neufeld was born and raised in Fresno, California, and attended California State University, Fresno where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Education - Agriculture Communications option. After graduating in 2006, Shayla moved to Bakersfield and worked a short time gig as a morning news producer for a news talk radio station before landing a job with the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. Seeking cooler temperatures, Shayla relocated to Monterey County in 2010 and began working for the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. She currently serves as a program lead Agricultural Inspector / Biologist III in the Fruit and Vegetable Standardization unit and works on the Monterey County Crop and Livestock Reports. Given the opportunity, Shayla volunteers with local 4H, FFA and Farm Day events and in her free time enjoys traveling, Giants baseball and Pilates. She resides in Monterey with her husband, and spoiled dog, Casper.
Central Coast Federal Credit Union
Assistant Asset Recovery Manager
Stephanie and her family reside in the Salinas area, where they have lived for over 23 years. Moving here, she made the decision to return to school and enroll to Hartnell College where she received her Associate of Arts degree. Soon after, she enrolled at California State University Monterey Bay and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences. While attending school Stephanie worked at Monterey County Employees Credit Union, starting as a teller, and promoting up to Lending Officer. After graduating from CSUMB, she continued to work at the Credit Union and pursued her career in Financial Services. She is currently the Asset Recovery Specialist at Central Coast Federal Credit Union. Stephanie also served on the Board of Directors for the YWCA Monterey County for several years as Treasurer and Vice-Chair. Stephanie enjoys attending music festivals and concerts, loves to eat, and looks forward to her annual family trips with her husband and three children.
City of Salinas
Police Services Administrator
Public and community service has been a constant throughout Tonya Erickson’s life. Tonya’s career in public service was inspired by her father, a disabled veteran now interred at Arlington National Cemetery, who dedicated his life to establishing programs for distressed veterans. Tonya’s perseverance was inspired by her mother who completed college and established a career in early childhood education while raising three young children. As a young single parent, Tonya put herself through college while raising her only child who is on the autism spectrum. The joys and challenges involved in raising her son (a CSUMB graduate!) influenced her personal and professional life. Before joining the City of Salinas in 2019, Tonya spent 20 years in County government managing children’s health programs serving low-income families and children in the foster care system. While raising her son, Tonya volunteered with the American Red Cross, and provided support and advocacy for parents and family members raising children on the autism spectrum. Tonya has a tight knit family, and in her free time she enjoys traveling and making memories with family and friends.
Vincent van Joolen
Monterey Peninsula College
Dean of Instruction - STEM
Vincent van Joolen is a 30-year Navy veteran who is currently the Dean of Instruction for STEM at Monterey Peninsula College. He retired at the rank of Captain in 2013 and served as the Chief Engineer on the USS Cayuga and Executive Officer on the USS Juneau. In addition, he was twice stationed at Naval Postgraduate School and once at the Defense Language Institute. As an educator, Vincent taught mathematics at the US Naval Academy for ten years. Upon retirement took a position as a Dean of Science at Quincy College in Massachusetts before returning to Monterey. He holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from NPS and a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC San Diego. Vincent lives in Monterey with his wife Beverly, daughter Bronwyn, and two dogs Bella and Charlie. In his free time, he sings bass with Carmel Bach Festival and runs a choral website called “The CyberBass Project.”
Director of Community Health and Wellness
Yasmine Elsherbini is the Director of Community Health and Wellness with Aspire Health’s Population Health division, where she provides strategic direction for diabetes prevention and chronic condition management programs for adults and children and families. She drives meaningful impact in the community by bringing together services and programs that support and enhance the health and wellbeing of Monterey County. Yasmine has over 13 years of public health experience with developing and implementing programs around health promotion, risk reduction, disease prevention, and behavior change. Prior to joining Aspire Health, she applied her health promotion expertise for several Fortune 500 companies. She is a relatively new resident of Monterey County and enjoys trying local foodie spots, spending time on the PG rec trail, and visiting new National Parks when she can.
Zeandae "Z" Johnson
Leavitt Central Coast Insurance Services
Commercial Insurance Broker
Bio coming soon.