Debbie Peralez, Chair
Elba Gonzalez-Mares, Vice Chair
Andrea Jean Knowlton
Executive Director, UpValley Family Centers
Jenny brings over 20 years experience in the nonprofit sector. Currently she directs UpValley Family Centers which operates family resource centers in Calistoga and St. Helena. Her work includes serving as Executive Director of Parent Services Project in Marin County, coordinating a network of family resource centers at Children’s Network of Solano County, and working with Bay Area immigrant rights organizations. She brings expertise in collaborative social service models, family engagement and leadership, community organizing and immigrant rights. Jenny holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Studies and Latin American Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz, and Master’s Degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Jennifer Palmer, Executive Director
Project Manager, Napa County
Jennifer is an experienced strategic planner for public and private institutions. In her current role with Napa County Health & Human Services, Jennifer supports planning and implementation work addressing housing, homelessness and food insecurity through administration, community engagement and collective action initiatives. She is responsible for all planning activities supporting use of grant and County general fund resources to address homelessness in Napa County, planning for innovative solutions to Napa’s housing inventory and affordability crisis, and supporting a collaborative, user-centered, community-based body to address growing rates of food insecurity in a valley with an excess of food. Prior to this, Jennifer worked in the private sector for 24 years, founding and running several successful start-up businesses including a chain of retail stores and a distilled spirits company. Most recently, she was Vice President of Strategic Planning for American Vein & Vascular Institute, where she oversaw business expansion and marketing for a rapidly growing chain of medical clinics in California, Colorado and Texas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Deputy District Attorney, Napa County
Kecia has been a Deputy District Attorney for 11 years. She started her career in San Mateo County, and has served at the Napa DA’s office since 2015. Through her work as a prosecutor, she has handled several cases involving allegations of both physical and sexual abuse against child victims. Through her work serving child victims’ rights in the community, she has working relationships with Child Welfare Services, local law enforcement, and victims services both in the DA’s office as well as within NEWS and SAVS. Kecia holds a law degree from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor’s in International Relations from the University of San Diego. She lives in Napa with her husband and two young children.