Speaker Biographies

Xouhoa Bowen is a social entrepreneur with a mission to empower women and girls through access, opportunity, and agency-building. Xouhoa is the CEO and founder of Community Impact Lab, a nonprofit focused on creating a boundless space for women and families to integrate their dynamic identifies and talents, empowering them to live, give, and grow to their fullest potentials. Before founding Community Impact Lab, Xouhoa served in the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan focusing on education and gender equality, taught refugees in inner-city Milwaukee, worked as a teacher, faculty manager, and curriculum designer in South Korea. She also consulted for the Cisco Foundation grant programs and most recently, was the Associate Director of Community and Growth at Net Impact. She’s mama bear to two clever and energetic kids who she credits for inspiring her to redefine the way we see mothers and creating a landscape where women can thrive. Xouhoa serves on the Board of the San Leandro Education Foundation, is the President of the Washington Elementary School PTA, and was awarded the 2017 San Leandro Mayor’s Award of Excellence for her commitment to community. Xouhoa has a B.A. in Psychology and International Affairs from Marquette University, an MBA from Norwich University, and a Certificate of Completion in Social Sector Leadership from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Kelli English is the Chief of Interpretation for John Muir National Historic Site, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, and Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park. In this capacity she oversees all visitor services, including visitor center operations, education programs, outreach efforts, and interpretive media for all four NPS sites in the East Bay.

Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Kelli grew up as a city kid who loved zoos as well as natural & cultural history museums, and dreamed of becoming a scientist. She began her interpretive career fifteen years ago at Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center, a residential environmental education facility where she implemented an urban youth stewardship program in heavily industrialized northwest Indiana. Kelli has served as a frontline interpretive ranger at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a supervisory park ranger at Yellowstone National Park, and the community outreach specialist for Golden Gate National Recreation Area. She has delivered a wide variety of interpretive and place-based education programs, managed visitor center operations, trained new rangers in interpretive skills, and worked with community organizations and park partners to engage urban youth with national parklands and the outdoors.

Kelli holds a B.A. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and a M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Her master’s thesis research involved identifying barriers to participation in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s interpretive public programs by residents of Gary, IN. She is the 2003 recipient of the College of Natural Resources’ Outstanding Graduate Student award at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and the 2005 Outstanding New Interpreter national award winner for the National Association of Interpretation.

Sabrina Landreth was selected by Mayor Libby Schaaf from a National field of qualified candidates. In the past, she has served the City of Oakland as Budget Director, Legislative Analyst and Deputy City Administrator. As Oakland’s Deputy City Administrator, Ms. Landreth closed more than $175 million in budget deficits and led a massive overhaul of the budget and the City’s organizational structure that maintained City jobs and community services during the recession. Ms. Landreth comes to us from the City of Emeryville where she developed and implemented the first 2 year operating budget and 5 year capital improvement plan.

Catherine Lew is known as one of California’s toughest and most successful communications and campaign consultants. She has over three decades of experience in community organizing and politics and is a veteran of over 600 political campaigns and communications projects.

Under Catherine’s leadership, The Lew Edwards Group (LEG) celebrates 20 years of success in 2017, passing approximately $35 Billion in California finance measures at a 95%+ win rate–funds that repair K-12 classrooms, expand college facilities, protect funding for local city services, and improve libraries, parks and infrastructure. Catherine prides herself on LEG’s award-winning service to every client, diverse agencies that range dramatically in size and strategic needs. LEG enjoyed 68 wins in 2016, its biggest year to date.

Selected clients represented by Lew include the California Democratic Party, Los Angeles Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District, Long Beach Community College District, Coast Community College District, The Nature Conservancy, Kaiser Permanente, California Nurses Association, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the cities of Fremont, San Jose, Temecula, Westminster, and Selma among many others, and scores of elected county supervisors, mayors, city council members, and school board members. Lew has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the state’s toughest advocates and tacticians on behalf of social change and the services Californians rely on.

Lew is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of San Francisco School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar.

Melinda McCrary has been the Executive Director of the Richmond Museum of History since 2013. She holds dual Master of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Museum Studies, is adjunct faculty in anthropology at Contra Costa College and is a mother of two. Melinda believes in social justice through education and is working diligently to reinvent the Museum in the community center model that honors contributions from community members hailing from all walks of life. She is most proud of the 2016 temporary exhibition entitled “Richmond & the Legacy of the Black Panther Party” that is part of the ongoing “Know Your Community” series at the Museum.

Luna Salaver’s rise to BART’s Office of the General Manager was by no means meteoric. Her 36-year career in the public sector began in an entry-level position at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. A single parent determined to provide for her child, Ms. Salaver attended college at night and sought promotions along the way. By the end of her 27-year tenure at the Air District, Ms. Salaver was a Senior Public Information Officer (PIO) leading the acclaimed Spare the Air/Free Transit program.  In 2007 she took her communications skills to BART where she served as PIO, Communications Officer and finally Program Oversight Manager working directly for BART’s General Manager.  Dedicated to giving back and hoping to motivate others, her combined personal and professional experiences inspired Ms. Salaver to mentor others.

Betty Soskin (nee Charbonnet) grew up in a Cajun/Creole African-American family who settled in the East San Francisco Bay Area after historic floods devastated the City of New Orleans in 1927. Her parents joined her maternal grandfather, George Allen, who had resettled in Oakland at the end of World War I. The Allen family followed the pattern set by black railroad workers who discovered the West Coast while serving as sleeping car porters, waiters, and chefs for Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroads – settling their families at the western end of their run where life might be less impacted by southern hostility.

Betty attended local schools, graduating from Castlemont High School during the World’s Fair at Treasure Island. She can recall ferry boat crossings at a time that precedes the construction of the bridges that span the Bay; and at a time when the Oakland International Airport consisted of two small hangars. She remembers Amelia Earhart’s departure and tragic loss as if it happened yesterday. She remembers the explosion at Port Chicago on July 17, 1944 and subsequent mutiny trials.

Betty worked in a segregated Union hall, Boilermaker’s A-36, during World War II as a file clerk. In 1945 she and her young husband, Mel Reid, founded a still-existing small Berkeley music store — Reid’s Records.

Betty has since held positions as staff to a Berkeley city council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly; former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and Senator Loni Hancock.

In 1996 she was named a “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature. In 2005 she was named one of the nation’s ten outstanding women, “Builders of communities and dreams” by the National Women’s History Project in ceremonies in both Griffiths Park in Los Angeles, and in Washington, D.C.

Betty was instrumental in the establishment of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in 2000. Betty was hired as a full-time park ranger in 2007 to work at the newly established park and tell her story. The flurry of national and international publicity during the government shutdown in 2013 brought her to the attention of a new audience and provided an opportunity for her to share her unique view of the history of the Home Front during WWII through her work with the National Park Service.

On December 3, 2015 she was selected by the National Park Service to participate in the National tree-lighting ceremony in President’s Park at the White House and to introduce President Barack Obama in the nationwide telecast on the annual PBS special.

On June 10, 2016 Betty received the Silver Medallion Award at the World War II Museum in New Orleans in a special ceremony. It should be noted that there are but two women among 30 past recipients; the other being Elizabeth Dole.

On September 8, 2016, Betty also received the Sierra Club’s prestigious Trailblazer Award, “for a lifetime of service and barrier-breaking”.

She was deeply honored, on September 24, 2016, to be present for the grand opening ceremony of the new Smithsonian – the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, as Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s invited guest.

Betty has been featured in numerous video and print interviews over the years, most notably the Today Show, NPR, and the Tavis Smiley Show. She has also been the subject of a number of podcasts now available on YouTube.

She is the subject of two films now in production, one by filmmaker Carl Bidleman for the National Park Service, and a 90-minute documentary by filmmaker/producer Bryan Gibel. Both are nearing completion and should be released before the end of 2018.

Betty was the 2018 Honoree at the Makers Conference in Hollywood where feminists from across the nation gather annually to recognize “Makers.”

Ms. Soskin is currently employed as a park ranger for the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, assigned to civic engagement and community outreach. She is the oldest career park ranger in the National Park Service.

 

Erin Steffen has worked in the local government profession for the past dozen years, where she endeavors to affect positive change in her community. As Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Berkeley, Erin oversees Neighborhood Services, Animal Services, Berkeley’s 2020 Vision Initiative, and Code Enforcement divisions.

Erin currently serves as Immediate Past President of the Municipal Management Association of Northern California, an organization in which she has been an active member since 2006. Erin also serves on the Institute for Local Government Board of Directors, and the City of Berkeley’s Leadership Development Program Steering Committee. Other professional affiliations include Toastmasters, International and ICMA.

Erin earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Affairs in 2005, followed by her Masters’ Degree in Public Affairs in 2006, from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Erin is also a graduate of the ICMA Emerging Professionals Leadership Institute and the Credentialed Government Leader Program.