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Rick Chavez Zbur (he/him/his)

Executive Director

Rick Chavez 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 Chair Emeritus 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.

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Tony Hoang (he/him/his)

Managing Director

Tony Hoang is the managing director for Equality California. In that role, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization. Prior to joining Equality California, Tony interned at the Pacific Council of International Policy and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. He holds a BA in international relations from the University of Southern California with minors in political science and biology. Tony serves on the board of directors of the Equality Federation, the national movement builder and strategic partner to state-based organizations advocating for LGBTQ people. Tony is also Vice President of the Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission and sits on the advisory board of Generation Change, an organization dedicated to electing millennials to office. He lives in Downtown Los Angeles with his partner Ian.

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Samuel Garrett-Pate (he/him/his)

Communications Director

Samuel Garrett-Pate is the communications director for Equality California, where he oversees the organization's strategic communications, brand management and media relations. Prior to joining EQCA, Sam was a Senior Account Executive at RALLY, where he led public affairs, political strategy and litigation communications campaigns on behalf of the firm's clients. He previously served as an aide to New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and received his BA in political science from the George Washington University. Outside of EQCA, Sam serves as the Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Victory Fund’s Victory Campaign Board and lives in Downtown Los Angeles with his two cats.

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Alice Kessler (she/her/hers)

Outside Legislative Director

Alice Kessler serves as Equality California’s outside legislative consultant, directing the organization’s work in Sacramento. Alice is a partner at Lighthouse Public Affairs and is an accomplished legislative strategist with fifteen 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.

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Robbie Martin (he/him/his)

Director of Development

Robbie Martin is director of development for Equality California, leading the organization's events, major gifts, and corporate fundraising efforts. He previously held roles in corporate relations at preeminent Los Angeles cultural organizations, Center Theatre Group and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Martin hails from Chicago, where he began his career in corporate finance. He earned a Master's in Social Entrepreneurship and Change from Pepperdine University in 2016, and is a member of Town Hall Los Angeles' Young Professionals committee. He lives in Downtown Los Angeles with his dog Waffles.

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Valecia Phillips (she/her/hers)

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 a BA in economics from State University of New York at Stony Brook and an MBA in finance from New York University Stern School of Business. In her spare time, she is a public radio producer and vocalist.

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Valerie Ploumpis (she/her/hers)

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 as co-chair 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.

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Robbie Rodriguez (he/him/his)

Program Director

Robbie Rodriguez is Equality California’s program director, overseeing all of the organization’s public education and advocacy programs on various issues including health, leadership development, immigration, and education. Prior to joining Equality California, he worked for Dewey Square Group. As a senior associate at Dewey Square, Robbie specialized in nonprofit and issue-based communications and managed several multimedia projects for the firm’s Social Innovation and Philanthropy practice. Robbie started his career after being selected to serve as one-of-three AmeriCorps VISTA’s for former California First Lady, Maria Shriver’s WE Connect program. Robbie grew up in the heart of the Central Valley and holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Francisco State University. After stints in San Francisco and Sacramento, Robbie currently lives in West Hollywood.

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André C. Wade (he/him/his)

State Director, Silver State Equality

André C. Wade is the state director for Silver State Equality. In this role he leads legislative, fundraising and political efforts in the state of Nevada. Previously he was the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. With a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Public Administration, André has worked in human services for more than 20 years in a variety of public and nonprofit contexts including at the National Alliance to End Homelessness as a program and policy analyst. André has served on several boards and committees focused on LGBTQ equality and inclusion such as the Human Rights Campaigns (HRC) steering committee in Las Vegas, HRC’s All Children’s All Families program and the Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund. Currently, André is the chair of the advisory committee for the Nevada Office of Minority Health and Equity. A native of Las Vegas, André is a certified SMART Flow Yoga instructor who enjoys traveling and reading.

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Erin Arendse (she/her/hers)

Associate Program Director

Erin Arendse is an associate program director for Equality California, leading the grants fundraising strategy. Prior to joining EQCA, she was the Senior Manager for Grants and Compliance at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and worked as a freelance and volunteer grant writer for a number of organizations. She graduated from California State University Long Beach with an M.A. in English, and is a former English professor, having taught at Orange Coast College and Biola University. An avid runner and hiker, Erin currently lives in Long Beach.

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Michael Chavez (he/him/his)

Associate Director of Events & Sponsorships

Michael is the associate director of events and sponsorships for Equality California. Prior to joining Equality California, he worked in development for arts organizations around Los Angeles, most recently serving as a member of the special events team at LA Opera. His history also includes teaching for various public school music programs around Southern California. Michael holds a BA in music from California State University, Fullerton and resides in Downtown, Los Angeles.

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Lexi Hawley (she/her/hers)

Associate Director of Donor Relations

Lexi Hawley is the associate director of donor relations for Equality California, focusing on strengthening and growing the organization's individual giving programs--Capitol Club and Leadership Circle. She has a wealth of LGBTQ+ nonprofit experience, having worked in front-line fundraising, development operations and programmatic roles at Point Foundation, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the SF AIDS Foundation. Prior to that, Lexi spent five years at Google as a legal analyst and began her career in Genentech's patient assistance department, Access Solutions. She is a 4th generation San Franciscan and earned a B.A. with honors in Philosophy from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Lexi is a 4-time AIDS/LifeCycle participant, having cycled the past 2 years. She lives in Hollywood with her extremely high maintenance cat, Alaska.

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Jeremy Payne (he/him/his)

Associate Program Director

Jeremy Payne is an associate program director for Equality California responsible for voter registration and community engagement in Southern California. Prior to joining Equality California, he worked with a national campaign consulting firm based in Los Angeles, assisting Democratic and progressive candidates across the country in the fields of campaign messaging, fundraising, and production. A native Californian, Jeremy earned his degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Joshua Stickney (he/him/his)

Deputy Communications Director

Josh Stickney is the deputy communications director for Equality California, where he leads the organization’s digital initiatives and manages communications for Equality California's legislative and political programs, as well as local press for Northern California. Prior to joining EQCA, Josh worked in communications and development with Equality Federation, the national movement builder and strategic partner to state-based LGBTQ advocacy organizations. Originally from Oklahoma, Josh has worked with progressive political campaigns and nonprofits across the country since 2014. He was previously a Junior Partner at Skyfire Media, LLC as well as the finance director for a statewide campaign. Josh attended the University of Oklahoma-Norman and lives in the Bay Area with his partner Tanner and their Goldendoodle Rey.

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Mike Ai (he/him/his)

Manager of Electoral Programs and Special Projects

Mike Ai is Manager of Electoral Programs and Special Projects focusing on Equality California's candidate endorsements, electoral programs and special projects for the executive director and managing director. Prior to joining EQCA, Mike was the LGBTQ Liaison and Legislative Deputy for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Deputy District Director for Councilman Mike Bonin. Mike rejoins the EQCA team after previously working for the organization as the Los Angeles Campaign Manager during the fight for marriage equality. Mike graduated from UCLA with a BA in Economics and a minor in Accounting. He lives in West Hollywood with his dog Coco.

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Zizi Bandera (they/them/ella)

Program Manager

Zizi Bandera is a program manager at Equality California responsible for the organization’s LGBTQ immigrant rights advocacy, Safe & Supportive Schools Program, and LGBTQ cultural competency training program. Zizi joins EQCA with a background in organizing, movement building, and political advocacy at Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of LA (CHIRLA), and Somos Familia—where they serve on the board of directors. Zizi holds a Master’s in Public Policy from Mills College and a Bachelor’s in Economics from UC Riverside. Recently, they collaborated with the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives to offer recommendations for modernizing the SF City ID to be affirming of and pragmatic for transgender and immigrant populations. Zizi was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they enjoy spending time in nature.

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Tymothie-James Bergendahl (they/them/theirs)

Development Associate

Tymothie-James Bergendahl is a development associate for Equality California. 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.

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Michelle Castillo (she/her/hers)

Administrative Manager

Michelle Castillo is the Administrative Manager for Equality California. She assists with ensuring effective and professional day-to-day infrastructure operations, and provides support in finance, human resources, technology and general administration. Prior to joining Equality California, Michelle was the Administrative/Operations Manager for Crossroads, a nonprofit project that raised funds to preserve democratic principles in Israel, and the Corporate Services Manager for Navigage, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community where she managed diverse small business functions. Michelle holds a BA in Broadcasting from California State University of Los Angeles and an MBA from University of Phoenix. She is an avid supporter of community gardens, Griffith Park and her pups Nick and Willie.

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Marisa De Los Santos (she/her/hers)

Events Associate

Marisa De Los Santos is an events associate for Equality California, where she supports the planning and production of all fundraising and donor engagement events. Prior to joining Equality California, Marisa worked for the nonprofit fundraising software company OneCause, and previously worked with the Youth Services Program at the LGBTQ Center Long Beach and for GLAAD helping to coordinate the organization’s annual Media Awards. Marisa holds a BA in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies from California State University, Long Beach. She is a volunteer with Pride Inc., AIDS Walk and the AIDS Foodstore. Marisa lives in Long Beach with her wife Jaymee and dog Ebby, and she enjoys going to concerts and ballets.

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Alexandria Hughes (they/them/theirs)

Grants Associate

Alexandria Hughes (Allie) is the grants associate for Equality California Institute, responsible for all aspects of grant prospecting, proposal writing and grant management. A year-long internship with Children’s Bureau provided Allie with a thorough introduction to the world of grants, helping to secure their previous position as a Grant Writer and Cultural Enrichment Officer at the Los Angeles Academy of Arts and Enterprise. Prior to their work in the Californian non-profit sector, Allie lived in Leeds, England. During their time in ‘the north’ Allie worked in academia as a social policy teacher and PhD researcher, as well as in the community as an independent-living assistant and disability rights advocate. In their spare time Allie can be found at queer DIY events, trying to keep their houseplants alive and/or talking to their foster cat, Hero.

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Shannon Kozlovich (she/her/hers)

Program Manager

Shannon Kozlovich is a program manager at Equality California overseeing EQCAI’s Tobacco Control Program, an initiative to reduce tobacco-related health disparities in the LGBTQ+ community. Prior to joining EQCA, Shannon worked as a research scientist studying the impact of nicotine on cancer treatments, how menthol increases the health impact of tobacco use, and the metabolism of the most potent cancer-causing compound in tobacco. Shannon holds a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Washington State University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Francisco with the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. During her graduate studies, Shannon founded and organized a science-policy association with the goal of ensuring science trainees are given the skills to communicate research findings and impact to the general public and policy makers. She also volunteered as an advocate and community outreach coordinator for Spokane Parents of Transgender and Transitioning Youth, an event organizer for Science March – Spokane, and was a member of university working groups aimed at improving gender equity in campus life and within university policy. In her free time, she listens to audio recordings of US Supreme Court Cases while knitting geeky hats.

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Marisa London (she/her/hers)

Program Associate

Marisa London is a program associate primarily working on the OUT Against Big Tobacco Program. Prior to joining Equality California, Marisa worked on community engagement and public education in environmental justice, housing, and transportation initiatives at a Los Angeles-based public affairs firm. She received a BA from Yale College in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sociology with a concentration in Health. A Los Angeles native, Marisa is excited to be back in the city where she can spend time outdoors, play with her two dogs, and sit in hours of traffic freely.

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Tami Martin (she/her/hers)

Legislative Manager

Tami Martin is the Legislative Manager for Equality California and advocates for the organization's legislative and policy priorities in Sacramento. Prior to taking on the role of Legislative Manager, Tami worked as a Program Manager focusing on Equality California's Safe & Supportive Schools Program, annual advocacy and education events, trainings for healthcare professionals, immigration work, and undergraduate leadership development fellowship. Previously, Tami 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. A native Californian, Tami is proud to be working on behalf of the LGBTQ community in her home state.

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Puneet Purewal (she/her/hers)

Geoff Kors Legislative Advocate

Puneet Purewal is the Geoff Kors Legislative Advocate for Equality California and provides policy and advocacy support in Sacramento. Prior to joining Equality California, Puneet was a legislative fellow at the Steinberg Institute, a non-profit organization founded by former Senate Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, that advocates for sound mental health policy. Outside of Equality California, Puneet is a volunteer field advocate for the Sacramento Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. As she finishes her BA in Government at California State University, Sacramento, Puneet looks forward to continuing to champion progressive legislation and advocating for LGBTQ civil rights in Sacramento.

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Aubri Qian (she/her/hers)

Program Manager

Aubri Qian is a program manager focusing on LGBTQ cultural competency training, the Out4Mental Health program, and leadership and programmatic events. Aubri graduated from New York University with a degree in Organizational Behavior and Marketing. Prior to joining EQCA, Aubri worked in advertising, where she championed diversity and inclusion initiatives in the private sector. Originally from Oregon, she’s excited to be back on the West Coast where she can follow her beloved Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns at more reasonable hours.

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Chris Records (he/him/his)

Program Manager

Chris Records is a program manager at Equality California overseeing EQCA’s education programs. Prior to joining EQCA, Chris worked in non-profit consulting, community organizing, and development, serving organizations and initiatives focused on education, genocide awareness and prevention, refugee issues, and LGBTQ mental health. He also taught high school special education in Los Angeles Unified. Chris holds Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Urban Planning from USC, an MA in Education from Loyola Marymount, and a BA in History from UC Riverside. In his spare time, he is active in his local Episcopal congregation and writes poetry and prose. His first book will be published by a small press in his native Inland Empire in 2020.

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Adreeiane Roy (she/her/hers)

Program Associate

Adreeiane Roy is a Program Associate at Equality California focusing on the organization’s statewide 2020 census outreach, grassroots organizing, volunteer recruitment and training. Prior to joining Equality California, Adreeiane worked as a Senior Customer Success Manager with MobileCause, creating and developing training materials, hosting webinars and helping nonprofits integrate mobile fundraising tools and effective social media messaging into their activities. She brings years of experience as a Field Operative in community, labor and political organizing with Nextdoor, SEIU and Organizing for America-OH. Adreeiane studied theatre at Roger Williams University. A native of Long Beach, in her spare time, Adreeiane enjoys riding her bike, golfing and bring that big Auntie energy to her nieces and nephews.

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Beatriz E. Valenzuela (she/her/hers)

Communications Manager & Press Secretary

Beatriz E. Valenzuela is Equality California's Communications Manager & Press Secretary based out of the LA office. Beatriz is fluent in Spanish and primarily handles communications for our programmatic work, as well as all Spanish-language communications and local press in Southern California and the Central Valley. She comes to Equality California with over 15 years of experience working as a journalist for the Southern California News Group, a network of daily newspapers throughout Southern California that includes the LA Daily News, Press-Enterprise, OC Register and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Beatriz attended Pasadena City College.

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José Velasquez (he/him/his)

Program Associate

José Velasquez is a Program Associate at Equality California focusing on the Safe and Supportive Schools Program and immigration. Prior to joining EQCA, he worked at the California Department of Public Health as a Health Education Assistant where he supported the development of in-person trainings for health educators and bilingual parent-engagement workshops across California related to the California Healthy Youth Act. He has also worked at various organizations including the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Instituto Familiar de la Raza. José holds a Master’s in Public Health from UCLA and a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley. In his spare time he loves to indulge in carne asada fries and go on Target runs.

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