Jennifer Gray Thompson is a lifelong resident of Sonoma Valley in Northern California. She attended Santa Rosa Junior College and graduated from Dominican University in 2001 with degrees in English and History. After teaching high school for 10 years, Jennifer went on to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration from University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. Post-graduate school, Jennifer worked for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. After the devastating fires in the North Bay of San Francisco in October 2017, she accepted a position as Executive Director of the newly formed 501c3 nonprofit Rebuild NorthBay Foundation (RNBF), an organization dedicated to helping the region rebuild better, greener, safer, and faster.
In summer of 2021, RNBF created After the Fire USA in response to the prevalence of massive megafires in response to climate change and wildland imbalances. Our tagline remains “Recover. Rebuild. Reimagine.” As CEO of this evolutionary organization, Jennifer expanded her commitment to help communities navigate the aftermath of wildfires not only for the short term, but also for the long-term slog that is rebuilding post-disaster. Jennifer and her team are committed to equitable and resilient recoveries for every community, regardless of their ability to pay. ATF USA does not charge communities for their services and primarily acts as a support for locally lead and designed recoveries. ATF USA has a thriving resiliency program called “Before the Fire” that is the lead agency for nearly $10M is state and federal grants for wildlands fuel mitigation programs.
The mission of After the Fire USA is to help communities across the American West navigate wildfire disasters and build resiliency before the fire.
Jennifer is nationally recognized as a leader in the space of wildfire and has presented at several national conferences on the issue by invitation of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, HAC, Fannie Mae, Brownsfield, Smart Cities, FEMA, and many more. She is cofounder of CANVAS, an association of professional leaders in disaster working together to “listen locally, act regionally, reform nationally.” Jennifer is the creator and host of the “How to Disaster” podcast, which highlights proven and effective leaders with great ideas in the space of disaster. She is on the board of director of La Luz Center, a nonprofit serving primarily the Latino community in Sonoma Valley.
Alma Bowen is a life-long Sonoma County resident with deep ties to the community. She is the founder & Executive Director of Nuestra Comunidad (NC), a Sonoma County based non-profit focused on disaster preparedness, 911 emergency services education, and health & wellness for the entire community with an emphasis on under-served populations including the elderly, LatinX community and veterans.
Prior to starting NC, Alma served Sonoma County for 18 years as a highly decorated 911 emergency services dispatcher. Alma worked the night of the 2017 Tubbs fires with distinction and has first-hand knowledge of how disaster preparedness can make the difference between life and loss. Her deep concern for our community and direct experience as a first responder propels her passion to promote & teach the importance of disaster preparedness for all.
In addition to her work with the Sonoma County Fair Board of Directors, Alma is the Preparedness Committee Chair with Sonoma County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), a collaborative of local organizations dedicated in helping the community prepare for and respond to disasters. In her spare time Alma enjoys spending time with her family – including her husband, four children, and dog named Meelo, participating in Zumba workouts, and binge-watching true crime docuseries.
Mr. Christopher Godley, CEM was appointed as the Director of Emergency Management for Sonoma County in December 2018. He previously worked in the private sector as a Director of Emergency Management for Tetra Tech – the nation’s largest emergency management consulting firm. In his prior public service, he is the former Director of Emergency Services for the City of San Jose, California, the nation’s 10th largest city. Mr. Godley also served as the Manager of Emergency Services for the County of Marin and as a Deputy Coordinator in the County of Sonoma.
Mr. Godley has served as Incident Commander, Emergency Operations Center Coordinator and Project Manager in response to 18 presidential, 22 state, and 30 plus local disasters. He obtained his Certified Emergency Manager designation in 1999. Mr. Godley is a graduate of UCLA and obtained his master’s degree from California State University, Long Beach in Emergency Services Administration with a focus area of climate change preparedness.
As a 20-year veteran of the California National Guard and Army Reserve, Major Godley served as Military Field Commander and Liaison Officer in wildfire, winter storm and flood events. He also led a NATO Military Professional Exchange mission in the Ukraine to develop enhanced flood disaster response coordination.
Mr. Godley has served as instructor for a variety of state and federal courses. His areas of expertise include cyber incident consequence management, development of emergency management programs, Emergency Operations Center systems design, and climate change preparedness.
Melissa Kuehne, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Local Government
Melissa leads projects around leadership, housing, governance and community engagement. She has over 10 years of experience in outreach, facilitation, project management and training development. Prior to joining ILG in 2013, she served as staff for a member of Congress handling constituent services around housing and veterans affairs, worked on environmental issues at a collaborative policy center and conducted outreach efforts for a housing consortium in Washington State. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UC San Diego and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.
In 2012 Don Ryan came to the Solano County Office of Emergency Services (OES) after serving as the California State Director of the Civil Air Patrol. He served in the United States Air Force on active duty and in the reserves for over 25 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2009. Don flew C-5s for most of his career as well as a number of staff and command tours including Chief of Wing Plans and Chief of Wing Safety for two units on Travis AFB. He led the Travis Incident Command Center for over two years and integrated FEMA emergency response procedures on the base. While with the Civil Air Patrol, he supervised the budget and training program for the nation’s largest wing as well as evaluating and administering Civil Air Patrol Emergency Response Exercises throughout the Pacific Region. Don flew commercially for USAirways out of Boston and Philadelphia and has accumulated over 7,000 military, commercial and civilian flight hours.
Don works closely with representatives from all law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical providers in Solano County and Travis Air Force Base. In his ten years he has seen an unprecedented increase in emergency responses for fires, Covid-19, civil unrest and a myriad of other emergencies throughout Solano County and mutual aid responses in Northern California.
In the past two years, Solano OES has responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic including repatriation flights to Travis AFB, directed the county’s response to the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, and activated for civil unrest and the deployment of National Guard security patrols. Solano OES continues to work on recovery efforts after the largest, most devastating fire in the county’s history in 2020.
Don has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He and his wife Anita live in Vacaville. They have three grown children who live and work in Northern California.
Cory Bytof is the Sustainability Program Manager for the City of San Rafael. He co-authored and is responsible for implementing the City’s Climate Change Action Plan 2030, which is being used as a model by the other cities in Marin County. Cory approaches sustainability from an interdisciplinary lens with a focus on community + collaboration. Cory helped form the anti-litter coalition San Rafael Clean, is a member of the City’s Emergency Operations Center, and developed the City’s Emergency Volunteer Intake Center. In addition, Cory is past-chair of the Marin Climate Energy Partnership, a consortium of local governments and public utilities working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Marin County.
Cory has a degree in Interdisciplinary Social Science from San Francisco State University. He lives in San Rafael with his wife and has one adult daughter. In his free time, he writes musicals and enjoys traveling, cultural exchange, and adventures in nature.
Rhianna Frank has 8 years of public sector experience, working in the fields of laboratory analysis, water resources, emergency response, environmental protection, sustainability, and climate action. She has extensive program management experience which includes environmental outreach and education with a focus on stakeholder engagement. Her educational background consists of a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Sonoma State University in Environmental Studies and a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Management from the University of San Francisco.
While not at work, Rhianna enjoys spending time with her family. She also really enjoys exploring new (and old) spots for camping and fly fishing— especially places that are off the beaten path where the wilderness is still untamed.
A lifelong Bay Area resident, Dan Schoenholz currently serves as the Community Development Director for the City of Fremont, leading a talented team of 80 in the Planning, Building, Housing, Environmental Sustainability, and Code Enforcement divisions.
Dan earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of California and started his career as an environmental scientist with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Port of Oakland. After returning to Cal to obtain a Master’s degree in public policy, he joined the Fremont team, where he has held a variety of positions including Management Analyst in the City Manager’s Office, Deputy Director of the Human Services Department, and Deputy Director of Community Development.
Some of Dan’s proudest accomplishments in Fremont include managing the comprehensive update of the City’s General Plan; facilitating the development of close to 1000 affordable housing units; managing the installation of 1.5 MW (megawatts) of solar carports at City facilities; and overseeing a $9.1 million energy and water efficiency upgrade on City facilities.
Seth Yund is committed to helping governments promote human and environmental health through building sustainable and resilient communities. He has deep experience with a broad array of climate mitigation and adaptation-related policies and programs from his years as an Air Pollution Specialist at the California Air Resources Board. In that role, he developed skills and knowledge related to public participation, community engagement, meeting facilitation, and advancing equity.
He regularly supports outreach and community engagement across programs and assists programs with the development of outreach initiatives and tools.
Brian Cochran currently serves as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Petaluma, overseeing the City’s Finance Department, Human Resources Department, and Housing and Homelessness programs. He considers it an honor to work in local government, and has a passion for helping cities achieve long-term fiscal and operational sustainability. Since moving to California 16 years ago, Brian has served in several Finance / Management roles for the Cities of Santa Rosa, Novato, Napa and Petaluma.
He has a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Bachelors degrees in Mathematics and Economics from The Ohio State University. Brian and his family live in rural west Petaluma with their menagerie of animals.
Peggy Flynn has over 25 years of public sector experience, having served as the first communications and legislative director for the San Jose Redevelopment Agency – the largest in California– where she was instrumental in the agency’s multi-billion downtown revitalization efforts and a $250 million Strong Neighborhoods Initiative – the largest of its kind in the United States.
Peggy also served as the Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, California’s second largest water district — which served 1.8 million customers and the managed the county’s flood protection efforts.
More recently, Peggy served as the Assistant City Manager of Novato, where she led efforts to for the redevelopment of the former Hamilton Air Force Base, redevelopment of the 65 acre former Fireman’s Fund site and worked to secure the City’s third SMART station. Peggy also created the City’s first extensive communications and external community planning and public outreach program.
In February 2019, Peggy was named as the City of Petaluma’s first female, and tenth, City Manager.
Peggy is an avid backpacker, often with her grandson, venturing from the top of Mount Whitney to solo backpacking in Denali. She and her husband own a cattle ranch in west Petaluma that has been in the family for four generations. She has a deep connection to Petaluma and is enthusiastically proud to serve the Petaluma community.