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.
2015-2020 Impact Report
Click here to see what the team accomplished.
To see where we’re going check out our 2021-2022 Strategic Plan.
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.
Meet Our Board
Supported by regional leaders who are committed to making a difference.
Vice President, South Bay & Central Coast Region, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
As one of PG&E’s senior leaders in the field every day, she will be accountable for delivering high-quality performance to our customers and ensuring the safety, availability, and reliability of regional operations for our hometowns. The Regional Vice Presidents live and work in their regions, close to the customers they are dedicated to serving so that they can build strong collaborative relationships and develop solutions to operational issues based on a deep understanding of local needs.
Previously, she was Chief of Local Impact for the San Francisco Bay Area Planning & Urban Research Association (SPUR), where she led a team responsible for implementing effective and equitable policy and planning solutions in the Bay Area. Before that, she was Deputy Administrative Officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District where she oversaw organizational performance, board policy governance, communications, and community engagement. Earlier in her career, she was the founding Executive Director of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. Immediately following graduate school, Teresa worked as a Charitable Contributions Program Manager and Government Relations Representative for PG&E.
In addition to her professional experience, Teresa has held numerous civic leadership roles. She currently chairs the California Water Commission, which provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Director of the Department of Water Resources, monitors and reports on the construction and operation of the State Water Project, and distributes $2.7 billion for the public benefits of water storage projects.
She previously served on the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable, co-chairing its Inclusive Recovery subcommittee, as well as the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), chairing its Environmental Justice Commissioner Working Group. Locally, Teresa co-chaired the City of San Jose’s General Plan 4-Year Review and is the founder of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley.
Alvarado holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Tufts University, a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a minor degree in technical writing from San Jose State University. She is a graduate of executive education programs at the Tuck at Dartmouth College and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is an American Leadership Forum senior fellow.
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.
President, Taylor Farms Retail
Mark Campion is President of Taylor Farms Retail, headquartered in Salinas, California. He has been with Taylor Farms for over 20 years in various capacities. Mark learned the business from the ground up, starting in foodservice operations before moving into sales leadership. In 2009 Taylor Farms launched their retail division, which Mark has led since inception. He is now responsible for all retail operations manufactured in seven facilities in the United States and two in Mexico.
President & CEO, United Way Monterey County
Katy has a Bachelor’s degree from Brown University with concentrations in Anthropology and Latin American Studies, and an MBA with an emphasis in nonprofit management from The Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She has over 35 years of experience working and volunteering in public and nonprofit organizations in Southern California and Monterey County. She has been with United Way Monterey County since 2004. During that time she has worked in community impact, developing services such as 2-1-1, The Volunteer Center, and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance free tax prep service. She has also overseen resource development and been responsible for the major donors and grants, as well as general operations. Since 2015 she has served as President and CEO of United Way Monterey County and is leading the organization’s focus on financial stability for families through access to affordable quality child care, housing, and financial literacy.
Katy’s current community involvement includes the Rotary Club of Monterey (Board of Directors), the CSUMB Business Advisory Council (Member), the American Cetacean Society Monterey Bay Chapter (Treasurer). Katy resides with her husband Gary Ray in Monterey, where they raised their two children.
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.
President & CEO, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System
Pete Delgado is President/CEO of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. Pete is responsible for directing the leadership and operations of an integrated network of health care programs, services, and facilities. During his tenure at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, Pete has expanded access to care, greatly increasing the services available to all members of the community regardless of their ability to pay. He is passionate about patient safety, quality clinical outcomes, exceptional patient experience, and partnering with patients and their families to achieve an improved quality of life.
Sandi Eason, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer
Pacific Valley Bank
Sandi Eason joined Pacific Valley Bank in late 2020. Previously, Sandi spent 29 years with Wells Fargo before leaving to take the position of President and CEO at Coast Commercial Bank. She returned to Wells Fargo 8 years later in 2013, completing 35 years of service in total.
As a 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 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.
CEO, Monterey Bay Community Power
Tom Habashi is the first CEO of Central Coast Community Energy, which was established in 2017 to serve electric generation to Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties, and now serves Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties starting in 2020. He previously served as CEO at startup Silicon Valley Clean Energy in Santa Clara County. Habashi has worked 30 years at community-owned utilities in Burbank, Palo Alto and Roseville, acquiring energy, developing rates and overseeing finances. CCCE serves 95% of homes and businesses in Monterey County. Since its inception in 2018 CCCE has saved $17.1 million on electricity cost for its customers and has reduced carbon emissions by 560,000 tons over the last 2 years.
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.
County Administrative Officer, Monterey County
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.
President & CEO, Goodwill Central Coast
Tom Moran has recently been named as the new President and CEO of Goodwill Central Coast. He had been CFO of the organization since the beginning of 2018. He previously served on GCC’s Board of Directors from 2009-2014, including holding the Chairman’s role in 2013.
Tom brings to Goodwill 20 years of experience in retail strategic planning and finance, including CFO roles at Conn’s, Inc., and at West Marine, with prior experience at ARAMARK, Limited Brands, and CarMax Auto Superstores. He has a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the College of the Holy Cross, and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Tom and his wife Lindora enjoy hiking and the many other outdoor activities that California has to offer.
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.
President, President, Ow Commercial
Benjamin Ow is President of Ow Commercial and a Principal of Ow Family Properties. Ow Commercial is a leading commercial real estate brokerage company that represents buyers, sellers, landlords, and tenants of commercial real estate throughout the nation. Ow Family Properties owns and manages a portfolio of over 1,500,000 square feet of the finest commercial real estate properties located throughout the Monterey Bay Region. Benjamin received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from UCLA and his master’s degree in Real Estate and Development from USC.
Miles Reiter is a fourth generation berry farmer in Central California, dating back to the family’s first farms in the Pajaro Valley established in the late 1800’s. He has chaired the Driscoll’s organization since 1988 and served as CEO for most of that time. Miles led the diversification from only strawberries into raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Under his leadership Driscoll’s expanded globally and established itself as one of the leading consumer brands in produce. He has served on numerous local boards, including Greenway, The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School, the CSUMB Foundation and the California Strawberry Commission. He and his wife, Rosanne, have four grown children, all of whom attended local schools and three of whom live in the Monterey Bay Area.
Driscoll’s has become the world’s most prominent fresh berry company, with operations in over 20 countries and six continents. The company works with approximately one thousand growers, hundreds of which have been start ups, established with very limited means. It makes available leading genetics and production technologies to growers of a wide range of sizes and backgrounds and connects the fruit of their work to the global marketplace, in most of its many forms. The guiding mission is to delight consumers and give them a compelling reason to keep buying Driscoll’s berries.
Dr. Raul Rodriguez
From 2010 to 2019, Dr. Rodríguez served as the Chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD). As Chancellor of one of the largest community college districts in the state of California, Dr. Rodríguez oversaw a district that covers one quarter of the land area of Orange County, registers an annual enrollment of more than 60,000 students, and is one of the largest employers in the region with more than 4,000 employees.
Prior to joining RSCCD, Dr. Rodríguez held a number of positions in both single college and multi-college community college districts in California. An educator for more than 35 years, his previous administrative experience includes the following:
- Superintendent/President of San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton;
- President of Los Medanos College in the Contra Costa Community College District;
- Interim President of San José City College;
- Vice President of Instruction, San José City College; and,
- Dean of Instruction, Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, among others.
Dr. Rodríguez earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He also possesses a Master’s Degree in School and Applied Psychology from Fairfield University and a B.A. in Liberal Studies from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. An educator who taught psychology at Cabrillo College and the University of California, Santa Cruz, he is also a graduate of the Harvard Institute for Educational Management.
Dr. Rodríguez previously served for seven years on the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and he served a two-year term as chair. He has extensive accreditation experience. He chaired accreditation team visits to College of Alameda, Columbia College, Golden West College, the Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health, Saddleback College, Santa Monica College, De Anza College, Cuesta College, and Santa Barbara City College. He also served as a team member on numerous other accreditation team visits. Community and professional service has always been a high priority for Dr. Rodríguez. He is currently on the board of the National Community College Hispanic Council and on the Board of Stewards of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dr. Rodríguez previously served for eight years as a board member of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, for three years on the Orange County Taxpayers Association, and for three years on the International Consortium for Educational and Economic Development (ICEED). In 2012 he was elected to the board of the Chief Executive Officers of the California Community Colleges and appointed to the Executive Board of the CSU Fullerton Doctor of Educational Leadership Program. In addition, Dr. Rodríguez has been a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and served as a board member on multiple non-profit organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club, the Goodwill, the Junior Achievement, and the United Way.
Dr. Faris Sabbah
President & CEO, Santa Cruz County Bank
Krista Snelling joined Santa Cruz County Bank in March 2021, bringing nearly 25 years of strategic financial and operational expertise to the role.
Snelling is leading Santa Cruz County Bank’s expansion into Monterey County, with a focus on regional strategies that best support the Bank’s mission to build lasting relationships and be a trusted partner to empower growth and economic vitality.
She established her banking career in Northern California, serving twice with Five Star Bank, first as Chief Financial Officer, and then returning as Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer. Snelling also served as Chief Financial Officer of Allworth Financial (formerly Hanson McClain), Chief Financial Officer of Inspire Communities, and spent several years serving audit clients with Arthur Andersen and KPMG.
In 2019, Snelling was recognized by the Sacramento Business Journal as a CFO of the Year. The following year she was named as aSacramento Business Journal Woman Who Means Business and was awarded the Nancy Hotchkiss Woman of Impact Award by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), recognizing her impact on the commercial real estate industry.
Snelling graduated from the University of the Pacific with a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Mathematics and Economics. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Economics from UC Davis.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Western Bankers Association and Santa Cruz County Bank, and on the Executive Advisory Council of University of the Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business.
Meet Our Staff
Our staff helps convene people to find solutions, catalyze
new regional resources and share best practices across the region.
Tahra Goraya, President & CEO
Tahra will bring to MBEP strong skills in leadership, management, policy advocacy, and public affairs. She is knowledgeable in diverse issue areas across multiple sectors including nonprofit management, business, and government. Most recently, Tahra was an organizational consultant as well as an executive coach. Previously, Tahra served as the Director for Zero to Three Western Regional Office, a national early childhood public policy and research organization; District Director for California State Senator Carol Liu; National Director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national American Muslim civil rights organization in Washington, DC; and Executive Director of Day One in Pasadena, a substance abuse prevention and policy organization. Her familiarity in leveraging strategic relationships, building cross-cultural and cross-sector coalitions, crafting public policy, and organizing multi-faith and grassroots communities helped her to successfully get legislation passed for over a dozen policies.
Tahra is a graduate of the University of California at Irvine with a degree in Biology, has a Masters in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with an emphasis in management, leadership, and decision sciences. Notable achievements include recipient of the Barbara Jordan Award for Women’s Leadership from the Harvard Kennedy School Woman and Public Policy Program, Nonprofit Executive Director of the Year by the California State Senate and Assembly, Elected Town Meeting Member in Milton, Founder of Milton Muslim Neighbors, Advisor to Latino Muslim Unity, and Advisory Board Member for Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston. A native of California, Tahra is a proud daughter of Pakistani Punjabi Muslim immigrant parents.
As the eldest of five children, she learned early the importance of hard work and the struggles of immigrant families, especially in farming communities. Tahra’s passion for health equity and
economic justice was shaped by her experience growing up in Bakersfield, and through her agronomist father, she grew to appreciate the tremendous agricultural contributions of Kern County. Tahra and her family are excited and eager to return to California after five years in Massachusetts.
“I am elated to lead MBEP during the next stage of its development and growth. MBEP’s triple bottom line approach centered around equity, environment, and economic vitality resonates strongly with who I am as an individual and as a professional,” said Tahra. “I cannot wait to partner with various stakeholders to build upon the great legacy of the founders to improve the quality of life and economic health of the region.”
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.
Mila Colfer, Social Media Intern
Mila Colfer is currently a sophomore at Cabrillo College working on her A.A. in Political Science with plans to transfer in the fall of 2022. Growing up in Santa Cruz Mila has experienced and is passionate about local issues, such as affordable housing and protecting the environment. She is working with MBEP on the climate change and housing teams to support the development of a Climate Change ‘Green’ Paper that focuses on the relationship between affordable housing and the environment. Additionally, Mila is helping to develop content for MBEP’s Climate Change and Workforce Development Initiative’s social media platforms. She is looking forward to developing her skills of managing social media through many platforms which includes content creation and data collection and analytics, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of local and state government functions regarding how to create change within important issues. Similarly, she is excited to be directly involved in her community. In her free time, Mila enjoys surfing, hiking, camping, and anything that involves exploring the beautiful area in which she is fortunate to live.
Ashley Gauer, Program Manager, Special Projects
Raised in one of the most multi-cultural, geographically isolated population hubs on earth, Ashley realized the importance and value of community and collaboration early on. She went on to deepen her sense of community in San Francisco, where she earned a 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 and schools in Cambodia to support education and economic mobility. 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.
Ashley obtained two Masters at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), in International Education Management and Public Administration. She helped MIIS earn its Fair Trade School certification, and launched the Institute’s first ‘Impact Faire’, a pop-up marketplace to support fair, mission-driven social enterprises. An ongoing student of Earthship Biotecture, yoga, sustainable and equitable economic and community development, Ashley is an advocate for radically sustainable buildings, closed-loop systems, local food production, alternative healing modalities, circular economies, co-ops and social entrepreneurship. She is a maker of sorts, and an outdoor adventure junkie.
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 initiatives.
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.
Pedro Hernandez, Professional Development Career Program Intern
Pedro Hernandez has his Associate’s degree in business from Cuesta College and is currently a senior at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC). He is working towards his Bachelor’s degree in Business Economics with a concentration in Accounting. He has worked in different industries which include teaching, management development training, and Recreational Protective Service. He intends to gain his CPA license after graduating from UCSC. With his CPA license, he aspires to work as an accountant full-time. At the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP), he will work in the Workforce Development Initiative on various projects. He believes MBEP will be a great stepping stone to his career and hopes to develop my leadership, resource management, and analytics skills. In his free time, he enjoys socializing, networking, and exercising.
Rafael Hernandez, Housing Program Associate
From community organizing, filmmaking, teaching, consulting work, and volunteering, Rafael has over 20 years of experience working for immigrant and underserved communities throughout California and in multiple countries abroad. He’s taught thousands of grade school students and many others at Hartnell college, was a volunteer teacher at Rancho Cielo, and has worked with countless families in supporting their children’s education in the Salinas Valley. He now focuses his work on housing policy, education and advocacy, because he sees housing as central to people’s lives.
Rafael graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, and received his Masters in Public Administration at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He is an Education Pioneers Fellow, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and speaks four languages. He is an avid practitioner of mixed martial arts, dancing, and writing multi-lingual rap poetry. Above all, he is a committed father whose favorite thing in the world is to be with his son.
Matt Huerta, Housing Program Director
Matt has over 20 years of experience in affordable housing and community development. He has developed hundreds of affordable housing units across the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. He has led nationally recognized housing programs as a former Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley. Matt serves on the Board of the 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 wife Diana Huerta and four young children.
Elizabeth Madrigal, Housing Associate
Hailing from the Salinas Valley, Madrigal shares a deep passion for the Monterey Bay region and all who call it home. Describing herself as a passionate advocate for increasing equitable access to affordable housing, Madrigal recognizes the utmost importance of working towards creative solutions that will alleviate the housing crisis our region is facing. “(Growing up,) I saw both sides of not having affordable housing, from living in precarious housing situations to having the stability of residing in affordable housing, and have firsthand experience of what that can bring to one’s life,” says Madrigal. “I truly believe everyone deserves to have that same living situation, for themselves and their family.”
Madrigal earned her BA in Political Science and Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. While a student at UC Berkeley, she was a part of the second cohort of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California’s Bay Area Housing Internship Program, a paid internship program that trains low-income college students of color to jumpstart careers in affordable housing development and project management. Subsequently, Madrigal worked for an affordable housing non-profit in San Francisco’s Mission District in which she focused her efforts on transit-oriented developments and acquisition/rehabilitation projects.
Madrigal is elated to join the MBEP team and looks forward to working towards sustaining our thriving region and ensuring a safe and affordable home for folks in our community.
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.
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.
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