July 5, 2020
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Meet Rohnert Park’s upcoming leaders in 2020

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
November 29, 2019

In Sept. Leadership Rohnert Park, a program aimed at providing civic, network-building experiences that participants can then use in their own lives, jobs, and communities, officially kicked off. Twenty-four community members were chosen for this worthwhile cause, in hopes that the city will develop a pool of people who are interested in taking on leadership roles in local government, community organizations and civic causes.

“We feel that Rohnert Park, like many cities, is well-served by having a group of community leaders who are well-informed of the issues and challenges in the community, who have solid leadership skills and who have a network of like-minded folks in the community,” says Don Schwartz, Assistant City Manager of Rohnert Park. 

The group will meet once a month until May 2020 and the training is being facilitated by a leading national, leadership development organization, Coro Northern California. The non-profit’s mission is to “equip people with skills, knowledge, and networks to collaborate and accelerate positive change wherever they are.” The hands-on learning model develops self-awareness, critical thinking, communication, inclusion, collaboration and empowered professionalism.

“Coro has a proven record of excellence in local leadership development,” says Darrin Jenkins, City Manager of Rohnert Park. “They created a program for Rohnert Park that builds on their experience and addresses the needs of our community.”

Rohnert Park had a leadership program about twenty years ago and the idea to bring it back was first considered about four years ago. However, it wasn’t until this year that the city had the funding, mostly from non-guaranteed casino funds, to bring the idea to fruition.

While no specific commitment is required post-training, city officials hope that participants will be inspired to use what they’ve learned and the network they’ve gained to initiate positive change in the community, whether that means serving on a non-profit board, engaging in city leadership, or even just making them more effective in the positions in which they are currently involved. 

“All the people chosen for Leadership Rohnert Park wanted to get more involved in helping their community,” says Schwartz. “What they wrote in their applications aligned with what this program is about, which consists of improving leadership. There are three pillars to the program which include leadership skills, subject matter knowledge and building a network of like-minded people.” 

Arteaga, Kelly, Kaiser Permanente Rohnert Park

Cazares, Tiffany, Graton Resort and Casino

Chipman, Cherie, Exchange Bank

I have lived in Penngrove for 22 years with my husband Pat, daughter Katelyn (24) and son Robert (20). I am a graduate of Santa Rosa Junior College where I received an Associates of Arts Degree with a Certificate in Accounting. I am currently the Co-Treasurer of the Education Foundation, Treasurer of the Cotati Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati. I attend Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Cotati Chamber events. I have been working for Exchange Bank for over eleven years. I am currently the Branch Manager of the Rohnert Park branch. I am proud to work for Exchange Bank; a company that is heavily involved in the community. Its core values make it a wonderful place to work.

Elward, Jackie, French American Charter School

Epstein, Matt, Dry Creek Rancheria Fire Department

Espino, Sonia, City of Rohnert Park

I was born in San Francisco and moved to Rohnert Park when I was 13 years old. Graduated from Rancho Cotate High School in 1998, then graduated from Sonoma State University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and concentration in Human Resources. In November 2004 I started working for the City of Rohnert Park as an Office Assistant. That same year I obtained the International Code Council Permit Technician Certification and was promoted to a Permit Technician. Shortly after I received the Green Building Professional Certificate Program through Sonoma State University and in 2008 received a LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification). Having been employed with the city for a little over 15 years has certainly allowed me to connect with the RP community and being bilingual has provided an asset to our diverse community.

Garcia, Jenna, City of Rohnert Park

A Sonoma County native, born and raised in Sebastopol. She has experience in the private business and nonprofit sectors, working at COTS (a Petaluma-based organization that serves people experiencing homelessness) for six years. Jenna has been with the City of Rohnert Park for six months now and oversees the affordable housing and homeless programs offered in the city. She is thrilled to be serving as a Leadership Rohnert Park fellow in this inaugural class.

Grover, Maggie, Summit State Bank

Hernandez, Jeannine, 4Cs Sonoma County

I have been working with 4Cs of Sonoma Co. for the past five years as one of their Site Supervisors. I’ve worked in early childhood education (ECE) for 12 years in several different capacities. My son is an aspiring firefighter in college after leaving the Army. I am married to an incredible NICU RN and we have a dog and 2 cats. We enjoy riding our motorcycles around our beautiful county whenever we get the chance to. 

Jaime, Sandra, Calix, Inc

Jones, Micki, Journeys Photo Solutions

Lam, Fanny, Compass

Fanny is passionate in cultural exchange and community services. She participated in a 1-year exchange program to the US at the age of 17. She joined varies exchange programs, travelled though Asia and backpacking in Europe. She is currently hosting exchange students from Sonoma State University. She is a broad member for APA Family Support Services (non-profit organization based in SF) with the focus on developing healthy families She has over 15 years’ experience in commercial and residential real estate in Hong Kong and the Bay Area. She graduated from The London University (Law degree) and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Business Administration). She is a licensed broker with Compass in California. 

Mata, Hugo, Soluna Outreach Solutions LLC

Principal of Soluna Outreach Solutions has more than 17 years of experience in bilingual (English/Spanish) environmental outreach programs, media planning and placement, environmental education, source separation and recycling, waste diversion, and community-based marketing. Hugo holds a B.A in Radio and Television from San Francisco State University and currently produces and hosts “Nuestra Tierra,” a weekly one-hour environmental radio talk show at KBBF 89.1FM Radio in Santa Rosa Ca.

Mojica, Rosemary, Retired

O’Daniel, Courtney, Retired/Volunteer for Non-Profits

My roots are not from here but from the East Coast. I was raised an Army Brat and lived outside Washington D.C. I have lived all over the world and the U.S. Living with my husband in Rohnert Park the past six years has been a joy. In our blended family, we have eight kids and now 10 grandchildren. I went to college and became a Med Tech. I also became a Real Estate Agent. I also have spent 50 years training and showing horses professionally. I also enjoyed competing in tennis, racquetball plus I enjoy skiing, and swimming. Now I like to hike and bicycle and garden. I also spend my time developing strong relationships and supporting women through different groups. I believe God put us on this earth for growing in relationships. Hope to meet you sometime.

Rodriguez, Anne-Marie, Petaluma Health Center, Inc

I’m an aspiring physician. I was born and raised in Rohnert Park. After attending the University of Portland in Oregon, I was happy to find myself moving back to Sonoma County, my home. It is a gift to be working at the Petaluma Health Center. This has given me the chance to serve my communities, and to learn the importance of having caring team of healthcare providers and administrators. I look forward to applying what I learn as I continue my journey in becoming a doctor.

Rodriquez, Silvia, St. Joseph’s Church - Cotati

I am originally from San Salvador, El Salvador. I was brought, as a child, to the US and raised in Southern California. My husband and I moved to Northern California in 1986 and have lived in Rohnert Park since 1993. Rohnert Park is where we raised our children; a now 30-year-old daughter and a set of 23-year-old twins (a boy and a girl). I’m also a happy mom to two dogs, Spencer and Phillip. I’m an avid reader. I’m fluently bilingual in English and Spanish, and I enjoy sharing this gift/skill. I have very curious mind a spirit, and I love to learn.

Thomas, Penelope, Coastal Health Alliance in Point Reyes Station

Thomas aims to strengthen community through her work in nonprofit Community Health Centers as a data analyst. Most recently she has worked as a certified data visualization and analysis expert at Coastal Health Alliance where she has used her years of project management experience to bring actionable data to community health. Penelope holds an MS in Biology from Sonoma State University, which is what initially brought her to the area. She quickly made a home here amongst the beautiful rolling hills and rugged coast. A desire to lay down roots and strengthen her sense of community has brought Penelope to the Leadership Rohnert Park program.

Thompson, Michael, Sonoma County Water Agency

Valkovic, Matt, CircleBlack, Inc.

Currently is head of client services and product for a financial technology company. Former Army officer with service in Iraq and NGO Field Ops manager with experience in Afghanistan, Africa and South America. Built and sustained diverse partnerships and valuable client relationships across sectors and cultures. 

Young, Rebecca, Sonoma State University

Young is a Sonoma State Alum from the liberal arts program, after which she traveled to Pennsylvania where she received her master’s degree in higher education. She has been working for over ten-years in higher education, including running residence halls, supporting career education and teaching classes in both leadership and university studies. In her role as a career advisor, she has helped change the face of the career center on campus. In 2019 she increased the number of employers recruiting Sonoma State students from 100 a year to over 350 in one academic year alone, she also boosted student interactions with the Career Center from 4 percent to over 30 percent. As a young person, Becky was a Girl Scout, where she learned that being involved in her community is essential. She has continued to be civic minded by joining the Active 20-30 Redwood Empire #1029, where she received Rookie of the year in 2017. Becky currently serves on the #1029 leadership board as Program Director, she has served for three years as silent auction chair for their annual crab feed and has chaired their Kicks for Kids summer soccer program two times.