In This Section
Rick Zbur is a distinguished lawyer with a long history of advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and environmental causes. Zbur retired from Latham & Watkins, one of the world’s largest and most respected law firms, where he was a senior partner and practiced law for 29 years.
A lifelong LGBT trailblazer, Zbur was Latham & Watkins’ first openly gay attorney and first openly gay partner. He worked in all aspects of the firm’s environmental, land and resource practice, including leading the firm’s extensive work before the California Coastal Commission.
Zbur was cited one of Southern California’s top ten environmental attorneys by the Los Angeles Business Journal in its 2009 “Who’s Who in Law” feature. He was also cited as a leading environmental attorney by the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2008 and 2009.
He took a leave of absence from his firm in January 1996 to run for Congress in California’s 38th Congressional District, where he became the first openly gay, non-incumbent to win a contested primary for U.S. Congress. At the time, his campaign was one of the larger Congressional campaigns in the country with approximately 14 staff members and a budget of over $1 million. His experience running for office, combined with his years in practice as a senior partner at Latham & Watkins and his significant advocacy work have made Zbur well known in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
Zbur is president and chair of the board of the California League of Conservation Voters, the political action arm of California’s environment community, where he leads the organization and oversees its strategic direction. CLCV is a leading environmental organization that utilizes political strength to protect and improve the environmental quality of California. He formerly served on the board of Lambda Legal and was a founding director and vice president at the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation.
A proud co-parent to three children with their lesbian co-parents, Zbur grew up in a farming community in the Rio Grande Valley south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his mother, Erlinda Chavez Zbur and her family have lived for generations.
Zbur is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.
Kenny Cassady is Equality California’s development director. He has also served as an Equality California board member and was previously on staff as development manager from 2009 to 2011. Kenny has spent many years working in corporate development and marketing, as well as for various nonprofit organizations. He holds a BA in telecommunications and film from San Diego State University. He lives in Palm Springs, where, in his spare time, he volunteers as an architectural tour guide during Modernism Week and indulges his passion for classic cars.
Tony Hoang is deputy director of Equality California. He began at Equality California in 2009 as an intern. Since then, he has served in many capacities, and now oversees all of the organization’s political, legislative, communications and programmatic work. Prior to joining Equality California, Tony did stints at the Pacific Council of International Policy and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor following graduation from the University of Southern California, with a major in international relations and minors in political science and biology. Tony also serves on the board of directors of the Equality Federation and on the City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission.
Jason Howe is communications director of Equality California. He oversees media relations and all of Equality California’s external publications. Jason is a veteran LGBT activist, writer and journalist, with nearly a decade of experience working for various civil rights organizations and two decades as an award-winning television reporter in Sacramento, San Francisco and other markets around the country. In positions with Lambda Legal and the ACLU, he helped coordinate press strategy for some of California’s most important LGBT civil rights battles of the past decade, including the fight against Proposition 8. Jason graduated with a degree in Spanish and linguistics from UCLA. He is a native Angeleno and lives in Los Angeles with his husband and twin daughters.
Outside Legislative Director
Alice Kessler serves as Equality California’s outside legislative consultant, directing the organization’s work in Sacramento. Alice is managing director of DiMare, Brown Hicks & Kessler and is an accomplished legislative strategist with more than a dozen years of experience in state and local government relations. Her professional background includes legal and policy work for diverse organizations, including Disability Rights California, the University of California, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of California, Davis School of Law, she is licensed to practice law in California state and federal courts.
Director of Finance & Administration
Valecia Phillips is the chief financial officer for Equality California and has broad experience in the arts, public media and government. Prior to joining EQCA, she served for a decade as director of business and finance for UCLA Live, an internationally renowned performing arts program at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her hometown of New York, she held a variety of leadership and analytical positions at Sony Music Entertainment, Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem and the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget. She holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. In her spare time, she is a public radio producer and vocalist.
National Policy Director
Valerie Ploumpis is national policy director for Equality California, based in Washington, D.C.. She is a political expert with more than two decades of experience in issue-advocacy campaigns, grassroots education and mobilization, coalition building, lobbying and media outreach. She serves on the board of directors of OutRight International Action, a global LGBT civil rights organization, and was board co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s Campaign Board, a national PAC which endorses and supports LGBT political candidates and elected officials.. Prior to joining Equality California, she was a principal at Burnside & Associates, where she managed political and mobilization campaigns. Prior to that, Ploumpis served as a legislative and policy advocate for several international trade organizations in Washington, D.C. She holds a BA in international relations from Mills College and an MA in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.
San Francisco Program Manager
Rick Rivas is Equality California's San Francisco-based program manager. Since 2002, he has helped dozens of Democratic candidates across California raise money and run strong grassroots campaigns, and has himself run dozens of local and state legislative races. He also served as legislative aide and communications director to Assemblymember Anna Caballero, directing her campaigns in 2006 and again in 2016. He also served as chief consultant for Measure A, a successful $90 million school bond measure in the City of Salinas and the largest bond measure in the history of the Alisal Unified School District. Rivas grew up in the rural community of Hollister and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Santa Clara University, as well as a master’s in public policy from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Robbie Rodriguez is one of Equality California’s two program directors, overseeing the organization’s health, education and immigration programs. Prior to joining EQCA, he worked for Dewey Square Group (DSG), a national public affairs firm. While at DSG, Robbie specialized in nonprofit and issue-based communications, and managed several Spanish-language media projects for the firm’s Social Innovation and Philanthropy practice. Robbie grew up in the heart of the Central Valley, but has also lived in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Robbie holds a BA in sociology from San Francisco State University.
Allison VanKuiken is one of Equality California’s two program directors, and focuses on mobilization campaigns, HIV, transgender, and leadership development programming. Her 15-year career has spanned roles in higher education, the entertainment industry, corporate America, and the political realm. She is proudest of her work to help elect a diverse array of candidates elected to office, pass nondiscrimination ordinances, and prepare leaders to meet the many challenges facing the LGBT community. Allison is a graduate of Grand Valley State University, a proud member of the transgender community, and a regular volunteer for a number of service organizations.
Naseam Alavi is a development manager for Equality California. Prior to joining Equality California, she worked in Washington, D.C. for five years. She served as special assistant to Dr. Jill Biden in the Office of the Vice President at the White House, where she worked to advance Dr. Biden’s key initiatives by conducting policy research, writing briefings, and planning and executing events, both domestically and abroad. Previously, she worked at AFL–CIO national headquarters. Naseam holds a bachelor's in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles and a master's in human rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Education and Outreach Supervisor
Andrew Arias is an education and outreach shift supervisor for Equality California's phone team. Andrew manages eight associates who fundraise to support sponsored legislation, political action committee work and initiatives. His experiences growing up in Los Angeles as an LGBT Latino led to a lifelong passion for advocacy. He is currently pursuing his BA in communications at East Los Angeles College. In his spare time, he enjoys staying active and playing sports.
Education and Outreach Supervisor
Tymothie-James Bergendahl is an education and outreach supervisor. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, they served on the board of JTIMA, an LGBT civil rights organization based in and around Boston, as well as co-managed the Massachusetts chapter of GetEqual, a national LGBT focused civil rights organization. Their work in Boston was primarily focused on LGBT youth homelessness and the rights and protections of transgender individuals within the state.
Scott J. Gizicki
Scott J. Gizicki is a development associate for Equality California. In college, he was an active member and participant of multiple student-run organizations and rallies including a peaceful protest on the FDA blood ban on campus. Scott is from Detroit, Michigan and graduated with a bachelor's in public relations from Western Michigan University In his spare time, Scott enjoys writing, acting, and the arts.
Estrella Lucero is a program associate responsible for organizing with and providing support to the Inland Empire and Central Valley healthcare initiatives. Prior to joining EQCA, Estrella worked as a political campaign consultant working on various state candidate campaigns. She is also an alum of Coro Southern California. Estrella graduated from Occidental College with a degree in politics and was involved in on-campus student organizing around issues of racial diversity, sexual assault and LGBT equality. Estrella is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Brad Lundahl is a program manager. He grew up in Vancouver, Canada and attended the University of British Columbia. Driven by his passion for health care and equality for all minority groups, Brad hopes to focus on advancing the progressive legislation he sees as integral to the growth and prosperity of California and the country he now calls home.
Tami Martin is a program manager focusing on Equality California's Safe & Supportive Schools Index, trainings for healthcare professionals, immigration program, and leadership development. Although a native Californian, Tami spent over a decade on the East Coast, where she served as Co-President of the LGBT Bar Association of DC and worked with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. Tami received her BA in government from Dartmouth College and both a law degree and a master's degree in law and government from American University Washington College of Law.
Justin Massey is a field organizer for Equality California responsible for organizing around Southern California Pride events and healthcare-related initiatives. Prior to joining Equality California, Justin worked as a independent political campaign consultant for local progressive candidates and as an associate for an Orange County political fund-raising firm. He is active in a number of local political and non-profit organizations including OC Young Democrats, LGBT Center OC, Kiwanis Club of Greater Anaheim and Miss Anaheim Scholarship Organization. Justin graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Wheaton College in Illinois.
Jo Michael is Equality California’s legislative manager, based in Sacramento. He has helped advance more than 20 successful pieces of sponsored and supported legislation for the organization. Jo was named one of the Best LGBT Lawyers under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association for 2015 and is a former co-chair of SacLEGAL, Sacramento’s LGBT bar association. His commitment to working for social justice and LGBT civil rights date back over a decade to when he co-founded his high school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance.
Chelsea Mottern is a program associate responsible for grants management and healthcare initiatives in Southern California. Prior to joining Equality California, she worked in institutional giving for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. She graduated with a master's in public policy from the University of Southern California and a bachelor's degree in political science from Vassar College. During her time at USC, she helped establish the Price School of Public Policy's first graduate-level LGBT student organization.
Sue Ellen Rector
Sue Ellen Rector is an administrative associate for Equality California. She is a passionate life-long activist who has worked for and volunteered with several progressive organizations. She was a community organizer with Obama for America and helped to coordinate the largest all volunteer phone bank in the U.S. Sue Ellen graduated with a bachelor's in liberal arts from San Jose State University and is a certified hypnotherapist. She is a proud mother and her spare time, she enjoys writing, painting, and politics.
Jennie Reiken is a field organizer for Equality California. She got her start in LGBT advocacy during Equality California’s Win Marriage Back campaign in 2009. During that time she helped elect pro-equality candidates across the state. Jennie recently moved back to California from Florida where she worked with Equality Florida and Freedom to Marry on securing marriage equality and the first ever legislative hearing for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. She received her masters degrees in women’s and gender studies and nonprofit management from USF. Jennie enjoys building strong relationships with community members and being at the dog park with her best friend Hurley.