Meet the West Center team

West Center Team

People who care can bring about great change. It starts small, with a conversation or two, but soon flourishes into discovery and then achievement. As a team, we support our clients from wherever they start. We build economic prosperity one small business at a time.

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Mary Anne Petrillo

CEO of West Business Development Center

Mary Anne Petrillo

Mary Anne Petrillo is West Center’s third Executive Director in its 30-year history. She was hired in 2017 to build the organization’s capacity and deliver new programs. Over the course of the past four years, Ms. Petrillo has expanded training, added a team of specialized business advisors, and developed unique programs that include disaster preparation, business accelerator training, and Centro Latino West, a targeted Spanish language resource program. Under her leadership, the West Center team has not only grown but has expanded its vision to encompass leadership in the county’s economic development planning and execution.

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Jo Williams

Director of Operations

Jo Williams

As West Center’s Director of Operations and HR specialist, Jo has a hand in all aspects of managing the organization. Her background in teaching, working in the corporate world, and nonprofit management makes Jo a West Center administrative superstar. Jo focuses much of her attention on capturing and reporting on the economic impact data that guides the organization’s development. She is highly diligent, processing and reviewing grant compliance and as well as maintaining staff files to ensure adherence to our goals and guidelines. Jo is the engineer who keeps West Center’s well-oiled machine running!

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Laura Brooks

Director of Strategic Programs

Laura Brooks

Hailing from the Bay Area, Laura returned to her roots in Mendocino County, making the north coast her home once again, and joined the West Center team as the Director of Strategic Programs/WBC Director. Her years of experience building relationships, developing training programs, and managing teams has made her the ideal person to manage West Center’s expansion of core training and specialty programs. Helping businesses succeed, and women’s businesses in particular, is very close to her heart and being in service to the larger community is at the core of her life’s purpose. She is passionate about the work and dedicated to helping others grow as individuals and as communities.

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Alison de Grassi

Director of Marketing

Alison de Grassi

Alison’s nine years with Visit Mendocino County as the Director of Marketing and Media make her the ideal person to get the word out about West Center. Her work to promote the county as a tourist destination took her all over the county and gave her the opportunity to meet many tourism-related small business owners in that endeavor. She now takes advantage of those connections to create marketing campaigns that highlight the hard work and dedication of Mendocino County’s small business owners. Alison’s work experience in law, instructional design, performing arts management, publishing, and marketing all inform her work. Alison serves on the board of the School for Performing Arts and Cultural Education in Ukiah.

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Steve Lamb

Client Services Manager

Steve Lamb

Like many SBA business advisors, Steve was first a client with West Center seeking support for marketing and sales activities for his small business venture. Recognizing his long experience in the telecommunications industry and many local connections, West invited Steve to first consult with clients in 2012 and in 2016, he became a full-time Client Services Advisor. On a daily basis, Steve interacts with small business owner clients who are seeking business advice and assistance on a wide array of topics. Steve’s areas of expertise include business start-ups and talent recruitment, operations, budgeting, development of pricing models, and financing.

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Kevin Williams

Senior Client Services Manager

Kevin Williams

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in Fortune 100 companies, Kevin Williams, West Center’s Senior Client Services Manager, has what it takes to help small business owners be their best. He was a co-founder and managing partner of FutureDecisions LLC, spending nine years working primarily with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and the private sector consulting on career planning, workforce succession planning, strategic planning, generational challenges, human resources, and leadership coaching. At the West Business Development Center, his areas of expertise include human resources, operational issues, and general business dynamics. In his five years as an advisor with West Center, Kevin has assisted hundreds of clients launch and grow their business operations.

Paloma Patterson VIEW BIO

Paloma Patterson

Business Development Manager

Paloma Patterson

Paloma Patterson joined West Center as Business Development Manager in January 2021. Her role in the organization is to develop a funding strategy, contribute to organizational development to increase productivity, and support the Board of Directors’ engagement. She works closely with West Center’s CEO to oversee the technical operations and implement West’s business development plan. A native of Mendocino County, Paloma has a Master’s of Art degree in Leadership Studies with an emphasis in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego, and a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fundraising School, a program of The Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Lillian Rubie VIEW BIO

Lillian Rubie

Customer Care Specialist

Lillian Rubie

As West Center’s Customer Care Specialist, Lillian is the first person that West Center clients encounter. She is well-versed in answering all kinds of questions about West Center’s services and impact. Lillian first came to West as a client seeking advice when she was starting her photography and illustration business. This experience makes her uniquely poised to understand the first steps that every business owner needs to take when launching their business. In addition to her work with West Center, Lillian is a founding member of the Deep Valley Arts Collective and serves on the Board of Directors for the Arts Council of Mendocino County.

Kelly Gieser VIEW BIO

Kelly Gieser

Event Coordinator

Kelly Gieser

Kelly is a Bay Area native who hopped on the remote work bandwagon to live the dream life in Fort Bragg. With a background in construction project management, Kelly is excited to lend her experience to WBDC as an Event Coordinator to bring educational webinars and entrepreneurial programs to Mendocino County.

Advisors

West Center’s advisors come from a wide array of career paths. They use their specialized knowledge to help our small business community grow and thrive.

Advisor Paula McDonnell VIEW BIO

Paula McDonell

Marketing & Market Research

Paula McDonell

Originally from Australia, Paula has worked and lived in six countries over her 35+ years’ career in Market and Social Research, Marketing and academia. In addition to her professional knowledge and skills, her global experiences have broadened her understanding of both business and consumer behaviors and she brings these insights to her strategic work with clients.

Paula has a MPH and a M. Bus. (Marketing) and is a co-author of several journal articles. She is a graduate of the Leadership Mendocino program and is a Board member of the Redwood Coast Seniors’ Center, Fort Bragg.

Advisor Baqi Kopelman VIEW BIO

Baqi Kopelman

Marketing & Advertising

Baqi Kopelman

Baqi Kopelman began his career in Hollywood as a Director of Photography for commercials and films. He went on to become a Creative Director and Producer, before turning his attention to helping brands and businesses market their services and products. He has worked with thousands of clients, from major brands to small businesses and individuals, creating content, marketing and communication strategies to boost their businesses and raise capital.

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Lisa McCormack

Human Resources

Lisa McCormack

Lisa McCormack has over 30 years as an HR practitioner and leader.  She works with small businesses to make HR “manageable” by providing practical solutions to everyday and complex people challenges. Lisa’s strength lies in forging strong relationships with clients.  Working for highly successful organizations such as Intel Corporation and numerous venture-backed start-ups has resulted in a pragmatic approach to problem solving and conflict resolution, which produces practical solutions and effective results. Prior to co-founding Affogato HR Consulting, LLC, Lisa spent fourteen years at the Melita Group, where she built and led the HR Consulting practice.  Lisa has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from San Jose State University and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

Anni Minuzzo VIEW BIO

Anni Minuzzo

Specialty Foods

Anni Minuzzo

As a dedicated food industry specialist, Anni has worked with multiple Northern CaliforniaSBDCs since 2005 during which time she has assisted hundreds of food and beverage entrepreneurs, taught insightful workshops, and created dozens of success stories.

After spending two years in Italy studying cultural cuisine, Anni worked with Williams-Sonoma to launch Il Fornaio, designed commercial kitchens, managed catered events, and was on the launch team of a unique food emporium in San Francisco before starting her own wholesale baking company which grew to an international business. During this time she developed a broad network of professional associations and a wide lens on the pulse of the industry’s constantly evolving trends.

Anni is devoted to assisting SBDC clients with the fundamentals of getting started in thespecialty food business, helping them expand, and fulfilling their business dreams.

Board

Our Board serves to guide the organization as it moves through growth and change. Each Board member brings their perspective and life experiences to their role.

Paul Garza VIEW BIO

Paul Garza

Board Chair

Paul Garza

Paul retired to Mendocino County in 2013 after a career of 40 years in economic and community development. His broad-based experience included substantial work in small business development, an essential element of West Center’s core mission. He has worked for government agencies, community colleges, non-profits, corporations and his own consulting firm. His professional career included work in El Salvador, Mexico, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

His previous non-profit experience includes board leadership for Centro Latino Literacy, United Way’s Somos Familia, Neighborhood Housing Services of Orange County, California Community Colleges Contract Education Committee, and has been a member of Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Healthy Smiles, TELACU Community Capital, CSU Fullerton School of Education Advancement Board, Santa Ana Empowerment Zone and Orange County Innovation.

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Michelle Hutchins

Chair-Elect

Michelle Hutchins

Michelle Hutchins is the Superintendent of Schools for the Mendocino County Office of Education. She was elected in 2018 after spending 24 years in education. Her experience includes having been an art and technology teacher, the director of adult and alternative programs, a university instructor, a principal, and a superintendent in two rural school districts.

In her role as County Superintendent of Schools, Michelle brings her experience to bear as she oversees the regulatory administration and educational support services for all school districts in Mendocino County. She embraces and embodies the Mendocino County Office of Education’s motto, “Success for All Students.”

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Dr. Timothy Karas

Treasurer

Dr. Timothy Karas

Dr. Karas has spent the last two decades working in the California Community College system. Prior to serving as the President at the College of Alameda, he held the position of Vice-President of Instruction. Previous positions held include Dean of Liberal Studies and Language Arts at Mission College and tenured faculty member at College of San Mateo. Since 2020, he has been the Superintendent/President for the Mendocino-Lake Community College District.

Dr. Karas has served on several community boards, committees, and commissions, including Rotary, the City of San Jose Library Commission, Bond and Parcel Tax Citizen Oversight Committees, and the Santa Clara County Sister County Commission. Dr. Karas co-authored a chapter in the book Campus Partnership in Small Academic Libraries: Challenges and Rewards.

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Karen Arnold

Mendocino Coast Clinics, Human Resources Manager

Karen Arnold

Karen has more than 25 years of senior leadership experience in all aspects of Human Resources, Organization Development and Leadership Development. She has created and led an organizational development and training department, and has significant experience in workforce/succession planning, change management, team building, leadership development, training and strategic planning.

Ms. Arnold was previously Managing Partner in FutureDecisions, a company that provides cutting edge succession planning programs, training, and retirement transition workshops. In collaboration with Sacramento State University, FutureDecisions provides a Workforce/Succession Planning Program designed specifically to fit the needs of the public sector.

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Honorable Gerry Gonzalez

Secretary

Honorable Gerry Gonzalez

Gerry currently serves on the Willits City Council and was the former Chief of Police for the City of Willits for 13 years retiring in December of 2016. Prior to his retirement he served as a Police Officer, Police Sergeant, and Police Captain before becoming the Chief of Police. In total, Gerry served the Willits community for 30-plus years as a law enforcement Officer.

In addition to the City Council, Gerry currently serves on the Governing Board of Adventist Health Howards Hospital in Willits, is a Board member of the Willits Kid’s Club, and is a member of the Willits Rotary Club. He has been a past board member of the Willits Unified School Board and the Little Lake Fire Board. Gerry holds a Bachelors of Arts in Business Management and Criminal Justice Management from Sonoma State University. He currently resides in Willits with his wife Barbarie who teaches Kindergarten at Brookside Elementary in Willits. Gerry and his wife have two adult children.

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Dr. David Pai

Mendocino College, Associate Professor of Computer Science

Dr. David Pai

David moved to Ukiah in 2014 to take the Professor in Computer Science position at Mendocino College. Before joining Mendocino College, David earned a Doctorate in Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2006 and taught Information Technology and Computer Science courses within the University of Hawaii System at both Honolulu Community College and the University of Hawaii—West Oahu. David’s experience includes 15 years in research and development in the aerospace industry, primarily exploring new derivative product opportunities. He has joined the board of the West Business Development Center because he believes developing small businesses is key to the County’s economic success. He has earned degrees in Mechanical Engineering (Bachelors), Business Administration (Masters) and Communication and Information Sciences (Doctorate).

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Jim Roberts

Owner, The Madrones & The Brambles

Jim Roberts

Jim Roberts has been a resident of Mendocino County for more than 25 years. In 1997 he founded Taylor Roberts, a design firm located in Philo offering services to regional and national home builders on the west coast. The creative think tank garnered regional and national attention with gold awards in The Nationals, platinum BALA awards, and a Gold Nugget award for design and architecture.

Jim is currently an owner/operator of The Madrones and The Brambles, two travel destinations in Mendocino county, as well as co-owner of Wickson Restaurant, The Bohemian Chemist, Sun & Cricket and Sugar Hill Farm. A lifelong entrepreneur, he is vested in the economic development of Mendocino County with a focus on building the regions tourism marketshare while being vested in bettering the quality of life for local residents and supporting fellow stakeholders.

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Honorable John Haschak

Mendocino County 3rd District Supervisor

Honorable John Haschak

Raised in Willits, John Haschak attended UCLA where he majored in History and Political Science. John also graduated from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. After his return to the Mendocino County, he worked as a parent involvement coordinator with Migrant Head Start before teaching Spanish at Willits High School. John chaired the statewide Budget Committee of the California Teachers Association. He was elected 7 times to this position. He also was elected Chair of the Redwood Service Center representing 106 local chapters of the California Teachers Association from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. John is now Supervisor for District Three, Mendocino County.

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Honorable Glenn McGourty

Mendocino County 1st District Supervisor

Honorable Glenn McGourty

First District Supervisor Glenn McGourty has been involved in science and agriculture his entire life. His family owned a walnut farm in Paso Robles. And when Glenn left for college, he focused on plant science, earning a bachelor’s degree in botany at Humboldt State and a master’s degree in plant, soil, and water science at the University of Nevada Reno. Out of college, he worked as an urban horticulturist in Las Vegas, applying the principles of science to help city dwellers with urban landscapes and gardens. In 1987, he became the Winegrowing and Plant Science Farm Advisor for Lake and Mendocino Counties for the University of California Cooperative Extension. He was seated on the Board of Supervisors in January 2021.

Financials

As an authorized nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, West Center makes financial reporting available to the public. All of our financial and reporting documents are available by following the link below or by calling our office at 707-964-7571.

See Financials