Kate Roberts, President
Since September 2015 Kate Roberts has been the President of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP), a regional nonprofit, membership organization consisting of public, private and civic entities located throughout the counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz. MBEP’s mission is to is to improve the economic health and quality of life in the Monterey Bay Region.
Prior to joining MBEP, Ms. Roberts spent seven years running her own independent management consultancy, The Wired Woman, that helped organizations solidify strategies and accelerate growth. Over her 25 years in the high-tech industry Ms. Roberts held leadership positions in sales, marketing, partner management, and corporate social responsibility. She spent a decade at Cisco Systems, Inc. leading strategic initiatives and creating successful partnerships with the United Nations, USAID and other global partners to further tech education and workforce development in the developing world.
Kate’s varied nonprofit board experience spans both the social and environmental spectrum at the regional and national level. As a volunteer ambassador with Save the Children, she led a women’s empowerment delegation to Ethiopia and Uganda, and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with CARE to raise funds and awareness for their community-based programs in Tanzania and Zanzibar. She is an active community member, supporting a number of social and environmental causes.
Kate graduated with honors from the University of California at Irvine and received a post-graduate certificate in cross-sector partnership from Cambridge University in England. She is an avid traveler, speaks 4 languages, is an award-winning photographer, an accomplished knitter, and an intrepid hiker. A native Californian, Kate lives in Santa Cruz, California with her husband of 26 years, Buz Roberts.
Josie Buchanan, Community Engagement Assistant
Originally from San Luis Obispo Josie Buchanan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz where she studied Cultural Anthropology and Feminist Studies. Throughout her time in Santa Cruz Josie has worked with several journalistic platforms as an Arts and Entertainment journalist on her college newspaper, as a blogger for popular food blog Spoon University, and most recently as the substitute news anchor at KSCO radio news.
Josie has always been interested in politics and housing policy, her time studying anthropology, in particular, led her to become more interested and also more active in social inequality and the systems that lead to crises such as California Housing Crisis. Josie first began working with the Santa Cruz County Business Council late last year where she was inspired by people who work every day with little to no recognition to create more housing for all parties.
Josie continues to split her time between the Santa Cruz County Business Council and Monterey Bay Economic Partnership. In her spare time, Josie likes to hike through Santa Cruz’s many beautiful forests and surf the amazing coastline. Josie lives in midtown with her tortie cat and is very excited to continue to make a difference working as MBEP’s Community Engagement Assistant.
Jesus Contreras, Transportation Research Assistant
Born and raised in Richmond, California, Jesus Contreras is a third-year undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and Economics with a minor in Sustainability Studies.
Prior to joining MBEP he held multiple internships throughout his college experience with The UCSC Storm Water Project, The Campaign for Sensible Transportation, and The Homeless Garden Project. Jesus also conducted an independent study at UC Santa Cruz where he analyzed the demand for electric vehicle charging stations and how to promote the use of zero-emission vehicles. With an interest in sustainable cities and transportation systems, Jesus is excited to be a part of the MBEP team as a research assistant for the transportation initiative and develop his skills in transportation research. In his free time, Jesus enjoys playing soccer and mountain biking.
Freny Cooper, Chief Operating Officer
Freny Cooper has spent over 25 years in high tech, specializing in marketing communications, marketing operations, strategy and business planning. Over her consulting career she has worked with large clients such as Apple and Cisco as well as numerous start-ups, both in Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz County.
In recent years she has focused on a variety of community initiatives by working with local nonprofits. She has
served on the board of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County since 2013, and has also served on several
other boards focused on education and ocean conservation.
She has been a Santa Cruz resident since 1999, is a graduate of the Middlebury Institute of International
Studies, and also holds an MBA from the University of Southern California.
Ashley Gauer, Workforce Development Assistant
Raised in one of the most multi-cultural and geographically isolated population hubs on earth, Ashley realized the importance and value of community early on. She went on to deepen her sense of community in San Francisco, where she earned her BA in Bio-Psychology and Minors in Public Service and Philosophy. She holds Certificates in Business Administration and TESOL amongst others, has studied and volunteered across three continents and helped launch social enterprises in Cambodia to support education and economic empowerment. Ashley has a longstanding history in international education, non-profit administration and program management working with a diverse set of stakeholders in both urban and rural settings.
Currently, Ashley is in her final semester at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) where she is pursuing a dual degree in International Education Management and Public Administration. She serves on the steering committee for MIIS’ Fair Trade Club, Sustainable Monterey and a new ‘community capital’ initiative, Hatch Monterey, with the City of Monterey. Additionally, she is a Program Design Consultant for Global Majority and Micro-Enterprise Consultant for CA FarmLink. An ongoing student of Earthship Biotecture and Raw Food Education, Ashley is an advocate for radically sustainable buildings and whole nutrient-dense food. She is a maker of sorts, and loves barefoot boogies, yoga, thrift stores, and bamboo. She also enjoys running and taking photos in her backyard, beautiful Pacific Grove.
Ashley values conversations and experiences that spark innovative, entrepreneurial ideas to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time. It is in her blood to connect and engage people, especially our youth. She has a passion for social change organizations, and is excited to support MBEP’s Workforce Development Initiative!
Matt Huerta, Housing Program Manager
Since October 2016, Matt Huerta has been the Housing Program Manager for the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP), a regional nonprofit, membership organization consisting of public, private and civic entities located throughout the counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz. MBEP’s mission is to is to improve the economic health and quality of life in the Monterey Bay Region. Matt’s role is to build an advocacy network aimed at increasing the supply of housing opportunities for all residents, to launch a new Monterey Bay Housing Trust Fund, and to facilitate more employer sponsored housing development.
Prior to joining MBEP, Mr. Huerta has spent over 15 years developing hundreds of affordable rental and for sale homes and overseeing high impact nonprofit programming in the South Bay, Central Coast and Sacramento Valley regions.
He started a consulting business in 2016 aimed at providing assistance to non profits engaged in affordable housing development, community initiatives, and leadership development. For approximately 5 years he served as the Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley, a leading Community Development Finance Institution and NeighborWorks America HomeOwnership Center before closing its doors in late 2015. During his tenure as Development Director for South County Housing in Gilroy, he oversaw a real estate pipeline over 1200 affordable homes valued at $360 Million.
Matt engages in several volunteer activities including serving as a City of Salinas Planning Commissioner (for over 10 years) and on the Boards of the Non Profit Housing Association of Northern California and California Coalition for Rural Housing. He earned a B.S. in Community and Regional Development from the University of California at Davis where he also served as the President of the Associated Students during his senior year.
Matt has lived in Salinas since 2005. He enjoys exercising, playing basketball with friends, and spending time outdoors with his wife Diana Huerta and 3 young children.
Hayley Mears, Program Manager
Hayley is a Santa Cruz native with over 7 years experience in education, career services, job development, and student counseling. Prior to joining MBEP, Hayley worked at UC Santa Cruz for over 5 years, serving students in various positions; most recently as an internship and job placement coordinator with the Economics Department. Her work experience also includes positions as the job development specialist with the UC Santa Cruz Career Center in 2012 and career development specialist with special education students at Santa Cruz City School District.
Hayley has a M.A. in Education Counseling with a focus in career services from San Jose State University, Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Dramatic Art from UC Santa Barbara, and an Associate of Arts from Cabrillo College. She is a volunteer with Mountain Community Theater, located in Ben Lomond, CA and Project Pajamas with Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA. She loves spending time with her friends and family, which includes her 7 nephews and 1 niece, and hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains!
Joann Moreira, Marketing Assistant
A Southern California native, Joann Moreira moved up to the bay to attend school and play NCAA DIII soccer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a recent grad who earned her Bachelor of Arts in both Business Management Economics and Psychology.
After taking courses in Marketing, Business Strategy, and E-Commerce Strategy, Joann developed an interest in marketing and behavioral economics. She is excited to be apart of the MBEP team and use her marketing skills to help spread awareness of community events that are creating social change. In her free time, Joann likes to paint, play soccer, and run along the beach on West Cliff Dr.
Maya Reed, Events Coordinator
Maya grew up in Mendocino, CA, a very small and close-knit community. As a child, she had the opportunity to live overseas and travel the world before the age of 10. These experiences taught her the value of different cultures as well as the struggles that many in this world face. Maya attended Humboldt State University and received a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, which is what brought her to the Santa Cruz area in 1998. She never worked a day in the Marine Biology field, but has enjoyed a 15-year career in event planning and hospitality. She is excited to be a part of the MBEP team, making a positive difference in our community and facilitating upward change.