Commissioners

Commission Members

Debbie Peralez, Chair


Elba Gonzalez-Mares, Vice Chair


Michele Grupe


Howard Himes


Laura Keller


Andrea Knowlton


Molly Nelson


Stephanie Paravicini


Brad Wagenknecht

Debbie Peralez, Chair
Executive Director, Child Start, Inc.

Debbie is the executive director of Child Start, Inc. a nonprofit operating the Head Start/Early Head Start programs and the Raising A Reader project in Napa and Solano Counties. Drawn to policy issues and advocacy for young children, Debbie joined the Napa Solano Head Start program, where she has worked for the last 20 years. She serves on the board of the California Head Start Association, and is a member of the Napa County Child Care Planning Council and Napa Soroptimist International. Debbie also participates in several collaborative groups that examine and plan for quality efforts for young children and their families, including the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems in both Napa and Solano Counties. She is married with three children and three grandchildren; thankfully all of them live nearby, which means they can visit often!

Elba Gonzalez-Mares, Vice Chair
Executive Director, Community Health Initiative Napa County

Elba has been at the Children’s Health Initiative (CHI) for 10 years, first as a certified application assistant, then as health services manager for eight years until she was appointed executive director in 2015. She is also trained, licensed and certified as an insurance agent in California. Elba has forged relationships between CHI and other community providers and government departments, helping to make health coverage affordable and accessible to Napa County’s children, adults, and families. She is on the Board of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center, works with Bi-National Health Alliance and the Puente Program at Napa Valley College, and is on the board of the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Elba also serves as convener of a monthly inter-agency meeting of organizations working in various community-based settings throughout Napa County, all with a shared vision of the importance and opportunity for affordable health coverage for all low-income children, adults and families in our community. In 2014, Elba was awarded the Soroptimist International Ruby Award for Women helping Women and recognized by California’s State Assembly and Senate, Congressman Thompson and Napa County’s Board of Supervisors.. Bicultural and bilingual in Spanish and English, Elba graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2005 with a degree in international relations.

Michele Grupe
Executive Director, Cope Family Center

A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in psychology, Michele has dedicated her professional career to the prevention of child abuse and neglect by working directly with families and through her work as an administrator and fund development professional. Prior to joining the Cope team in 2004, Michele worked at Lincoln Child Center in Oakland and Youth Homes Inc. in Contra Costa County. Michele is a member of the ACEs Connection group, volunteers in the community at her son’s school and is the former chair of the Napa Valley DARE and Safe Schools Foundation. She also served on the steering committee for the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership and the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies “Creating Community: Napa County Nonprofits at Work” report that was released in July 2016 and highlights the social and economic impact of the nonprofit sector in Napa.

Howard Himes
Director of Health and Human Services, Napa County

Having dedicated 29 years to providing services to vulnerable children and families, Howard has significant experience in county agency leadership as well as workforce development. He earned his MSW from California State University in Fresno where he later was an adjunct professor. As Deputy Director and then Director of Fresno County Department of Social Services, Howard guided implementation of the CAPP (California Partners for Permanency) Program. Recognized for his significant work in Fresno County, Mr. Himes became the Director of Napa County Health and Human Services Agency in 2014. He also serves on numerous boards and committees that reflect his strong advocacy of effective social services and racial equality.

Laura Keller
Director of Public Health Nursing and Maternal Child and Adolescent Health Director, Napa County Health and Human Services

Laura has worked in public health for over 28 years and oversees public health nursing home visiting services for new mothers and babies and high-risk families, the Therapeutic Child Care Center, the Women, Infants and Children’s Program and is a Touchpoints Trainer. Laura is a RN, BSN, a certified Public Health Nurse, and a certified Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner. Laura completed the Infant Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program in 2004 and became a Fellowship Mentor in 2006. She also serves on the board of the Napa Valley Breastfeeding Coalition. Laura devotes much of her time to her grandchildren.

Andrea Knowlton
Director of Early Childhood Services, Napa County Office of Education

Andrea oversees early childhood services for 700 children and their families within the County of Napa. Her background and experience include serving as an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) teacher, training and development within the early childhood field, program development and expertise in the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood settings and digital early learning. Andrea serves on the board of Child Start, Inc. and is active in Soroptimist International of Napa. She has Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Special Education and Education Leadership, and holds credentials in ECSE and Education Administration. In her free time, Andrea enjoys traveling and cycling.

Molly Nelson
Chief Financial Officer, OLE Health

Molly Nelson is Chief Financial Officer at OLE Health, an organization dedicated to providing high-quality primary health care to underserved and uninsured communities. Originally from Ukiah, she attended college in San Diego before first coming to Napa in 2007. She enjoys baking and previously held a role in pastry in Napa’s hospitality industry. She currently resides in Napa with her fiancé, son, and boxer/bulldog Nola.

Stephanie Paravicini
Psychotherapy, Clinical Consultation and Reflective Facilitation
CA Endorsed Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist
CA Endorsed Reflective Practice Mentor

Stephanie earned her Psy.D. at the California School of Professional Psychology and a psychology degree at the Paris School of Professional Psychologist (Ecole de Psychologues Praticiens). She has been a licensed psychologist in California since 2001, and has worked most of her professional career in various community mental health settings, both as a therapist and a clinical supervisor/program manager. She currently works through her private practice providing psychotherapy as well as mental health consultation and reflective practice facilitation to various organizations serving families with children ages 0-5 in Napa County. Stephanie has worked extensively in the Napa community to expand access to services for families with children birth to age 5 – including serving on the First 5 Children and Families Commission since 2006, where she has become involved in community planning and investment. She graduated from the 2011-2012 Napa IPMHPCP (Infant Parent Mental Health Post Graduate Program), and in 2012 became faculty mentor of that same program. In 2015, she became endorsed as an infant-family and early childhood mental health specialist and reflective practice mentor through the California Center for Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health. Raised in Venezuela by French and Swiss parents, then moving to the U.S. as a teen, she has a special interest in working with immigrant families as they struggle with a complexity of issues of raising their children in a culture different from their own.

Brad Wagenknecht
Napa County Supervisor, District 1

Brad has been a school teacher since 1977.  During the first 10 years of his teaching career he taught emotionally disturbed adolescents. Since 1987 Brad has been teaching social studies at Redwood/Silverado Middle School in Napa. Brad graduated from a local high school in Napa and went on to graduate from the University of California-Santa Cruz with a degree in Political Science and Elementary Education.  Brad has split his time teaching with public service since 1984, when he was elected to the Napa City Council. He has also served as Mayor to the City of Napa. In 1998 he was elected to the Napa County Board of Supervisors and began serving as the representative for District 1 in January 1999.Brad grew up in the Browns Valley area of Napa and has three children: Gretchen, Fritz, and Max. Brad runs 300 days a year and plays basketball religiously.  He spends his free time attending his kids’ sporting events and performances. Brad currently services on the boards of Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and Marin Clean Energy.

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