December 7, 2018
In Fall 2018, the SDSU School of Public Affairs celebrated its 50th anniversary by honoring 50 distinguished alumni. In Part IV of our series, we look to SDSU Public Affairs alumni who have pursued careers in city management and government.
In Fall 2018, the SDSU School of Public Affairs is celebrating its 50 year anniversary on campus. Celebration is in order for this milestone, and that doesn’t include just celebrating the faculty that has put in the work to create this school over the years, but the students. To celebrate the hard work students have done in the past and continue to do in the future, 50 alumni have been celebrated for going above and beyond in their careers since leaving SDSU.
Part four of the 50 at 50 biographies consists of students that chose careers working for cities across the nation along with having a variety of roles in the government. They have assisted in creating plans and policies that benefit the environment, low income families, and health services provided. Some went into finance and management in which dealt with large budgets and oversaw the work of hundreds. More locally many had a hand at working with elected officials and projects including the rehabilitation of streets, facilities, and buildings along with work for the Holiday Bowl and The Globe. The work the alumni has done in the city of San Diego and across the nation have had an impact on the community we live in currently and has made strides to what the community will look like in the future.
John McTighe, PA 1969, MPA 1974
County Manager and Consultant (Retired)
John McTighe’s career at the County of San Diego spanned nearly four decades beginning as an Administrative Trainee ad retiring as the County’s General Services Director in 2007. During his career, John worked in the Department of Public Works, Office of Management and Budget, Board of Supervisors office and Department of Health Services. In 1996, John was appointed Finance Director of the newly formed Health and Human Services Agency overseeing a budget of $1.6 Billion. John also served as a Legislative Representative for the Construction Industry Federation, and founded Public Affairs Consultants, which provided consulting services throughout San Diego, Riverside, Imperial and Sacramento counties. John was a lecturer for the school for 28 years. He is president of the Retired Employees of San Diego County and has served on the boards of the local chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), County Executive Association, East County Family YMCA, and Christian Community Theater.
Debra Greenfield, PA 1971
General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs, SANDAG (Retired)
As one of the first female public administration graduates, Debra Greenfield realized her calling following an internship with the City of Chula Vista. She attended USD law school and after a short stint as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Vista, she was appointed General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the San Diego Association of Governments in 1975. In this role, she represented elected officials and staff and led many high profile projects. Debra retired in 2003, Debra served as chair of the Environmental Law Section of the San Diego County Bar and editor of the Land Use and Environmental Forum of the State Bar. She has taught land use and environmental law courses and serves on the task force for the School of Public Affairs. She recently created two endowed scholarships for public administration students. She is currently volunteers with the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program. Debra was awarded Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in 2015.
Nikki Clay, MPA 1972
Strategic Counsel, Carpi & Clay
Nikki Clay led the San Diego office of Carpi & Clay for nearly 15 years and prior to that served as Senior Vice President of the public affairs division of Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger. Nikki is currently chair of The Old Globe, Co-Chair of LEAD Board, and serves on the Board of Scripps Health. She is past Chair of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego Bowl Game Association (Holiday Bowl), and continues to serve on the boards of these organizations. Nikki earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SDSU, where she was honored by the University as “Woman of the Year.” She and her husband, Ben, also received the President’s Service Award, and were honored as the 1998 Alumni of the Year. She remains involved with her alma mater, serving on The Campanile Foundation Board and funding an internship scholarship for public administration students.
Mark Ochenduszko, MPA 1977
City Manager, Coronado, Campbell, and Cypress
Mark Ochenduszko is the retired City Manager of Coronado. Under his leadership, Coronado redeveloped all public facilities including City Hall, the Community Center, the Library, and completed a major downtown streetscape rehabilitation. In addition to Coronado, he served as the manager of the cities of Campbell and Cypress, California. After retirement from Coronado, Mark was appointed to various interim Executive Director positions in local government agencies and a nonprofit. He also was Interim City Manager of Del Mar. Mark is particularly proud that during his career the cities he managed exceeded State requirements in the development of low/moderate income housing. He was a founding Board Member of the International City Manager’s Association/California Chapter, (Cal-ICMA), and is a former Board Member of the League of California Cities, City Managers’ Department. Mark has served as a School of Public Affairs lecturer and as a member of the Public Affairs Task Force.
Iracsema Quilantan, PA 1984, MPA 1986
Director, Public Works, City of Chula Vista
Throughout Iracsema Quilantan’s 35 year career in local government, she has worked for the County of San Diego, the City of Coronado, and the City of Chula Vista where she currently serves as the first female Public Works Director. Iracsema oversees 130 employees responsible for maintaining the City’s infrastructure and improving and preserving City facilities including parks, libraries, and senior facilities. Iracsema is past, present and current member of the Chula Vista chapter of Altrusa International Service Organization, a service club dedicated to promoting literacy. In 2017, Iracsema received a Champion of Literacy Award from the City of Chula Vista recognizing Altrusa’s efforts to improve literacy. She believes literacy has no borders and has helped in the building two school libraries in Tijuana Baja California with other members of Altrusa and received international recognition for these projects.
Stacey LoMedico, PA 1986
Assistant Chief Operating Officer, City of San Diego
Stacey’s career with the City of San Diego began in 1986 as an intern in the Equal Opportunity Office. During the past three decades, she has served in a variety of management roles including Park and Recreation’s Development office where donations, grant funds and sponsorships grew from $6 million to more than $39 million. As the Department’s Deputy Director then Director, she was tasked with overseeing 900 employees, 40,000 acres of parkland, 54 recreation centers 13 pools and three golf complexes. In 2013, Stacey was appointed to Assistant Chief Operating Officer by then-Interim Mayor Todd Gloria. In addition to overseeing multiple city departments, she been tasked with overseeing high profile events including the City’s response to the 2017 hepatitis A public health emergency where Stacey coordinated large scale vaccinations, sanitations and education efforts and established a safe and clean Transitional Camp Area for 200 at-risk individuals.
Jimmie Slack, PA 1988
Chief of Staff, San Diego City Council, Civil Rights Leader
Jimmie Slack became involved in politics at the age of six marching with his father, brothers and members of his first grade class to protest segregation laws in downtown Memphis. After serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Navy, Jimmie studied public administration while interning for County Supervisor Leon Williams. He rose through the ranks and became Chief of Staff. Jimmie later worked as a Project Manager for Lockheed Martin/ACS State and Local Solutions managing workforce development projects in San Diego, Anaheim, and Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2005, Jimmie was appointed Chief of Staff for San Diego Council President Anthony Young and assisted with strategies that led the City out of financial crisis, saved families from foreclosure on their homes, kept libraries and park and recreation centers from closing and funded infrastructure improvements and the building of a new library. Jimmie continues to serve as Chief of Staff for the Fourth District Council Office.
John Conley, MCP, 2000
Director, Community Development and Engineering, City of Vista
John Conley has served with the City of Vista for the past 20 years in positions including Environmental Planner, Principal Planner and City Planner. In 2009, he was appointed as the Director of Community Development and Engineering where he oversees 40 employees covering all private development, capital projects, and engineering services. Before his work with the City, John spent five years in private consulting working mostly on CEQA documents. He is highly regarded in the planning community for his knowledge of environmental laws and ability to communicate complex planning processes and property rights to residents.
Susan Lea Riggs, MCP, 2002
State Housing Director/San Diego Housing Federation Executive Director/Senor Director ASPCA
Susan Lea Riggs is the Senior Director of State Legislation for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Prior to joining the ASPCA, Susan served in Governor Brown’s administration as Acting Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development and Deputy Secretary for Housing Policy. Previously, Susan was the Executive Director of the San Diego Housing Federation and an attorney at Best, Best & Krieger, LLP. Susan served as a lecturer in the Master of City Planning program from 2005-2009. Susan is honored to be an inductee into Lambda Alpha International, the honorary society for the advancement of land economics, a recipient of a 40 Under 40 by San Diego Metropolitan Magazine, a member of LEAD San Diego, and a former-board president of Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3). In addition to a Master of City Planning degree, Susan also received her JD from Thomas Jefferson Law School, where she graduated Magna cum Laude in 2008..
Tuere Fa’aola, MCP, 2004
Senior Project Manager, IBI Group
Tuere Fa’aola has worked in the transportation industry for over 15 years and, she currently serves as a senior project manager with IBI Group’s San Diego office managing the transportation planning team. Tuere manages major transportation infrastructure projects for light rail, bus rapid transit, active transportation, and land use/transportation projects primarily in Southern California but also across North America. During her time at SDSU, Dr. Roger Caves introduced Tuere to the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS). She maintained her active participation in that organization and has served in various leadership positions including President of the San Diego County Chapter. Through her efforts to build the local organization and bring the national spotlight to the local chapter, Tuere was named the WTS Member of the Year in 2015. Tuere serves as a Safety Commissioner for the City of Chula Vista and maintains her ties to her alma mater by guest lecturing in city planning courses.
Antoinette Meier, MCP 2008
Principal Regional Planner, SANDAG
Antoinette Meier is a Principal Regional Planner with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) where she serves as the manager of the Transportation Demand Management program. Antoinette oversees the operations of regional commuter services including one of the largest vanpool programs in the nation.. She is leading the establishment of the San Diego Regional Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground, development of a Regional Mobility Hub Strategy and Regional Parking Management Toolbox, and execution of public-private partnerships with innovative transportation service providers like Uber, Lyft, and Waze Carpool. Prior to joining SANDAG, Antoinette managed community and economic development programs in both San Diego and Seattle. Antoinette has received awards from the Association for Commuter Transportation, Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), Institute of Transportation Engineers and the International Parking Institute. She has been active in the San Diego chapters of the APA and WTS to promote the advancement of women in transportation.
Dave Richards, PA 2009, MPA 2014
Senior Management Analyst, City of El Cajon
Dave Richards began his public sector career as a volunteer for the City of Poway’s after-school program at the age of 14. He was hired by the City at age 16 in the Recreation Department where he worked for 17 years. Dave then promoted to the City Manager’s Management Assistant and later a Management Analyst. Dave currently works as the City of El Cajon City as a Senior Management Analyst/Risk Manager.. In both his positions at the cities of Poway and El Cajon, he has connected with his alma mater by managing the internship program and mentoring public administration majors and graduate students. Dave was selected as the Outstanding Student of the Year by the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts in 2009 and gave the commencement address. Dave returned to earn his MPA where he was the Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year in 2014.
Carolina Cardenas, MPA 2012
Director, Academic Preparation, Policies and Programs, CSU Chancellor’s Office
Carolina Cardenas began her career in higher education in 1985 as an outreach officer at UC Santa Cruz focusing on college eligibility for first generation and low-income students and culminating at CSU San Marcos as the Director of Outreach. Today, she serves as the Director of Academic Preparation, Policies and Programs for the California State University (CSU) Office of the Chancellor where she oversees partnerships with the California State Board of Education, and California Department of Education and is responsible for ensuring the high school community understands the academic preparation and placement policies. Prior to this position, Carolina served as the Chancellor’s Director of Academic Outreach and Early Assessment Program for the 23-campus California State University system making college education accessible to all graduating high school seniors. Carolina is the CSU representative on several statewide commission and task forces. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Education at California State Fullerton.
Helen Gao, MPA 2015
Communications Manager, SDG&E
Helen Gao is the communications manager for social media, web content and video at San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). In this capacity, she is responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing communications strategies, plans and programs through multiple channels to support SDG&E’s strategic goals and business objectives. Prior to working for SDG&E, Helen was a public information officer at the San Diego Association of Governments where she conducted public outreach and provided communications support for major infrastructure projects and long-term regional planning efforts, including the Mid-Coast Trolley Extension, the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry Project, and public transit improvements. In a previous career, Helen was an award-winning journalist who wrote for news outlets throughout California. Helen graduated from SDSU with a master’s degree in public administration.. An immigrant who came to America from China speaking no English,.
Brad Raulston, MPA 2018
Deputy City Manager/Planning Director, City of National City
Brad Raulston is the Deputy City Manager and Planning Director for the City of National City. Under his leadership, the City has received numerous awards including San Diego Architecture Foundation Orchids in 2017 and 2018 for architecture and placemaking; Circulate San Diego’s designation of San Diego’s Most Walkable City; and San Diego Housing Federation Ruby Awards for Excellence in Housing. Brad helped SDSU start the Sage Project where the university partners with local communities to provide sustainable learning through community-based projects. From 2013 through 2015 the Sage Project produced over 20 reports that focused over 2,000 students on projects in National City. Brad also coordinates the City’s internship program for public administration students and regularly serves as a guest lecturer.
Brad previously served as President of the Binational Organizing Committee, which organized a San Diego/Tijuana bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Jack McGrory, MPA 1976
CEO of La Jolla MJ Management, LLC, San Diego City Manager (Ret’d).
Jack McGrory currently serves as CEO of La Jolla MJ Management. Previous to this, Jack was Executive Vice President of Price Group and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Price Legacy Corporation. Before his private sector experience, Jack worked for 23 years at the City of San Diego. Beginning as a Personnel Trainee, he worked his way through the management ranks and served as City Manager from 1991 to 1997. As Past Chairman of the Campanile Foundation Board, he helped oversee the SDSU’s successful $750 million fundraising campaign. He also serves as the Chairman of the School of Public Affairs Task Force. He served as a lecturer for the School of Public Affairs for over 30 years. Jack earned his Law Degree from the University of San Diego, and is a member of the State Bar of California.
Richard Gittings, MPA 1977
City Manager, City of San Marcos (Ret’d)
Richard Gittings was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1973. After being released from active duty, he attended graduate school at SDSU, worked as an Administrative Assistant to the City Manager, and quickly promoted to Assistant City Manager. He left for two years to manage King City in the Salinas Valley, and returned to San Marcos in 1983 as City Manager where he stayed until his retirement in 2006. Richard accomplishments included securing placement of a California State University in the city, developing the Civic Center, and completing more than $400 million in public infrastructure improvements. Richard served as a Lecturer for the School of Public Affairs, and instructor at the Regional Training Center. Most recently, Richard served as the Interim CEO of the North County Economic Development Corporation and led the Prosperity on Purpose economic growth strategy.
Luci Romero Serlet, MPA 19__
Luci Romero Serlet’s 30 year public service career started as an Administrative Intern with the City of Coronado while working on her graduate degree. After graduation, she was hired as a Management Analyst with the newly incorporated City of Encinitas. She advanced in her career in local government serving the cities of Carlsbad, Solana Beach, and Newport Beach and also joined the cities of Temecula and Goleta directly after their incorporation. During her career, Luci served as Human Resources Manager, Finance Director, City Clerk, Assistant City Manager, and City Manager. Luci retired from public service as the City Manager of the City of Los Alamitos. She later joined the staff of a private sales tax consulting firm, providing services for city and county governments until her retirement in 2015. Luci continues to be connected to her alma mater by serving as a mentor to several students through the Aztec Mentor Program.
Mary Wright, MCP 1990
Vice President, Civic Solutions
Mary Wright’s environmental planning career started with an internship with WESTEC Services where she was later hired as an Environmental Analyst. In 1986, Mary began her 25-year career with the City of San Diego, where she worked in the Environmental Quality Division, and Planning Division. She also served as the City’s Livable Neighborhoods Coordinator focusing resources and attention on underserved communities. In 1997, Mary was appointed Deputy Director of Planning, responsible for directing long range planning activities and managing a 44-member division and an $8 million budget. In 2013, Mary returned to the private sector and currently serves as the Vice President of Civic Solutions. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the City Heights Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization working to improve the community’s quality of life and economic sustainability, and is Vice President of Marketing and Membership of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association.
The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.News List