WELL UnTapped 2019 Fellows
For Councilmember Jesús Andrade, all roads lead back to Stockton. He grew up in the Sierra Vista and Nightingale neighborhoods of South Stockton, attended Monroe and Hamilton Elementary Schools, and graduated from Franklin High. At Franklin, he played baseball and was the starting quarterback for the Yellow Jackets. He jokingly shares, “It’s funny how life comes full circle. Edison was our (Franklin’s) biggest rival, and now I’m the City Councilmember for Edison.” As the grandson of Central Valley Braceros, he was taught to work hard and driven to succeed, becoming the first in his family to attend college. He earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from Sacramento State University, where he honed his leadership skills serving as student body president. After college, he landed a public policy fellowship in the California State Assembly, was named one of the top 10 interns in the nation, and went on to work for a national Latino organization, focusing on economic development and education issues to improve the quality of life for Latinos. Councilmember Andrade and his wife, Andrea, met right after high school at an event on the Miracle Mile and now have two sons and a daughter. He witnessed students in the inner-city receiving excellent academic instruction, opportunity, and choices at charter schools his own children attended. This eye-opening experience led him to join the educational advocacy organization StudentsFirst, and he later worked for the California Charter School Association. Today, he has his own consultancy firm and focuses on growing educational opportunities and economic development in South Stockton.
Belén Bernal was sworn in as a City Council Member of South Gate on April 14, 2015 to serve her first four-year term. On April 10, 2018, Council Member Bernal was selected to serve as Mayor for a 1-year term. Prior to serving on the City Council she was the South Gate City Treasurer for six years. Mayor Bernal’s willingness to serve her community is instilled by her parents’ exemplary values of generosity, service to others, and faith. Mayor Bernal started her career as a field representative for Assemblyman Marco A. Firebaugh, who represented South Gate in the state legislature. As she learned more about her own community of Southeast Los Angeles, her commitment and enthusiasm to be of service to others grew. Throughout her career, Mayor Bernal has promoted and worked with organizations that have focused on the enhancement of quality of life issues. Providing youth and senior services, promoting affordable housing and health care, and by facilitating access to legal services, Mayor Bernal has contributed to her local community via various organizations. Currently, Mayor Bernal serves as a senior operations officer with EXP, a nonprofit organization that helps youth gain experience and build the confidence they need to succeed in school, career and life. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Mayor Bernal also holds a Master of Business Administration from California State University, Long Beach. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and volunteers to serve on an advisory board member of Community Lawyers, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides access to affordable legal services and develops opportunities for attorneys and law students in underserved communities. During her undergraduate and post college years, Mayor Bernal interned with the Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department of the AFL-CIO in Washington D.C. and volunteered her time as a youth mentor and catechist with her local parish and through her involvement in the Riordan Programs at UCLA. Mayor Bernal has been a resident of South Gate for over 30 years. She attended local schools and continues to reside in the City with her husband and their two lovely children.
Gustavo Camacho was elected to the Pico Rivera City Council in November 2009. Prior to being elected to the council, Gustavo served as planning commissioner giving him key insight to the city’s governing approach and services. Mr. Camacho served as Mayor in 2013 and 2018 and is serving as Mayor Pro Tem now in 2019. He currently serves and chairs the city’s Budget, Transportation, Economic Development, Water, Parks and Recreation and Public Safety committees. He is the former chair and current member of the Southeast Area Water Coalition and the South East Area Animal Control Authority and board member of the Sanitation District. Mayor Camacho was elected President to the California Contract Cities Association (CCCA) in 2015, an organization representing 80 California cities advocating collectively in Sacramento and Washington DC for local control. He was recently elected to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). Mayor Pro Tem Camacho is a business development director and former executive director for a retail/business improvement district. And has worked with and consulted small business owners in the field of business development. Mayor Pro Tem Camacho is committed to improving local commerce by assisting small business owners. He continues to work with our Federal and State governments in supporting laws that will improve our local and regional economy. Mayor Pro Tem Camacho believes in community partnerships, partnering and supporting community service groups and non-profit organizations. He serves as director of several nonprofits, member of several community-based committees and co-founder of several charitable, educational and business non-profits such as Generation 1st Degree, a local community based effort to have at least one child in every Pico Rivera home earn a college degree. Mayor Camacho attended San Diego State University where he met his wife Liz and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration with an Urban Planning emphasis. He has three daughters, Maya, Carolina and Sofia. His eldest is on her second year at U.C Berkeley.
Denise Diaz was elected to the South Gate City Council on April 11, 2017, to serve her first four-year term. Council Member Diaz is humbled and excited for the opportunity to serve the residents of South Gate. Denise was born and raised in the City of South Gate attending Saint Emydius Elementary School and Saint Matthias High School, where she played soccer and was involved in the dramatic arts. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication. While in college, Denise attended a semester abroad at Pannasatra University in the Capital City of Cambodia where she studied philanthropy, art and social justice. After graduation, she received a post-graduate certificate in International Business from the esteemed Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Guadalajara, Mexico. She worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. for several years while she served a four-year term on the advisory board for the Secretary of External Relations for Mexicans Abroad- a branch of the Mexican government. After spending years in various parts of the country, Denise decided to return to South Gate, where she has always dreamed of serving her community. For the last twenty years, she has helped her family run a successful business that has served the community for over thirty years. She is a past member of the Tweedy Merchant Association, and a current member of the South Gate Women’s Club and South Gate Rotary. Denise believes in a healthy and sustainable community, this is why she is the founding member of the Environmental Action Team. She is also an executive board member of the East LA Classic Theatre, a theatre arts program that is present in elementary and high schools across Los Angeles. Denise is currently the Director of the non-profit, ‘Institute for the Attention of Immigrants’, originating from the State of Jalisco, Mexico, where she provides a wide range of services to Mexican nationals throughout the greater Los Angeles area. As a Council Member, Denise would like to focus on several key areas including job creation, economic development and public and traffic safety. Denise firmly believes in an open-door policy where she encourages and welcomes her constituents to attend council meetings, engage in public discourse and voice their opinions and concerns in order to make the best decisions that reflect the needs of the community.
Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza was sworn in as Merced County District 1 Supervisor in January 2017. Espinoza grew up in Delhi after coming to the United States from Mexico at 10 years old. He attended Livingston High School and then California State University, Stanislaus, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 1994. Espinoza and his family are long-time farmers in the Delhi and Turlock area. Their crops mainly include peaches and almonds. Espinoza was first elected to the Livingston City Council in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. He ran for Mayor of Livingston in 2010 and was re-elected Mayor in 2012 and 2014. Espinoza has been married to his wife, Ana, for 25 years. He has three children: Erik, Breanna and Matthew.
Samuel Kang is currently the Councilmember (Mayor 2016) at the City of Duarte where City of Hope resides. Mr. Kang was an appointed board member of the National League of the Cities (2017) where he sat on the Federal Advisory Board for the Community and Economic Development Commission. Mr. Kang is leading the charge on economic development by creating a feasible Transit Oriented Development (TOD) that would bring high technological jobs, good eateries, state of the art healthcare and luxurious hotels to the “City of Health.” In 2017, the City of Duarte’s residential property value went up 17.99%, highest in entire Southern California. Furthermore, Mr. Kang is working with the City of Hope and local schools to establish an accelerated program to focus students in healthcare & IT professions. Mr. Kang has over 24 years in business development experience ranging from Chinese conglomerates to small manufacturers. Over the years, Mr. Kang has been positively advising many foreign businesses to become successful in the United States. Mr. Kang is an expert in brokering global infrastructure development, forming international partnerships, real estate development, import & export, marketing, logistics, and information technology. Over the years, Mr. Kang has successfully led multiple multi-national large-scale programs and projects. He is well connected with many international corporate leaders, Chinese government officials as well as many US elected officials. Mr. Kang has spoken at many conferences and political events. He has also been featured in multiple magazines, newspapers, radio stations, televisions (CNN, NBC, CBS) and websites. Mr. Kang holds an A.S. in Fire Science, B.S. in Chemistry from UC Irvine, M.S. in Computer Science Technology and an M.B.A. in Finance from Azusa Pacific University.
Rey León is the Mayor of the City of Huron. Mr. León has been leading, advocating, building coalitions, advancing public policy, and empowering communities in the Valley for the past twenty-four years. He led efforts to build the first PM 2.5 air quality monitor on the West Side of the Valley, and in developing the first ever environmental justice strategy and committees for both the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the Fresno County Council of Governments. In 2014, Valley LEAP completed an Environmental Justice Planning Project and Report for the farmworker community of Huron where over 30 projects to improve mobility, access and safety were identified, including a climate resiliency plaza, bike- lane infrastructure and a roundabout. Recently, LEAP has been unfolding the Green Raiteros – a farmworker- community based electric vehicle rural ridesharing program.
Irais Lopez-Ortega was appointed to Calistoga’s City Council in February 2013. In addition to serving as Councilmember, she represents the City of Calistoga on the following Countywide Board and Commissions: Napa County Gang and Youth Violence Commission, Community Enrichment Grant Subcommittee and Youth Opportunities Commission. Councilmember Lopez-Ortega is a member of California League of Cities’ Community Services Policy Committee and North Bay Nominating Committee. She has been an active participant of community work including involvement in the Class of 2005 Parent Leadership Institute (Maldef), the Class of 2010 Alas (Alternative for Auto Sufficience) and the Women’s Initiative of the Bay Area. She has been a member of the Alzheimer Association, Calistoga Community Foundation, Calistoga Soroptimist Club, Mexican Independence Day Committee, 2016 WELL Design Team, and is a Board Member and Liaison of the Spanish Community. Additionally, she is the Founder and Director of the Casa De La Cultura (Children’s Art Program). She is a recipient of the 2006 Women’s Opportunity Award and the 2018 Napa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce “Women of the Year” award.
Carmen is retired teacher. She is also a Council Member of the City of Milpitas, a FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Commissioner and a Juvenile Justice Commissioner in Santa Clara County. In addition, Carmen served as an elected member of the Milpitas Unified School Board of Education for eight years from 2000 to 2008. Carmen enjoys being involved in her community and supported the establishment of two successful Family Resource Centers in Milpitas. From her community efforts, she received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Good Neighbor Award” in 2001. She was also named Milpitas Citizen of the Year in 2013. She has been a member of the Open Space Authority for the Santa Clara Valley and currently serves on the Santa Clara Valley Water District East Valley Flood Control Advisory Committee. Carmen received a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and a master’s degree in Education from San Jose State University.
Alvaro Preciado is a proud Mexican American citizen. He works for a local government in Fresno county as a Chief Plant Operator at a wastewater treatment plant. He is cross-certified by the state of CA in water treatment, water distribution and wastewater treatment. Alvaro Preciado is a Councilmember for the city of Avenal in Kings County. He is very active in his community, having a community garden in his house which 100% free to residents. He is a member of the community response team with the Avenal police dept and a chair for St. Joseph Catholic Church Finance Board in Avenal. He represents the west side in a joint power authority (jpa) being composed of 5 counties in the Central Valley and 3 mayor water agencies, cities and Indian tribes. He is also a member of the citizens advisory committee (CAC) of The San Joaquin Air Quality Control District and a member of the special city selection committee also with the SJA Air District. He has lived in Tijuana, Mexico; San Diego, CA; Santa Maria, CA; Salinas, CA; Blythe, CA; Prunedale, CA and Yuma, Arizona. He also served as a planning commissioner for the city of Avenal for 2 years before being elected as a City Councilmember.
Lamar Thorpe is a proud United States Navy veteran and a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Lamar served for a total of eight years having earned several medals, including the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for his service in the Global War on Terror following the attacks of September 11, 2001. After Lamar’s return stateside, he extended his term of service in the Navy and was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, CT. During his second tour of duty, Lamar was accepted to The George Washington University (GWU), a school with a reputation for fostering social responsibility and public service. At George Washington, Lamar continued to serve in the military at the Washington Navy Yard. He double majored in Sociology and Women’s Studies. In 2006, Lamar was elected President of the George Washington University Student Body, representing more than 20,000 professional, law, medical, graduate and undergraduate students from around the world. In 2007, Lamar graduated and was selected from a large pool of highly accomplished graduating scholars as one of seven Presidential Administrative Fellows at the George Washington. He concurrently worked towards his Master of Arts degree in Women’s Studies. As part of his fellowship, he was appointed to be at the forefront of university development, raising over a million dollars annually for GWU and subsequently began his career as a higher education administrator.
After 10 years in higher education administration, Lamar transitioned from to the nonprofit sector as
vice president of development and communications for the Greater Sacramento Urban League. Today, he serves as director of communications for First 5 Contra Costa. Lamar lives in Antioch, CA with his wife Patrice and daughter Kennedy. In 2016, Lamar was elected to the Antioch City Council and subsequently Mayor Pro Tem. He serves as a delegate to the California Democratic Party representing Assembly District 11.
The newest addition to the Western Municipal Water District, Gracie Torres was elected to the board to represent Division 2 in November of 2018. Director Torres was born in Mexico and raised in Riverside, California. She is a proud graduate of Riverside Poly High School. Director Torres subsequently attended Riverside Community College, where she earned her Associate’s degree and transferred to California State University, San Bernardino. At CSUSB she earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry/Biochemistry as well as a Master’s in Earth and Environmental Sciences. As an undergraduate, she specialized in water chemistry analyzing water quality for Lake Elsinore and Canyon Lake. Director Torres was part of the team that researched the effects of Alum in water from Canyon Lake, a treatment now used throughout the lake to reduce eutrophication. Director Torres has been a Chemistry professor at CSUSB since 2013 where she teaches general and organic chemistry. She is also a Flood Control Planner for Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District where she has worked since 2014. At RCFC&WCD, Director Torres focuses on water quality, stormwater management, and compliance with National Pollution Discharge Elimination System regulations. Director Torres enjoys having her literal boots in the field, whether it is water quality sampling, storm chasing, or site inspections. As a Flood Control Planner, she spearheaded an investigative program aimed at identifying and eliminating non-stormwater discharges in the Santa Margarita River watershed. As a mother of three, Director Torres she enjoys spending time teaching her children about science and cheering them on at the basketball games. As a chemist, her biggest passion is water quality. While this is her first term representing the residents of Division 2, Director Torres will work hard towards water conservation efforts, maintaining the highest water quality for ratepayers, and ensuring transparency to her constituents. Her term expires December 2020.