Speaker Bios - CivicWell Policymakers Conference

CivicWell Policymakers Conference

2024 Speaker Bios

Lisa A. Baker | Housing and Community Development Professional/Former CEO, Yolo Housing

Lisa Baker is a housing and community development professional with 28+ years of experience providing service to California communities. She works independently, as well as with CPS Consulting, and Michael Baker International. She also serves as a national curriculum developer and trainer. Before this, she spent 14 years as CEO for Yolo Housing, a regional housing authority twice named Public Housing Authority of the Year by HUD during her tenure. She has received several awards for her service, including the 2023 award for Outstanding Professional, the highest honor the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) bestows.

Ms. Baker serves as Chair of Yolo Transit’s Citizen Advisory Committee and as Vice Chair of the Winters Planning Commission. She has published over 14 articles in the field; most recently as co-author of the white paper, “Embracing Indigenous Wisdom for More Adapted and Resilient Communities,” on behalf of the International Research and Global Exchange (IRGE) committee of NAHRO.

Session: Electrification and Equity in Housing and Community Development

Catherine Blakespear | California State Senator

Catherine Blakespear was elected in 2022 as the state senator for the 38th District, which represents northern San Diego County and southern Orange County. The Senator previously served eight years in local government, six years as the Encinitas Mayor and two years on the Encinitas City Council.
In her first year in the Senate, Senator Blakespear focused on increasing the affordability and availability of housing, improving public transportation infrastructure, preventing gun violence, protecting the environment and countering climate change.

Senator Blakespear sits on the Senate’s committees on housing, transportation, and governance and finance. She is also Chair of the Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency, which is tasked with improving support for the 351-mile rail line that runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo and faces climate change threats.

Senator Blakespear authored six bills in 2023 that were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. In addition, she hosted and attended dozens of events in District 38 to raise awareness about critical issues, engage the communities she represents and celebrate accomplished individuals and businesses. Her Ending Homeless Summit in October, for instance, brought together leading policymakers and experts in homelessness to find solutions to this humanitarian crisis.

The Senator has been a champion of women’s reproductive rights since before entering public life and is proud to be 100 percent pro-choice, 100 percent of the time.
A lawyer and former journalist, Senator Blakespear lives with her husband and two teenagers in Encinitas.

Session: Lessons on Cross-Jurisdictional Governance from Transportation

Ulises Cabrera | Mayor, City of Moreno Valley

Ulises Cabrera was elected as Mayor of Moreno Valley in 2022 and is proud to be the youngest directly-elected Mayor in the City’s history. He was first elected to the Moreno Valley City Council in 2017 to represent Council District 4. His mission is to help make Moreno Valley a model City for the State of California, the country, and the world.

Mayor Cabrera serves on several City boards and commissions and in inter-agency capacities. Currently, he serves on the Arts Commission, Emerging Leaders Council, the Parks, Community Services and Trails Committee, and the Finance Subcommittee. Additionally, Council Member Cabrera serves on the School Districts/ City Joint Task Force and the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency (RCHCA). He also regularly volunteers in various capacities, including neighborhood clean-ups and community events.
Mayor Cabrera’s experience living in lower-income communities in Los Angeles, Texas, and Moreno Valley has fostered his passion for helping people and uplifting communities. He strives to create an inclusive community where every voice is heard and no one is left behind.

As a changemaker, Mayor Cabrera is focused on implementing policies to improve Moreno Valley’s quality of life. These policies include addressing homelessness, investing in infrastructure, beautifying parks, creating opportunities for young people, broadening the arts, building high-quality community events, and enhancing public safety through community engagement.

He spends a great deal of time working with Moreno Valley’s youth to pursue the changes that will lay the foundation for the City’s future. His platform emphasizes the value of education and training to pave the way for prosperity.

Session: The Future of the Climate Movement

James Cameron | Executive Director, Sonoma County Transportation Authority/Regional Climate Protection Authority

James Cameron became Executive Director of SCTA and RCPA in October of 2023. He reports to the Board of Directors and manages the two countywide agencies and a staff of fourteen. James has overall responsibilities for securing and coordinating regional, state and federal funding for projects and programs related to transportation and climate change; managing the Measure M sales tax; overseeing long range planning related to transportation, housing, jobs, and climate change; and collaborating with partner agencies and the public on policy priorities.

Mr. Cameron joined the Authority in March 2012 as the Deputy Director of Projects and Programming. He is a licensed Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor in the State of California with over 20 years of experience working on capital projects in all phases of development including programming, environmental, design and construction. Prior to joining the Authority, he served as a Supervising Engineer for the City of Santa Rosa in their Capital Improvements Program and a Resident Engineer for the California Department of Transportation Division of Construction. Mr. Cameron received his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from California State University Chico.

Session: Sustainable Funding Strategies for Infrastructure

Marc Costa | Board Member, Local Government Sustainable Energy Coalition (LGSEC) / Director of Policy and Planning, The Energy Coalition

Marc Costa has more than fifteen years of experience in the building industry focusing on areas ranging from advanced energy community planning, federal energy data standards, and software development, as well as local government, state, federal, and international energy policy.

Marc is an active member of multiple policy and technical initiatives at the United Nations and International Energy Agency focusing on the rapid, equitable acceleration of electrification paired with clean energy resources. He serves in leadership positions at the Gridwise Architecture Council, California Technical Forum, and numerous industry groups. He also co-founded the OpenStudio Coalition to ensure free and open access to building energy modeling tools across the world.
He holds a B.S. in Management Science from UCSD, a B.S. in Construction Engineering from CSULB, and is a LEED AP, CGBP, and BOC Level II, and Certified Passive House Consultant.

Session: Energy Innovations and Solutions

Lisa Craig | Mayor, City of Lodi / Principal, The Craig Group Partners, LLC

Lisa Craig currently serves as Mayor for the City of Lodi, CA. In her work as Mayor she prioritizes policy efforts in the areas of economic development, downtown revitalization, multi-modal transportation, and clean energy production.

Professionally, she is President of The Craig Group Partners, LLC a national consulting firm facilitating local governments and nonprofit organizations in planning for climate resilience and economic vitality in historic communities. Ms. Craig’s 30 years in local government and property redevelopment along with her extensive network of colleagues in historic preservation, climate adaptation, economic development, and cultural and natural resource protection gives her access to best practices in resilience planning worldwide. Ms. Craig led the award-winning Weather It Together Initiative in Annapolis, MD, the nation’s first cultural resource hazard mitigation plan. Her firm served as the historic preservation consultant for climate and disaster resilience planning in St. Augustine, FL Nantucket, MA, New Bern, NC., and more recently Trinidad and Tobago.

Session: Preparing for Disaster – Planning for Resilience and Recovery in a Disjointed Funding Landscape

Emily Douglas | Regional Director for Distributed Energy Solutions, ENGIE

Emily Douglas is a regional director for distributed energy solutions at ENGIE. Emily has a proven track record of developing and implementing clean energy programs for public agencies, and leads a diverse team developing local energy projects in California.

ENGIE’s purpose is to accelerate the energy transition, from grid-scale renewables to local energy solutions, from renewable gasses to energy management and flexible grid services. With a deep understanding of markets for energy and environmental technology, Emily is dedicated to building a profitable and sustainable future for clean energy.

Session: Energy Innovations and Solutions

Camille Graham | CivicSpark Fellow, City of Sacramento

A dedicated advocate for sustainable practices, Camille Graham holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Global Environment & Health Studies and Spanish from Indiana University – Bloomington. With a diverse background including teaching in Spain; representing Indiana University at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany; and active involvement in YOUNGO’s Agriculture & Food Working Group, Camille brings a rich tapestry of experiences.

In her current role as a CivicSpark Fellow at the Department of Utilities, City of Sacramento, she directs her focus towards climate resilience, water conservation, and clean energy solutions. Leading the Northern Cohort CivicSpark Service Leadership Board, Camille orchestrates impactful initiatives, cultivating crucial relationships with environmental stewardship organizations. Complementing her professional endeavors, her deep commitment to women’s health is evident in initiatives like co-creating a website and podcast devoted to demystifying pelvic floor dysfunction, and validating the diverse experiences of all women.

Session: The Future of the Climate Movement

Carl Guardino | VP of Global Government Affairs, Tarana Wireless

Carl serves as the VP of Government Affairs & Policy. After three decades in CEO and senior officer roles, including 24 years as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Carl came to Tarana after leading global government affairs for Bloom Energy. Carl also serves as Vice Chair of the CA Transportation Commission, which annually programs and allocates nearly $10 billion in transportation improvements throughout the state.

Through his past leadership roles, Carl has led and co-led 19 statewide, regional, and countywide ballot initiatives, winning 18 out of 19 campaigns. Carl graduated from San Jose State University, where he is a Distinguished Alumnus. Outside of work, Carl is a runner, cyclist, and triathlete, having completed 19 marathons and three IRONMANs. Carl and his wife, Leslee, have three children.

Session: Preparing for Disaster – Planning for Resilience and Recovery in a Disjointed Funding Landscape

Stephen Honikman | Vice President of Business Development, Electriq Power

Stephen Honikman is a technology and sustainability executive active in various aspects of technology commercialization, including engineering consulting and energy and clean-tech innovation, regulation, and finance. He is currently Vice President of Business Development at Electriq Power, where he works to simplify deployment of microgrids to support the grid’s transition to a Distributed Energy Resource-rich, and climate resilient, infrastructure network.

Stephen is currently focused on expanding Electriq’s innovative Sustainable Community Networks offering that includes expanded access to residential solar microgrids by under-resourced and disadvantaged communities so that no one is left out of the clean energy transition. Stephen received an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Economics from Boston University. He also received a JD and MS in Technology and Human Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis.

Session: Electrification and Equity in Housing and Community Development

Dan Kalb | Councilmember, City of Oakland

First elected in 2012, Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb is in his third term on the City Council and has earned a reputation as a proactive and detail-oriented municipal legislator. As the environmental leader on the Council, Dan authored ordinances to ban the storage and handling of coal in Oakland, require new buildings be all-electric green, eliminate single-use plastic foodware and require reusables, and divest city holdings from fossil fuels interests.

Dan has authored legislation that has brought in tens of millions of dollars into Oakland’s affordable housing trust fund. He has been recognized as an affordable housing champion by East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) and is a long-time supporter of smart growth and additional transit oriented development (TOD).

Dan has spent most of his professional career as an environmental and public interest policy advocate. From 2003-2012, Dan was the full-time California Policy Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. In that capacity, Dan led state policy efforts on climate change, renewable energy, air quality, green jobs, and clean transportation issues. He also worked in coalition with environmental justice leaders on priority legislation. Previously, Dan worked for the Sierra Club on Bay protection, open space, energy justice, and transit issues. Councilmember Kalb is the President Pro Tem of the Oakland City Council and chairs the Community and Economic Development committee. Dan is a board member and past chairperson of Ava Community Energy (formerly East Bay Community Energy), current president of the Alameda County Recycling Board, and serves on the boards of CivicWell and Cal Cities.

Dan Kalb received a Baccalaureate of Science degree in Conservation of Natural Resources from U.C. Berkeley and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of San Francisco.

Dan always strives to serve the public with integrity and determination. He and his wife Valarie, a Deputy State Public Defender, enjoy hiking in the East Bay’s beautiful regional parks.

Session: Energy Innovations and Solutions

Anna Klovstad | Councilmember, Town of Truckee

Environmental and sustainable practices are Anna’s passions. Along with partner agencies, she started the Climate Transformation Alliance (CTA) in 2021; a regional public-private partnership with the mission of the Truckee North Lake Tahoe region to be net zero by 2045. She has managed the State and Federal award-winning TTUSD sustainability program. Her leadership has resulted in energy efficiency and sustainable programs throughout the Truckee Tahoe region.

Anna was elected to Truckee Town Council in 2018 and re-elected in 2022. These successes were built on the vision of Truckee becoming a model sustainable mountain town with a triple-bottom-line approach​ that integrates the benefits of promoting the environment, economy, and equity.

​Anna holds a degree in Architecture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is a licensed Certified Construction Manager through the Construction Managers Association of America (CMAA) and a licensed Certified Energy Manager from the Association of Energy Engineers. Anna is also a Certified Project Manager through the San Francisco Institute for Architects.

Session: Lessons on Cross-Jurisdictional Governance from Transportation

Jeremy Madsen | Executive Director, Build It Green

Two of Jeremy’s most beloved things are great cities and awe-inspiring natural landscapes, and, living in the Bay Area over the past 20+ years, he has had no shortage of these. A day can literally start with a hike in redwoods, followed by lunch at a sidewalk café serving local specialties, and end with an afternoon at a world class museum. What could be better than that?

Jeremy was born and raised in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah by a father who owned a company that built HVAC ductwork, and a mother who was a proud environmentalist. His upbringing and lifelong interest in the intersection between the built and natural environments—and their relationships to social equity, community vitality, and, to say it simply, happiness—led him to spend 10 years as CEO of Greenbelt Alliance, the Bay Area’s leading land conservation and land use advocacy NGO.

Build It Green was a natural step for Jeremy. As it becomes an organization that doesn’t accept that there have to be trade offs between housing affordability, climate protection and other environmental issues, and social equity and justice, he looks forward to bridging and serving all of the different constituencies in the housing ecosystem to fundamentally change what this state will be like for decades to come and, in doing so, can make California a model for the nation.

Session: Electrification and Equity in Housing and Community Development

Jeremy Madsen | Executive Director, Build It Green

Hunter Owens is a transportation technology and policy professional who oversees the data office of the Caltrans Division of Data and Digital Services in the Planning and Modal Program. He oversees the California Integrated Travel Project, Data Science, Transportation Technology modernization / financing and other functions inside this role.

Hunter is a life-long Angeleno and public servant who previously worked for the City of Los Angeles, the Center for Data Science and Public Policy, and Obama for America before joining Caltrans. Outside of work, you can find him tracking down LA’s finest foods and gardening next to the newly-built ADU he calls home.

Session: Sustainable Funding Strategies for Infrastructure

Karthick Ramakrishnan | Director, AAPI Data / Professor of Public Policy, UC Riverside

Karthick Ramakrishnan has served in leadership roles that span academia, government, public policy, and philanthropy. He is currently a professor of public policy at UC Riverside and director of AAPI Data, a nationally recognized publisher of demographic data and policy research on AAPIs. Ramakrishnan is also Strategy Lead for the Americas at School of International Futures, and Senior Advisor at States for the Future. He previously served as Executive Director of California 100, a transformative statewide initiative focused on building a shared vision and strategy for California’s next century.

Ramakrishnan holds a BA in international relations from Brown University and a PhD in politics from Princeton. More information at https://karthick.com.

Session: The Future of the Climate Movement

Geoffrey Ross | Director of Federal and State Programs, HORNE

Geoffrey is a Director in Government Services. Leveraging his experience in leading several of the country’s most innovative and largest housing and community development initiatives of their kind, he partners with communities to develop successful solutions to complex challenges.

Geoffrey has assisted federal agencies, states, local, and foreign governments in the design and implementation of their programs. He has worked at all levels of government (federal, state, and local), including at HUD, within the State Legislature, as well as being appointed by the Governor.

Geoffrey started his career of service in the United States Marine Corps. He graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Art in Political Science and Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles; and earned his Master’s in Planning from the University of Southern California.

Session: Preparing for Disaster – Planning for Resilience and Recovery in a Disjointed Funding Landscape

Jason Scott-Sheets | CivicSpark Fellow, County of Sacramento

Jason Scott-Sheets is a CivicSpark Fellow working with the Sustainability Manager in the Sacramento County Executive’s Office to develop and launch a carbon farming initiative.

Born in Los Angeles, Jason earned his bachelor’s degree in Government at the College of William & Mary, and earned his master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Southern California. As a student, he worked as a researcher with the Center for Responsive Politics and the Renew Democracy Initiative.

Jason’s interests lie in working with governments and communities to solve the challenges of climate change and to create a more sustainable society. He chose to join the CivicSpark program for the opportunity to work on a climate issue of community importance while helping to build capacity in local government. Outside the office, Jason enjoys playing with his dog, reading new books, and improving his cooking.

Session: The Future of the Climate Movement

Alicia Sebastian | Executive Director, California Coalition for Rural Housing

Alicia knows the California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH) well from her six years of service to the organization from 2015 to 2021, as attaining the level of Associate Director. Most recently she served as Assistant Deputy Director of the Division of Federal Financial Assistance for the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), where she spearheaded efforts to increase equity for rural communities, built strong relationships with tribal governments, and created a rural and racial equity-focused internship and fellows program that was modeled after CCRH’s highly successful program.

Session: Electrification and Equity in Housing and Community Development

John Robert Smith | Chair, Transportation for America / Senior Policy Advisor, Smart Growth America / Former Mayor, City of Meridian, Mississippi

John Robert Smith is chair of T4America and senior policy advisor for Smart Growth America. In these dual roles, he provides policy advice and direction to the Southern Rail
Commission and administers technical assistance programs and workshops for federal partners focusing on downtown revitalization as well as economic and fiscal health. In addition, he leads the passenger rail policy work for T4America. He is often a keynote speaker on these issues including Complete Streets, walkability, transit- oriented development, and national trends impacting local communities.

Over the years, he has developed strong relationships with USDOT, FRA and STB leadership. T4America was strongly involved in drafting legislative text for the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and has forged strong relationships on the hill working with individual Senate and House offices and authorization committee staff.

He served for 20 years in local government; 16 years as mayor of Meridian, MS, whose Union Station, his signature project, is recognized as one of the best multi-modal transportation centers in the country. Having served as a mayor of a city with a wealth of late 19th century buildings, he worked with developers to restore those buildings, and is a strong advocate for historic preservation, believing that each community must respect its past and play to its strengths in order to develop and maintain a strong community identity. He helped define Meridian’s role as a cultural center with the restoration of the Grand Opera House of Mississippi, the creation of the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center, and the selection of Meridian as the site for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. Additionally, he secured $17 million in HUD HOPE VI funding to develop low- and middle-income housing.

Session: Lessons on Cross-Jurisdictional Governance from Transportation

Shalini Vajjhala | Executive Director, PRE Collective

Shalini Vajjhala is the Executive Director of PRE Collective and a nationally recognized infrastructure and climate resilience expert with more than 15 years of experience designing, funding, and financing community-centered resilient infrastructure solutions. Over the last decade, she founded and led the design firm re:focus partners and co-founded The Atlas, an online platform for local government collaboration and innovation.

Previously, Shalini held multiple positions at the US EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She is currently a Board Member of Smart Growth America and a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution Metro Program. Shalini holds a B.Arch in Architecture and PhD in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

Session: Sustainable Funding Strategies for Infrastructure

Beth Vaughan | CEO, California Community Choice Association (CalCCA)

Beth is CalCCA’s first executive director, a post she has held since 2017. Beth oversees the association’s advocacy, policy, and communications efforts, coordinating a diverse and growing membership of community choice energy providers serving customers across California. She frequently presents CalCCA’s positions on various policy issues at the California Legislature and California Public Utilities Commission and is a regular speaker at energy industry events.

Prior to joining CalCCA, Beth served as executive director of the California Cogeneration Council where she advocated for companies operating combined heat and power facilities. She has worked extensively in both the public and private energy sectors, consulting with government agencies, non-profits, and private sector interests on energy, climate, and environmental public policy issues.

Beth served five years as senior advisor to environment and conservation cabinet ministers in the New Zealand parliament. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Queen’s University in Canada, and Master of Science from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Session: Energy Innovations and Solutions

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