Policing and Social Equity - Committee Members

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Anissa Balderas

Anissa was born and raised in Watsonville. She believes this community has the capacity to become a progressive leader in Santa Cruz County and California. She recognizes social equity and policing as big part of achieving this progress. These systems are much intertwined. Over the years, police have been tasked with duties of mental health, drug abuse, domestic disputes and more. 

Over the years, police have been tasked with duties of mental health, drug abuse, domestic disputes and more. This committee is an excellent example of organizing both decision makers and members of the community. Anissa is ready to help investments be made in our farms workers, the undocumented, those with low income, the LGBTQ+ community, and black and brown residents. She believes the most marginalized population must be prioritized. As a Housing Coordinator at UC Santa Cruz, Anissa has the opportunity to serve a unique population of students with different ethnicities and socioeconomic status. Her office serves as a “One Stop Shop” for students seeking a multitude of answers. This has allowed Anissa to learn effective communication skills. As a Coordinator for the Legislative Office of the Associated Students of UC Irvine, Anissa worked on mobilizing students on State and Federal Legislation. Anissa also organized a phone banking session for a Clean Dream Act. This challenged her to analyze the legislation and allowed her to connect with other organizations, which taught her tools to advocate for herself and empower others to do the same. Anissa is ready to utilize these tools as part of this new committee.

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Bobby Marchessault

Bobby is a minister of Missio Dei Community and on the steering team for Tent of Abraham, where he works with local Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to resolve differences and encourage cooperation for the greater good. He is currently working on obtaining a Masters in Social Transformation.

 In all of his classes, he interacts with people of various races, sexualities and gender identifications. Being part of the first class of the Watsonville Academy allowed Bobby to obtain more in-depth knowledge of many aspects of the City and its inner workings. He is a strong believer that the human dignity of every individual is of the utmost importance, and that true equity is achieved when all voices are heard. Bobby and his family moved to Watsonville with a desire to become part of the community and work together for the benefit of all its citizens. The issue of policing and social equity matters to Bobby because he had a grandfather who was a police lieutenant, and because he has done ministry in the Santa Cruz County jail. Bobby recognizes the importance of this topic, and welcomes the opportunity to think critically through nuanced conversations. He looks forward to listening to marginalized members of the community and helping to create a more equitable Watsonville for all residents.

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Celeste Gutierrez

Celeste believes a strong sense of community is a product of healthy relationships and differences in opinion. Also, a healthy community is one where both connections are the antidote to violence and the vehicle for accountability. The principle of nonviolence is very near and dear to Celeste's heart; it is the foundation for her communication approach, and inspires her ideas on program development. 

She knows we need a community whose citizens are able to thrive regardless of their socioeconomic positions, race and educational opportunities. Consequently, City policies need to be just and fair. Equity only has merit when a citizens have opportunities to exercise their authentic voices. Celeste believes in the importance of having a mechanism in place where those who hold authority are held accountable. She has worked within the juvenile criminal justice system for over 10 years. Formerly, she served on the California Association of Youth Courts Board of Directors. Having witnessed and experienced the effects of different forms of violence, Celeste continues to be motivated to create long-lasting change.

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Rabbi Debbie Israel

Debbie is a faith leader who has had many collaborative interactions with police departments in various cities including Morgan Hill and Gilroy, where she worked and in Houston, Texas, where she previously lived. She knows it is extremely important that all citizens be proactive in creating policies and procedures to ensure everyone is heard. 

Debbie acknowledges it is time to analyze and evaluate the way we look at policing, our expectations of officers, and different ways of doing some of the tasks that have fallen as responsibilities of police departments. She has always been involved in social justice work. In her native Texas, Debbie worked closely with the police department in the area, especially on women’s issues and domestic violence. Being a founder of the South Valley Interfaith Clergy Association has enabled her to engage with a diverse population, both as a collaborator and a leader. Debbie lives by the belief of treating others the way we want to be treated. She is very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this process and hopes the committee arrives at conclusions that can serve as a model for the rest of the country.

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Eric Strum

Eric has a strong belief that the community cannot thrive without honest and trustworthy public servants. He recognizes that the lack of social equity can quickly erode the trust needed in a community. Police officers have some of the highest level of trust anyone can receive due to the nature of their jobs, which often include life and death decisions. 

Eric believes that examining the state of social equity and policing is a critical step towards maintaining that trust. He believes the City should work towards becoming a model for embracing proper values and exercising the utmost transparency to ensure confidence in public service. During his time as Parks Superintendent, and most recently as the Disaster Service Worker coordinator for the County’s Covid-19 response, Eric has effectively collaborated with multiple departments, cities, school districts and community based organizations. Along his years as a professional, Eric chaperoned policy development, solicited public input to determine the course of actions and successfully lead teams to deliver various public services. Now, as a retiree, Eric helps lead several homeless shelters to protect and advocate for those most vulnerable. Eric is ready to support the committee’s efforts to help Watsonville be a welcoming place for all.

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Jeffrey Tillery

Jeff and his family have been residents of Watsonville for over 30 years. He has three adult children and three grandchildren, who live in town. He and his wife have been deeply involved in community, school and sports programs. They have established strong, long lasting relationships with community members from all walks of life. 

Throughout his career, Jeff has been involved in employer-sponsored diversity, equity and inclusion programs. He works at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where he participates in the People of Color Affinity Group. His B.A. degree in Organization Leadership includes a focus on systematic equitable treatment of individuals, team development and human resources. Jeff is formally trained in project management and is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, which provides him with skills that help work groups move complex issues to solutions. Being multi-racial, Jeff has been aware from an early age that people are treated differently based on race. Although he has not been a victim of racial abuse, he has witnessed it and acknowledges its impact. He fully supports the police, but knows there are valid concerns being raised that must be addressed on an institutional level. Jeff brings an open mind and willingness to communicate that he hopes will help drive collaboration and resolution of these complex issues.

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Jen Salinas-Holz

Jen is a member of the LGBTQ+ community who has been a social justice activist for over two decades. She and her partner Gabriela moved to Watsonville in 2001 and are proud to live and raise their two sons here. Jen is committed to working toward racial and social equity to continue strengthening our diverse community. 

She attended Brown University, graduated from UCSC with a degree in Feminist Studies, and has worked as a sexual assault and domestic violence advocate, a humane officer and educator. Jen now works for the PVUSD technology department, advises four middle and elementary school Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in the District and serves on the LGBTQ+ task force. She feels honored to be able to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth and their parents and help them thrive and find support. She received the Santa Cruz County Ally to Queer Youth award in 2019 and the 2020 PVUSD Innovator of the Year award. She is currently collaborating with the Safe Schools Project and Trans Families of Santa Cruz County to organize the third parent/educator summit on gender. As the coordinator for the Alianza Charter School Social Justice Committee, Jen has led community education presentations on topics including race and racism, bias based bullying, gender and sexual orientation, and immigration. Jen looks forward to continuing to help our community become a safer and more welcoming place for all.(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Stark Photography)

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 Jenny Sarmiento

Jenny moved to Santa Cruz County from Southern California 26 years ago, the majority of which she has worked in Watsonville. She has been a resident of this community for nearly 15 years. She attended California State University of Fullerton where she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and Psychology. 

She also completed a Non-Profit Management Certificate from UCSC. Jenny attended San Jose State University where she completed numerous courses towards a Masters in Academic Counseling. Jenny has spent most of her professional career working to improve outcomes for children, youth and families and has worked in public health, education, employment and training, mental health and substance abuse prevention in both private and public institutions. Most of her professional work has been in communities of color. She has worked directly with youth at risk of dropping out of school and their families in large cities, such as Los Angeles, San Pedro, Watts, Anaheim and Placentia. Along with her professional career, she has served on several non-profit boards and committees as a volunteer. Jenny looks forward to using her experience and capabilities to serve on this new committee, and help find solutions for some of the community’s most pressing issues.

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Jorge Duque

Jorge is an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), who considers advocating for social equity an incredibly important part of his work. He recognizes that, while many changes occur at the individual level, the most lasting and impactful positive change happens when policies are made more equitable and reach those who are marginalized. 

In his current role as a direct service provider for county clinics, Jorge has done outreach at local homeless shelters and the Pajaro levee to assist public health efforts and encourage individuals to access basic health care through one of their primary care clinics. Jorge has observed that politics, along with cultural and language barriers sometimes prevent community members from accessing services, and he hopes the committee will provide him an opportunity to change this.

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 Kristal Salcido

Kristal is a deputy district attorney assigned to the Sex Crimes division of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office. She is a Watsonville resident since 2015 and, along with her husband, enjoys seeing its new businesses flourish, eating at its various restaurants and taking walks along Elkhorn Slough. 

Kristal has dedicated her career to the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes. She personally works with marginalized members of the Watsonville community, and is grateful for the opportunity to help them navigate the criminal justice system without fear. Kristal believes that justice in the system is achievable only when police are held to the highest standards and those standards reflect the expectations and diversity of the community. Policing and social equity are very important matters to Kristal, both personally and professionally. Effective community policing means there is a collaborative, integrative and respectful continuous relationship between community members and the police officers who work to keep them safe. Recent national events have demonstrated that a single incident of excessive force use can erode trust in an entire police department. Kristal strongly believes that to achieve social equity, all Watsonville residents must be treated with respect and fairness in the application of the law, regardless of race, nationality, socio-economic status, citizenship status, gender or sexual orientation. As a district attorney, Kristal has taken an oath to defend such values, and will now apply them equally as a member of this committee.

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Mariana Juarez

Mariana has lived in Watsonville for the majority of her life, arriving as an immigrant child. She has worked in the mental health field as an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) in a number of settings that have allowed her to better understand and support the needs of local individuals and families. She is dedicated to working for the community. 

Policing and social equity are very important to Mariana as they have a great impact on the community where she lives and works. Although recent national events have brought increased awareness to this topic, she believes its long been a part of the structures that have influenced the community. She believes that true social equity requires changes that are supportive of the stressors affecting all of us. She is aware of how crucial it is for the committee to be inclusive and representative of the community. 

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Angelica Martinez

Social equity has always been an important issue to Angelica, both personally and professionally. She is aware policing goes hand in hand with this, as it keeps citizens safe yet accountable for their actions. Angelica has been in various leadership roles. She is very passionate about community involvement and has worked for both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. 

She has acquired several management, group facilitating and team building skills from past work experience. Angelica, currently works part time as a Registrar for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District as well as being the Founder and Director of Strong One, a newly started non profit organization in Watsonville. She is a facilitator with Cara y Corazon, a family strengthening program in Santa Cruz County. Her previous work and volunteer experience has helped her understand how to help and work with people of diverse socio economic backgrounds. Angelica looks forward to continue contributing to the community through the work of this committee.