Get to know us.
Chris Dusseault is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Chris is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer whose practice focuses on high-stakes business litigation. Chris has represented clients and tried cases throughout the country, and has particular experience in antitrust and the medical device industry. Chris also helped lead the trial team that challenged and overturned California’s prohibition of same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, in Hollingsworth v. Perry. Chris was raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and attended Yale University and Duke Law School. Chris lives in Pasadena with his wife of more than 25 years, Sarah Dusseault, and their two sons, Luke and Cale.
Adam Deromedi is a Director of Corporate Strategy at AECOM, helping one of the world’s largest infrastructure engineering and construction companies execute its growth and operational vision. Since 2012, Adam has helped organizations achieve their strategic objectives – originally with Deloitte’s strategy consulting practice before joining AECOM.
Previously Adam worked for non-profit housing developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) as a project manager, leading the construction of new housing for at-risk populations. SAHA’s innovative properties provide more than 4,000 residents in Northern California with much-needed high-quality housing, creating healthier, safer communities.
Adam holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, a Master’s in Urban Planning from Harvard University, and a BA in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Adam was introduced to LA’s BEST several years ago as a volunteer supporting the Governing Board on strategy development and was so impressed by the energy and passion from the staff that he was excited to be given the opportunity to join as a Board Member in 2016.
Alberto Diaz was born in Cuba and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents at the age of 5. He grew up in Burbank and attended the University of Redlands, where he majored in Biology and played varsity basketball.
Alberto has taught junior and high school science. He served eight years in the U.S. Navy as an F/A-18 pilot and Landing Signal Officer, and participated in Operation Desert Shield prior to the first Gulf War. After briefly flying for a local commuter airline, Alberto joined United Airlines in 1995 and began his commercial airline career. Alberto has been at United for 21 years and has flown as Captain for over 14 years. He is the Los Angeles Chief Pilot for United Airlines.
Alberto started the “Pali Waves” — an all-girls basketball club created to help girls 8 -14 develop character and confidence. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Pacific Palisades, California.
Trudi Ferguson is a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business, and a consultant to a wide variety of public and private organizations. Her expertise includes organizational change and effectiveness, strategic planning, executive coaching, career strategy, gender and diversity issues, and communications. Ferguson has consulted on hiring and retaining women for many organizations including the Los Angeles Police Department.
Ferguson received her doctorate in Behavioral Science from the UCLA Anderson School of Business. She is the author of two books, Answers to the Mommy Track and Blue Collar Women, and is an expert in the successful integration of women and diversity into organizational life. Among her wide-ranging professional affiliations, Ferguson has been President of the Center for Applied Behavioral Science, a member and past Dean of the National Training Laboratories Institute, and a member of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. Additionally, Ferguson has served as adjunct professor at Stanford University, UCLA, Antioch, and Loyola Marymount University.
Neal Fraser started his career in the kitchen at age 20. Fraser’s resume includes a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and an honor roll of kitchen credits including Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and Checkers Hotel under Thomas Keller. Currently, he and his business partner/wife Amy Knoll Fraser own and operate the critically acclaimed Redbird restaurant; special events venue Vibiana. Redbird is Fraser’s flagship where he showcases modern American cuisine, influenced by the city’s multitude of cultures. Carved into one of the city’s most historic architectural gems, Redbird is singular and timeless. The restaurant has received many accolades including a coveted spot on Los Angeles Times’ Gold List. Prior to the success of Redbird|Vibiana, Fraser and Knoll Fraser opened critical darling Grace (which closed in 2010) and the recently closed, but beloved, BLD. A second location for BLD currently operates inside Los Angeles International Airport.
Ruben Gonzalez is the President & founder of Gonzalez Strategic Affairs (GSA), a public affairs firm providing government affairs/advocacy, media relations, crisis communications and political/campaign consulting services. The firm’s clients include the California Association of Realtors and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, where Ruben serves as Senior Advisor for strategic affairs. Prior to founding GSA, Ruben served as the Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Political Affairs for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. In the public sector, Ruben served as Deputy City Controller under Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and political science from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) . Ruben currently serves as Chair of the Board for Helping Young People Excel (HYPE), and is on the Board of Directors at LMU’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles. He was also appointed to the California State Controller Council of Economic Advisors in 2015.
Eric Gurna joined LA’s BEST in 2015 as the second President and CEO in the organization’s history. He brings a deep commitment to positive youth development to his work at LA’s BEST, and a national reputation for thought leadership in the Expanded Learning movement. Prior to leading LA’s BEST, Eric was the founder, President and CEO of Development Without Limits, where he designed and facilitated staff development, curriculum and other resources for community organizations and schools nationwide. In the late ‘90s, Eric also served as LA’s BEST’s first Director of Staff Development. In that role, he was immersed in LA’s BEST values and operations, and codified the organization’s values, youth development principles and staff development practices. In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Eric to the California Department of Education’s Before and Afterschool Advisory Committee, and he is a member of the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance Steering Committee.
Peter Hidalgo is Director, Government Affairs for Charter Communications (SPECTRUM) a Fortune 75 telecommunications company. Peter is a seasoned government relations and communications leader with more than 20 years of experience in the private and public sector. His responsibilities include helping to oversee the political, regulatory, and legislative activities for Charter’s footprint and nurturing relationships with key elected and community stakeholders within the City of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley and southeast Gateway cities of Los Angeles County.
Previously, Peter has served as Chief of Staff for a Los Angeles City Councilmember and as Press Secretary to former Los Angeles Mayor. He has held leadership roles in corporate communications with Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric as well as with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, Metrolink as Director of External Affairs. Peter was born in Ecuador and is fluent in Spanish. He holds a Bachelor and a Master of Organizational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.
Lyndal Larkin joined the Governing Board of Directors in 2016 after being inspired by the incredible mission of LA’s BEST. Lyndal is a high-energy, passionate and accomplished business professional with 15+ years of leading teams and collaborating as a strategic business partner. She currently runs her own practice as an executive coach and leadership consultant, focused upon start-up and small business founder/CEOs and their executive teams. She resides in Los Angeles and in her free time, she adores travel, cooking and entertaining friends and family.
Heather Lord is SVP, Head of Strategy & Innovation at American Funds, part of Capital Group. Prior to joining Capital, Heather was a Senior Vice President, Strategy & Client Experience at Charles Schwab. Before that, she was a Principal at Boston Consulting Group. She holds a Ph.D. in applied statistics and psychology from Yale University and a Bachelor’s degree in statistics from Cornell University. She has long been passionate about early care and education – serving on the Boards of Child Care, Inc., and Minds Matter, as well as co-authoring multiple academic studies on after-school programs and “The Tragedy of Child Care in America” published by Yale University Press. Heather lives in Pasadena and enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children.
Jawaad Malik is vice president, accounting and finance for Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), a Sempra Energy regulated California utility. Since joining SoCalGas in 2007, Malik has served in a number of increasingly responsible management positions, including director of financial and operations planning, financial planning manager and General Rate Case program manager. Prior to this, he held various finance and auditing-related roles at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and the California Department of Insurance. Malik holds a Master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance from Pepperdine University, a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from California State University, Los Angeles, and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.
Gianandrea Marcaccini is an Owner and Operating Partner of Villa Dolce Gelato, the largest super premium wholesale gelato company in the U.S.
As brothers growing up in Rome, owners Monte, Giancarlo and Gianandrea Marcaccini spent their summers on the Italian coast enjoying the daily ritual of gelato. After attending high school and college in America, they returned to Europe to play professional basketball and realized the opportunity to bring the experience of authentic Italian gelato to the States. In 2002, Villa Dolce opened their doors and began servicing top tier restaurants and hotels in the Los Angeles area.
In 2013, Villa Dolce purchased a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Phoenix, AZ, to fulfill the growing nationwide demand for real Italian gelato. This HACCP-run, Certified Organic (CCOF) facility combines the latest in manufacturing technology with traditional, old-world recipes and time-honored, artisan techniques.
Combining a commitment to quality and authenticity with a strong entrepreneurial and creative spirit, Villa Dolce has received numerous awards, including being honored as one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies on the Inc. 5000 list and one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine in both 2018 and 2019.
Featured among the top 500 most influential people in Los Angeles by the L.A. Business Journal in 2016 and 2017, Damián Mazzotta is an accomplished media executive and social entrepreneur. Social justice awarded, Damián was the Publisher at La Opinión – the most relevant Hispanic News Media outlet in the U.S. – and previously worked with the top news media organizations in Latin America. He is an advisor to entertainment, education and health organizations such as UCLA Center for World Health and Zero Gravity Management, and is the Founder and Chairman of The Shower of Hope, an initiative that brings relief to thousands of people suffering poverty in Los Angeles.
Mary Odell is an experienced early childhood educator and grantmaking professional. Mary began her professional career teaching the children of migrant farm workers in Coachella, California, was an elementary school teacher and vice-principal in South Los Angeles, and worked as an Education and Instruction Specialist for IBM Corporation. In 1991, Mary transitioned to philanthropy, serving as President of The Riordan Foundation and its affiliated public charity, Rx for Reading, until 1999 when she became the founding president of UniHealth Foundation until her retirement in 2016. Mary is recognized as a leader in the philanthropic community with expertise in managing public-private partnerships. Mary has done extensive graduate work in early speech and language acquisition, has lifetime credentials to teach multiple subjects preschool through 12th grade and adult education, and holds a certificate in nonprofit management from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program.
Kelechi Ogbunamiri serves as the Chief Investment Officer of the Hankey Group. Prior to joining the Hankey Group, Kelechi served as a Portfolio Manager at Guggenheim Partners overseeing $10 billion of corporate credit assets. Kelechi began his career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr. Ogbunamiri graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science degree in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University and obtained his Masters in Business Administration degree in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. As the Chair of the LA’s BEST Friends Board, Kelechi also serves on the Board of Directors.
Samira Poulos was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Purdue University in 1997. She began her career working as a therapeutic foster care Case Manager at a non-profit child and family services agency in Indianapolis. In 1999, Samira relocated to Los Angeles, and began a successful career in advertising, working at RPA for over 13 years in Interactive Project Management for the Honda account. She put her career on hold in 2014 to spend more time with her two young daughters, serving two years as PTA president and becoming very active in the public school community. Samira believes strongly in the importance of equity in education and opportunities for kids from all walks of life. Samira currently lives with her husband and children in Santa Monica.
With experience as a campaign manager, policy advisor, and strategist serving leading elected officials, Juan works on a range of campaigns and strategic communications projects.
As former Campaign Manager for Kamala Harris for Senate, Juan helped lead Harris to the largest vote percentage by a non-incumbent Senate candidate in California history, carrying every demographic group, party, and region of the state.
Previously, Juan was Senior Advisor to Attorney General Harris in the California Department of Justice where he served as one of the Attorney General’s principal advisors on issues impacting business, labor, government bodies, regulatory agencies, and community-based and non-profit organizations throughout California and the United States. In this capacity, Juan was part of the Attorney General’s senior staff developing and implementing public policy, litigation, legislation, and outreach strategies for multiple issues. In 2014, Juan served as Interim Chief of Staff, supervising the office’s executive staff and managing communications, scheduling, and advance staff.
Prior to that, Juan was Director of State Relations for the City of Los Angeles under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Juan oversaw an expansive government lobbying effort on issues including energy, education, transportation, public safety, water, economic development, revenue and taxation needs. During his tenure with Mayor Villaraigosa, Juan also served as a Senior Political Advisor, advising on national, statewide and local redistricting, and elections.
While attending college, Juan worked for LA’s BEST as a Program Coach at Monlux Elementary School. He received his B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles and earned an M.B.A. from Pepperdine Graziaidio School of Business Management.
June Sale is the former Director of UCLA Child Care Services. Sale is an active child care advocate, author and consultant with a special interest in public policy issues concerning children and their families. Sale has served on many national, state and local committees and panels, and serves as a CASA volunteer in the family court program for children. Sale is also a member of Stone Soup, Samuel Goldwyn Child Care Advisory Boards, and has been on the LA’s BEST Advisory Board since 1988 and serves on the Board of Directors as well.
Teresa Samaniego has helped grow ABC7’s involvement in the community for the past 38 years. As Vice President, she oversees community media initiatives and station partnerships, working closely with nonprofits and companies to develop and implement projects benefiting the communities that ABC7 serves. Teresa has been instrumental in developing campaigns such as the ABC7/Southland Firefighters Spark of Love Toy Drive and PrepareSoCal, an emergency preparedness initiative. Teresa’s commitment to the community extends beyond her career. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Community Coalition and the Glendale Chamber of Commerce Glendale Fire Department Foundation.
Throughout her career, Teresa has received many honors and awards for her dedication to the community. These include: Woman of the Year from The Glendale Chamber of Commerce, the Life Saving Award from the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles, and the Public Service Spirit Award from the Southern California Broadcasters Association. She is the proud mother of two, grown sons and four granddaughters.
David Travers is the CFO of ZipRecruiter. Prior to joining the ZipRecruiter team, Dave spent a decade as a venture capital investor in tech startups during his decade as a partner at Rustic Canyon and Basepoint. Previously, Dave worked in Corporate Strategy at Disney and at the White House. He is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Business School.
Efren Vasquez, a director in PwC’s Forensics practice based in Los Angeles, has more than a decade of experience in providing data-driven, technology-enabled solutions to address critical business needs.
Efren has a strong record of accomplishments in leveraging technology to provide clients with actionable insights that empower decision makers. This includes leading cross- competency teams that acquire, review, analyze, and transform large, complex, disparate data sets into meaningful information for use in relation to anti-bribery/anti-corruption matters, disputes, financial reporting, fraud investigations, litigation, M&A transactions, and regulatory matters.
Efren has significant international experience leading and collaborating with teams across Asia, Europe, North America and South America; this includes a Mexico City based assignment leading PwC’s Forensic Technology efforts in Mexico as well as being active in the broader Latin American region. His clients span the energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, technology, and telecommunications industries, among others.
Efren holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Bob Wicke is a Managing Director in the Technology practice with Deloitte Consulting, where he has worked since 1993. He specializes in process improvement and technology solutions in the areas of customer service, asset management and supply chain. He primarily serves clients in the energy industry. Clients have included Edison International, Reliant Energy, PEMEX, PG&E, Sempra Energy, the California Department of Water Resources, American Water, BC Gas, Xcel Energy and the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District.
Bob earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, and his MBA at UCLA. He also served as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs in Los Angeles.