A Tribute to MBEP Board Member Alfred Diaz-Infante

MBEP mourns the loss of Board Member Alfred Diaz-Infante, a dedicated community leader and affordable housing champion who served as president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit housing developer Community Housing Improvement Systems and Planning Association, Inc. (CHISPA) for more than two decades. Diaz-Infante, 60, died Monday, Aug. 9 after being involved in a single-car crash on Davis Road in Salinas.

Born and raised in Salinas, Mr. Diaz-Infante dedicated his life to building up his hometown. Through his work with CHISPA,  he not only helped develop more than 2,000 housing units in the region but served as an outspoken advocate for affordable housing. 

Diaz-Infante joined MBEP’s board in July 2020, but he was an integral part of MBEP’s work long before that, serving as a key member of the housing advisory committee that helped MBEP formulate its housing initiative, says MBEP President and CEO Kate Roberts. His knowledge of the complexities of housing in the region — his input, advice, his words of wisdom — were central to shaping MBEP’s work around housing.

A humble and soft-spoken man, Diaz-Infante was an intent listener who could make people of all ages and experiences feel valued for their perspective, someone who always had a kind word to share, and who took a genuine interest in the people around him. 

“When Alfred spoke, people listened. I’ve always had such deep respect for his intelligence, his humility, and his authenticity. He was a role model to so many of us who were lucky enough to know him. His quiet power and his ability to bridge between many different groups,” said Roberts, “will always be an inspiration to me and others to do what we can to continue on in his memory.”

Diaz-Infante’s work with CHISPA matters deeply to the region, and it mattered deeply to him on a personal level.  “He was so grounded in his community, and he used his knowledge and his personal experience to make this community a better place to live.”

A key part of MBEP’s Regions Rise Together initiative, Diaz-Infante approached the most challenging situations with kindness and optimism and he generously shared the wealth of his knowledge and experience with others, serving as a mentor to so many and inspiring by example. “That’s what a good leader does,” said Roberts. “You set a vision that inspires people and pushes the envelope to do good work and look for innovation. That’s the kind of guy Alfred was. He was very much the optimist and a believer in the greater good to be.”

Monterey County Supervisor Luis A. Alejo paid tribute to Diaz-Infante on Facebook, describing him as a “community leader and housing champion” who was “always there to uplift local families and be a voice on issues that mattered most.”

“Whether advocating for the Salinas Soccer Complex, leading digital divide projects (in) East Salinas, expanding healthcare access to the most vulnerable or advancing countless affordable housing projects, he was always there doing what’s right!” wrote Alejo. “This is a tremendous loss for Salinas and Monterey County! Today, we mourn the loss of our dear friend & campeón who will surely be missed!” 

In addition to his involvement with MBEP, Diaz-Infante previously served on the Monterey County Planning Commission, and on the boards of the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare District and organizations ranging from Community Foundation for Monterey County, Big Sur Land Trust, Hartnell College Foundation, and  Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA).  

Accolades bestowed upon him include being named a past Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, California State University, Monterey Bay’s Distinguished Fellow award for community and public service, and Hartnell Foundation outstanding leadership award.

But making the world a better place — one action at a time — was what truly mattered to Diaz-Infante.

A graduate of Hartnell College who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Sacramento and a master’s in business administration from UC Berkeley, Diaz-Infante served as a Hartnell College Foundation board member for 10 years, then as its president from 2011 to 2015, earning an outstanding leadership award from the foundation in 2018.

In honor of his parents, Luis and Evelia Diaz-Infante, Mexican immigrant farmworkers who established their home in the Salinas Valley in 1961 and instilled in their children and grandchildren the importance of higher education, in 2017 he created the Diaz-Infante Family Scholarship for farmworkers, children of farmworkers, or low-income students pursuing careers in business, engineering, healthcare, communications, or education.  

Diaz-Infante is survived by his wife, Elvira, and children. 

Friends and colleges, ranging from nonprofit leaders such as United Way Monterey County Chief Executive Katy Castagna and Community Foundation for Monterey County President and Chief Executive Dan Baldwin, to elected officials such as U.S. Rep Jimmy Panetta, State Sen. Anna Caballero, and Assemblyman Robert Rivas paid tribute to Diaz-Infante this week. In a released statement, Caballero called him “one of our great change-makers” and said his work with CHISPA “transformed the housing landscape in Monterey County.”

“No matter how long his day was, no matter how many issues he was involved with, he was always trying to see what else he could be doing in this community,” said Monterey County Supervisor, Luis Alejo.

Read more from the Monterey County Weekly, KION, KSBW, and the Monterey County Herald





Photos courtesy of Hartnell College.