Who We Are
Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) is a regional member-supported nonprofit organization consisting of public, private and civic entities located throughout the counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz. Founded in 2015, our mission is to improve the economic health and quality of life in the region.
Check out the video below to learn more.
Meet Our Board
Supported by regional leaders who are committed to making a difference.
Carrie L. Birkhofer
President and CEO, Bay Federal Credit Union, and Secretary, MBEP
Carrie joined Bay Federal Credit Union in 1989 as the Chief Financial Officer and has been the President and CEO since 1995. Carrie’s passion is to expand economic opportunity in our region by providing access to locally funded financial products and services. Over the years, Bay Federal has grown to be the largest community owned financial institution serving over 60,000 people living in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. Since 2011, Bay Federal has been designated as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the U.S. Treasury, recognizing the credit union for fostering local economic opportunity through access to affordable transportation and housing financing.
Bay Federal has over 200 employees and is a recipient of the Best Place to Work in the Bay Area. Since 2005, 100% of Bay Federal employees have donated their time annually to support the local community through fundraising and volunteer events. The credit union’s volunteerism was recognized in 2010 by the former first lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with a medal for the State of California’s Small Business Volunteer Program of the Year. Carrie believes that the credit union’s values based culture is a key success factor in today’s hyper competitive marketplace.
Carrie graduated with a BA, Business Economics from University of California, Santa Barbara and is a Certified Public Accountant. She is a member the Rotary Club of Scotts Valley, a graduate of Leadership Santa Cruz and has served on numerous boards including the Cabrillo College Foundation and the Fiserv/Open Solutions Client Association.
Carrie is the mother of three children who were born and raised in Santa Cruz. She loves walking her dog on West Cliff and she is an avid reader, traveler and beginning golfer.
Bud Colligan is the Founder and CEO of South Swell Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm focused on technology investments in the Monterey Bay region. Mr. Colligan founded Central Coast Angels in 2013 and is a founding board member of Santa Cruz Works. He is an investor in and advisor to NextSpace, PredPol, PayStand, EdSurge, Water City, InBoard, Wheelhouse and Tixr. Previously, Mr. Colligan was on the original Macintosh team at Apple, ran Apple’s Higher Education Marking Group, was Chairman & CEO of Macromedia, and Partner at Accel Partners, a leading venture capital firm. Mr. Colligan’s successful investments include lynda.com, CNET Networks, Days of Wonder, Yodlee and Brightmail. He served as Senior Advisor for International Affairs & Trade for the State of California during 2019.
Larry D. deGhetaldi, M.D.
President, Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz
Larry deGhetaldi, M.D. is president of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz (PAMF Santa Cruz). PAMF Santa Cruz coordinates with Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center to provide integrated health care for 130,000 Santa Cruz County residents. Dr. deGhetaldi is a board-certified family medicine physician who has served in a number of leadership positions within the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic since he began practicing in 1984. He represented the clinic in its affiliation negotiations with Sutter Health and additionally chaired the Clinic Management Board. Dr. deGhetaldi has served on several boards of directors including the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the California Medical Association, Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center, and the Central California Alliance for Health. He was recently appointed to the California Financial Solvency Standards Board (FSSB) whose task is to address the implications of federal health care reform and how it will affect the California health care landscape. He is also a member of the Integrated Healthcare Association’s (IHA) Pay for Performance governing committee. And he chairs the Sutter Medical Network’s Quality Committee which focuses on advancing the ambulatory quality of care for 3.2 million Sutter Health patients.
PAMF Santa Cruz is the county’s largest multispecialty physician organization with more than 200 physicians and has received the Integrated Healthcare Association’s award for “Top Overall Performance” multiple times. The 30-bed Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center is a nationally-recognized and award-winning ambulatory care hospital and has received the Press Ganey Summit Award for top industry performance multiple times.
Dr. deGhetaldi received his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz and his medical degree at the University of Southern California. He completed his postgraduate medical training internship at Stanford University and completed the Stanford University Family Practice Residency Program at San Jose Hospital. He is a graduate (Cohort I) of the California Health Care Foundation’s Leadership Fellowship.
Dr. deGhetaldi and his wife have six children between them.
Commercial Banking Leader
*Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo Commercial Banking Markets
Sandi Eason is the Commercial Banking Leader for Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.
Sandi spent 29 years with Wells Fargo before leaving to take the position of President and CEO of Santa Cruz headquartered Coast Commercial Bank. She returned to Wells Fargo 8 years later in 2013, now with 35 years of service with WF.
As fourth generation resident of the Monterey Peninsula she has a lifelong passion and connection with the Central Coast of California. She currently serves on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Executive Board of United Way of Monterey County, Founding Board member of the Living Breath Foundation/Cystic Fibrosis, IMPOWER, a Monterey County organization supporting women’s initiatives and scholarships and a recent former member of the Board of Councilors, Division of Social Sciences for UC Santa Cruz.
Rosa Vivian Fernández
President and CEO, San Benito Health Foundation
Rosa Vivian Fernandez is the President and Chief Executive Officer of San Benito Health Foundation (SBHF), a non-profit community health care organization serving the San Benito County for over 40 years. She has been the President and CEO for thirteen years. Under her direction, SBHF serves more than 10,000 individuals annually at the main clinic in Hollister and the new satellite mobile unit, providing preventative and comprehensive medical, dental, vision, mental health, and health education services. In addition, Ms. Fernandez oversees a WIC program serving 2,100 women and children.
Ms. Fernandez has extensive experience in executive management, strategic program planning, policy development, finance, and operational management in the public sector. Under her direction, SBHF was one of the first community health centers to implement electronic health records in San Benito County as well as connect the dental and medical patient chart.
Ms. Fernandez is well respected nationally for her commitment to excellence, as well as for her business acumen. She proactively addresses social health and education inequities through various organized efforts locally and statewide.
In addition to a Master’s degree in Public Health from University of California, Berkeley, Ms. Fernandez holds three certificates in health administration from John’s Hopkins University, University of Southern California Sierra Health Foundation, and UCLA Johnson & Johnson. She is fluent in Spanish.
David Heald is President & CEO of Santa Cruz County Bank. He began his banking career in San Francisco in the Finance and Planning Department of a Canadian bank with a branch network in the United States immediately after receiving a Finance Degree from San Diego State University. In his 45 year banking career, David has been responsible for oversight of all lending functions, branch administration and compliance. Due to his extensive expertise in banking and lending, he was recruited for the startup of two highly successful community banks in Santa Cruz where he has held executive level positions for the past 30+ years.
Santa Cruz County Bank is a state chartered bank locally owned and operated in Santa Cruz, California which commenced operations on February 3, 2004. Under David’s leadership, the Bank has grown to 5 banking locations, over $625 million in assets and a market capitalization of over $127 million in 14 years and has received local, statewide and national recognitions for its service and financial performance as follows:
- Santa Cruz County Bank is the top SBA lender in Santa Cruz County, ranked 6th in Silicon Valley, and ranked 37th statewide among 222 lenders for the 2017 SBA fiscal year.
- As of June 30, 2017, the Bank ranked 5th largest in overall market share with 8.69% of deposits held by FDIC insured institutions in Santa Cruz County.
- The Bank is a 5-Star “Superior” rated bank by Bauer Financial Inc. for its quarterly financial performance.
- Santa Cruz County Bank ranked 24th in the Top 200 Performing Community Banks and Thrifts in the U.S. by American Banker based upon 3-year return on equity.
- The Bank ranked 1st in overall financial performance for 2018 among 159 California banks by Financial Management Consulting Group and 1st (lowest) in nonperforming assets and asset quality. The Bank has ranked in FMC’s top ten banks in California for the past 3 years.
- Independent Community Bankers of America ranked Santa Cruz County Bank in its Top 25 Best Performing Community Banks with the highest return on average assets and highest return on average equity ratios.
David has an extensive career in community banking and previously served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer of Coast Commercial Bank for 21 years.
He is an active community advocate and leader who currently serves on the following Boards: Santa Cruz County Bank, Santa Cruz County Business Council, and Cabrillo College Foundation where he serves on the Board as past President as well as the Audit, Executive and Finance Committees. In addition to serving on these boards, David is a member of Santa Cruz Rotary and numerous community and independent banking associations.
Cynthia K. Larive was confirmed as the eleventh Chancellor of University of California Santa Cruz by the UC Board of Regents on May 16, 2019. She began her tenure on July 1, 2019.
A common thread throughout Larive’s career has been her commitment to student success, inclusion and equity. She has led programs for undergraduate research and curricular innovation and has written over two dozen articles on active learning, mentoring and experiential learning. Larive has also been active in encouraging the participation and success of women and others who have been underrepresented in STEM fields, including service as co-PI of an institutional NSF Advance grant. She is a collaborative leader who is committed to the principles of shared governance.
An accomplished bioanalytical chemist, Larive comes to UC Santa Cruz from UC Riverside where she has been on the faculty since 2005 and is currently Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. As Provost, she is responsible for the academic enterprise, managing large scale initiatives as well as the daily operations of the UC Riverside campus, developing academic and administrative policies, and working closely with the Chancellor, the Academic Senate, and the Deans of UCR’s colleges, schools, and divisions to formulate and realize campus goals. Since 2012, she has served in a variety of administrative roles including Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Divisional Dean of Physical Sciences and Mathematics, interim Dean of the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, and Chair of the Department of Chemistry.
Before arriving at UCR, Larive was a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas, where she began what has become a productive and successful research career. She has over 155 publications, has mentored 30 Ph.D and M.S. students, and received funding to support her research from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and a range of foundation and corporate grant makers. Larive is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, serves an Associate Editor for Analytical Chemistry, and has received campus and national awards for her teaching, research and leadership.
Larive is a first-generation college graduate, having earned her Bachelor of Science from South Dakota State University and M.S. from Purdue University, both in chemistry. She is a product of the University of California, having received a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from UC Riverside in 1992 while raising two young daughters, Erin and Megan with her husband Jim.
Previously the City Administrator for the City of Angels Camp, CA, Mr. McHatten has over twenty-five years of administrative, management and leadership experience. His background includes: City Administration, Strategic Planning, Municipal Finance, Employee Development, Economic Development, Community Facilitation, Water and Wastewater Management, and Public Relations and Community Outreach. He has proven successful at implementing Council approved policy, managing a diverse staff, engaging the community, and developing/managing budgets and projects under the most challenging financial conditions. Mr. McHatten has proven to be very adept at creating a culture within the organizations he has worked for that promotes open and candid communication.
McKee is County Administrative Officer of Monterey County, serving as the day-to-day manager of county government. Prior to his appointment to that role in 2019, he served for 16 years as County Counsel-Risk Manager for Monterey County and previously served as County Counsel for Nevada County and deputy county counsel for Marin County. He holds a bachelor’s in Political Economy from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., attended the University of Maryland School of Law and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.
As a member of Gov. Brown’s Central Coast Judicial Advisory Committee, he vetted judicial applicants from Ventura to Santa Cruz and served as legal advisor for the California State Association of Counties and California State Association of Counties Excess Insurance Authority (CSAC-EIA). He is a past president of the Monterey County Bar Association (MCBA) and County Counsel Association of California (CCAC) and Chair of Monterey/Kern/San Luis Obispo Colleges of Law Board of Trustees. Other volunteer capacities including serving on a credit union board of directors, as a coach for a high school mock trial team and as a judge for Hastings College of Law Moot Court.
Nanette Mickiewicz, M.D.
President, Dominican Hospital
Nanette Mickiewicz, M.D., was named President of Dominican Hospital in November 2006. She has been a member of the medical staff at the hospital for 21 years, with specialties in infectious diseases and internal medicine. Nan also served as Chief Medical Officer, and has been a member of the executive leadership team for the past 14 years, while maintaining a medical practice in infectious diseases.
Dr. Mickiewicz earned her undergraduate degree in biology from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, and went on to study medicine at Chicago Medical School. She fulfilled her residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she also served as Chief Resident, and completed a fellowship in infectious diseases prior to beginning her practice in Santa Cruz. Among her many interests and responsibilities, Nan also sits on a number of committees including the Executive Committee of the Health Improvement Partnership Council, whose purpose is to identify and resolve important health care issues in Santa Cruz County and to promote and improve health care for the uninsured, underinsured, and publicly insured. Dr. Mickiewicz is also a Board member of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, a member of the Santa Cruz Business Council, Women in Philanthropy, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. In 2011, Dr. Mickiewicz accepted the role of co-chair of the United Way of Santa Cruz County campaign. In 2012, Becker’s Hospital Review named Dr. Mickiewicz among the 100 Physician Leaders of Hospitals and Health Systems.
Nan is married to Michael Ellison, MD, a specialist in pulmonary medicine and critical care at Dominican Hospital. They are the parents of two boys and twin girls, ranging in age from 18 to 26. The family lives in Santa Cruz.
Eduardo M. Ochoa
President, California State University, Monterey Bay and Chair, MBEP
Eduardo M. Ochoa began his appointment as President of California State University, Monterey Bay in July 2012. Ochoa returned to the CSU after serving in the Obama Administration since 2010 as the U.S. assistant secretary for postsecondary education—the secretary of education’s chief advisor on higher education issues. Prior to that role, Ochoa served for seven years as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University.
Ochoa taught at Fresno State as well as at California State University, Los Angeles, where he was a full professor and chair of the economics and statistics department. He also led the university’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and served as acting dean of its School of Business and Economics. In 1997, Ochoa was hired as the dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Business Administration, where he served for six years.
A native of Buenos Aires, Ochoa attended bilingual schools in the Argentinian capital until his sophomore year in high school before immigrating with his family to Portland, Oregon. Ochoa earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Reed College, a master’s degree in nuclear science and engineering from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research.
George Ow, Jr.
Chairman and CEO, Ow Family Properties
George is a Monterey Bay native and has lived most his life in Santa Cruz or Monterey. He is a graduate of Monterey Union High School (1960), Monterey Peninsula College (AA 1963), San Francisco State (BA 1965) and UCLA (MBA 1966). George spent three years in the U.S. Army (1967-1969) and had a rank of captain, serving in Vietnam from August 1968 to August 1969.
George is very interested in the region and has published some of the best books about the region: Sandy Lydon’s Chinese Gold and Japanese of the Monterey Bay Region; Geoffrey Dunn’s Santa Cruz Is In The Heart I and II; Donna Mekis and Kathy Mekis Miller’s Blossoms Into Gold: The Croatians In The Pajaro Valley, and an anthology edited by Geoffrey Dunn, Chinatown Dreams. George was executive producer of local documentary films by Geoffrey Dunn and Mark Schwartz, including Mi Vida, Maria Gutierrez’ path from being an illegal transient farm worker to college at UCSC, and ultimately getting her MA and PHD at Stanford and becoming a college professor, and Dollar A Day, 10 Cents A Dance, the saga of Freddy Alnas coming from the Philippines to become a farm worker for over 50 years–and how he survived and lived his life in our region. We are very interested in education and have given over 1,000 Ow Family American Dream Scholarships to Cabrillo College students over the past 30 years.
The Ow Family has been involved in many community profit and nonprofit projects throughout the years and will continue to be for generations. The family business is commercial property development, ownership and management. Ow Family Properties has done well taking empty buildings and filling them with business tenants. They worked with the City of Watsonville and the Watsonville community to bring over 1,000 jobs to empty spaces over a three year period, and took the 386,000 square foot mostly empty former Wrigley chewing gum factory and made it into an incubator space filled it with a vibrant mix of businesses. George and his siblings are the second generation of a large immigrant business family and they are in the process of handing off the reins of the business to a very capable third generation.
Carlos J. Palacios
Chairman and CEO, Taylor Farms
Bruce is the third generation of a Salinas Valley produce family. After growing up in Salinas, he graduated from UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School. Bruce has had two jobs in his career. The first with Fresh Express for thirteen years where he led the rapid growth and the development of the retail bagged salad category. Then, twenty years ago, he started Taylor Farms with support from financial and business partners. Taylor Farms is a producer of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables with the goal of becoming “America’s Favorite Salad Maker.” Taylor Farms currently ranks as the world’s largest producer of fresh-cut vegetables. With products that range from bagged salads to freshly prepared meals, Taylor Farms supplies many of the largest supermarket chains and foodservice restaurants in the United States. Taylor Farms’ headquarters are located in Salinas, California with regional processing plants in twelve U.S. locations and one in Mexico. Bruce and his wife Linda have four sons and one daughter-in-law.
Dr. Matt Wetstein has been Superintendent/President of Cabrillo College since February 2018. Prior to working at Cabrillo, Matt served for 6 years as the Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Instruction and Planning at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, CA. Matt started his career in the California Community Colleges as a Political Science Instructor at San Joaquin Delta College in 1996. He holds a BA from the University of St. Francis in Illinois, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Political Science from Northern Illinois University. He is a statewide leader in the Research and Planning Community for California Community Colleges, having spent 6 years on the board of that organization and 2 years as President. He serves on a number of boards in the Santa Cruz County region, including the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, Santa Cruz County Business Council, United Way, Santa Cruz Symphony, Agri-Culture Foundation, and is a member of the Aptos/Capitola Rotary. In 2019 he was named Aptos Chamber of Commerce “Man of the Year.”
Meet Our Staff
Our staff helps convene people to find solutions, catalyze
new regional resources and share best practices across the region.
Kate Roberts, President & CEO
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 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 29 years, Buz Roberts.
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.
Alexia Garcia, Community Engagement Associate
A proud Salinas native, Alexia feels a strong connection to the Monterey Bay Region and the people who live here. Having graduated from Hartnell College, she is currently working toward completing her Bachelor of Arts in Politics at UC Santa Cruz.
While at Hartnell College, she served as Vice President of the Sociology Club where she worked with local leaders to increase student advocacy and previously served on the Monterey County Civil Rights Commission. Today she remains deeply invested in her community and in her free time can be found enjoying the outdoors with her four rescue dogs.
Alexia is thrilled to be part of MBEP’s housing initiative and looks forward to working towards creating a better region, ensuring all who call our community home can live in one.
Ashley Gauer, Program Specialist
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!
Jessica Gilden, Marketing Associate
A California native, Jessica has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector. A strong desire to become more involved in the community she has called home for 30 years drew her to the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership.
With a background in graphic and web design and event planning, she is excited to be a part 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, Jessica likes to design jewelry and spend as much time as possible outdoors exploring the trails of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Megan Guidi, Workforce Development Associate
Megan is a Bay Area native with over 4 years of experience in college recruitment, career services, student development, and program coordination. Megan’s family moved to the Monterey region in 2014 and she quickly became involved in the local workforce. Megan’s first internship was with Monterey County’s Learning and Organizational Development division, a few of her first jobs after college were with K-12 schools in Salinas and Monterey, and she spent last summer developing programming and curriculum for internships with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.
Megan completed her M.Ed in College Counseling and Student Development at North Carolina State University while working as a Career Counselor for over 4,000 students in both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Megan is also a proud UC Davis alum and transfer student from Los Medanos College in the Bay Area. She is thrilled to be back on the Monterey Peninsula and looks forward to hikes around Big Sur, paddle boarding on the bay, and daily walks on the recreational trail with her Great Dane!
Emmy Ham, Housing Associate
Rafael Hernandez, Housing Program Associate
From selling chewing gum door to door as a child to help his family make ends meet, to serving as a consultant to local and international organizations and governments in Japan, Peru, Mexico, and Rwanda, Rafael has worked in many fields. He has been an auto mechanic, a construction worker, a librarian, a production and camera assistant in the film industry, a tax credit consultant, and a simultaneous interpreter for social justice organizations throughout California. He lived and worked for five years in Japan as an educator, interpreter, and liaison between the South American immigrant community and Japanese public officials interpreting between Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and English. In all of these occupations he was always advocating for the rights of poor people and immigrants.
Over the course of his graduate studies, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), Rafael customized his Public Administration degree by working on various research projects in 5 different countries utilizing a mixed methods approach. While at MIIS, Rafael was a volunteer teacher for gang youth at Rancho Cielo, taught self-defense classes – including women’s self-defense, worked as a digital media consultant to students and faculty at the Digital Learning Commons, worked as an advisor to the MPA program faculty, and ran a small business restoring decks and teak furniture.
After graduating, he worked as the program director for Read to Me Project, an organization which brings an innovative early literacy program to the Salinas Valley. He also teaches Sociology part time at Hartnell college. He was recently on the Board of Prospera, an organization in Oakland that supports Latina entrepreneurs, where he currently serves as an advisor.
In all of his work and life experience, he sees housing as the road to either success or to struggle. MBEP’s Mission Statement fuels his conviction that the “lottery of birth” should not determine people’s chances to create a good life for themselves and their children.
Rafael earned his B.A. in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. He is an Education Pioneers Fellow, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and holds a Certificate of Development Project Management from the Middlebury Institute. He is an avid practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, and mixed martial arts. He likes designing websites, working on his truck, and loves writing poetry and performing freestyle rhymes. Above all, he is a passionate father whose favorite thing in the world is loving and raising his baby son.
Matt Huerta, Housing Program Manager
Matt engages in several volunteer activities including serving on the Boards of the Nonprofit 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 four young children.
Melanie McNulty, Senior Marketing & Membership Manager
A long-time resident of the Silicon Valley, Melanie McNulty recently moved to the Monterey Bay Area bringing with her over 25 years of integrated marketing experience in the high-tech industry.
Throughout her career, she has focused on brand and communications management
and digital marketing working with large, Fortune 500 companies and small executive management and venture capital firms. She has a significant background in messaging, positioning, project management, vendor and agency management, editorial direction and guiding creative design.
Recently expanding her interest in the local communities and environment, she has worked with nonprofits in Monterey and the Silicon Valley. She attended Southern Methodist University graduating with a BFA and received her MA in communications from the University of Denver.
Intrinsically curious about the science of the oceans, astronomy, and nature, she is an avid reader, artist and dog lover–often competing in dog agility trials in central and northern California on the weekends.
Hayley Mears, Workforce Development 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!
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.
MBEP Student Ambassador Program
Meet Our Members
Membership fuels our efforts and provides opportunities to advance the agenda
and policy issues important to the Monterey Bay region, and to network with peers
and elected officials from all over the region.
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