Board of Directors

Michele Martinez

michele_martinez_profileMichele Martinez’s passion for public service stems from her strong commitment to serving her community.  As one of the youngest to serve on the City Council, Michele brings new and positive energy to the City of Santa Ana.  Michele was elected to the City Council in November of 2006 and was re-elected for a second term in 2010.  Michele’s priorities on the council include economic development, public health, safety, and education.  Michele understands the importance of having a thriving economic base to support job creation and a healthy and safe community.

In addition to Michele’s public service, she has been named one of the 20 Women to Watch in Orange County in 2007 and was recognized as the Emerging Latina of the Year in 2007 by the National Latina Business Women Association. In 2008, Michele was the recipient of the Hispanic Influential award by the United Way of Orange County for her outstanding achievements and contributions to the community.

She is currently pursuing a Master Degree in Public Health at Cal State Fullerton. Michele is currently the Director of Alliance for a Healthy Orange County.  Michele enjoys spending her free time cycling and living a healthy life style.

Luis Ayala – Board President

luis_ayala_profileLuis Ayala is currently serving his second term as a member of the Alhambra City Council.

He has served as a staff member for Congress Member Xavier Becerra, then Speaker of the California State Assembly Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Member Marco Firebaugh and former City of Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn.

Luis, the oldest of four children of migrant farm workers, received a scholarship to play college football at Santa Clara University. He received a BA in History from Santa Clara and a Masters in Planning, Administration and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He is the Director of Government Affairs for the Los Angeles County Medical Association, a professional association representing physicians. Ayala was reelected, unopposed, to City Council last fall. He lives in Alhambra with his wife and two children.

Paul de la Cerda, MBA


Paul De La Cerda was elected to the Saugus Union School District Board of Trustees in November 2005 and was re-elected to his second and third in 2009 and 2011, respectively. He currently serves as Board President and was the first Latino elected official on its school board located in the third largest city in Los Angeles County.

Paul holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering and Master of Business Administration, from Oklahoma State University, where he was an All-American and NCAA Champion athlete. He also obtained an Executive Management Degree from University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

He was the founding Director of the College of the Canyons Small Business Development Center and creator of the local Santa Clarita Valley Business Journal where he served as VP of Operations and Marketing and founder of the Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Committee.

Currently, he serves as a Dean of Academic Affairs for the Los Angeles Community College District at East LA College where he is a powerful advocate for career technical education, STEM and entrepreneurship. Paul is committed to public service and a role model for young people in both his professional and personal life.

He lives with his wife, Andrea, in Santa Clarita where they also own a small business and together raise their four children.

Sandra Salazar, MD

sandra_salazar_profileSalazar was elected to the Cerritos College Board of Trustees in November. She is the daughter of a gardener and a domestic worker who instilled in her a commitment to community, family and faith at an early age. She holds a BA from Wellesley College and a Doctorate of Medicine from St. Louis University in Missouri. She also completed a year-long research fellowship at Mayo Medical Clinic where she conducted cancer research and then finished her medical training at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles.

Sandra serves on the board of EQUITAS Academy Charter School and is a member of Norwalk Lions Club.

Sandra is a family medicine physician and works in the Southeast Los Angeles County area. She lives with her partner Enrique in Norwalk with their new baby.

Aide Castro

Aide Castro was elected to the Lynwood City Council in 2007 and selected by her colleagues to serve as Mayor Pro-Tem. Castro has served as Mayor twice, in 2010 and 2014. She credits her election to her community organizing effort, which assisted in the selection of a new legislative body. Two of her key principles she emphasized in her effort was proficiency and responsiveness.

She is a proud Pink Hat member of the Regal Red Hat Society, Lynwood Chapter, and a member of Rotary International. She has been involved in fundraising for underprivileged local residents and groups and also hosts an annual Mother’s Day event in her home. She is very proud to be of Latino decent and represents her community by being a member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the NALEO Educational Fund.

Victor Abalos

Executive Director

victor_abalos_profileVictor spent more than twenty years as a print and broadcast journalist working in Central America in the late 80’s covering the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua then here in this country working as a producer for CBS News, ABC News, Fox News and the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour. His last news job was in 2000 when he served as News Director for the Telemundo station in Los Angeles.

Starting in 2007, Victor served as Special Communications Consultant to then-LAUSD Superintendent David L. Brewer. He counseled the Superintendent on public affairs issues, crisis communications and worked to improve internal communications for the school district.

Before that Victor served for two and-a-half years as Director of Public Affairs for First 5 LA, a non-profit agency that concentrates on health, education and safety issues for young children.

At NALEO, Victor developed and implemented communications strategies that propelled the organization into the international spotlight when both presidential candidates spoke at the organization’s 2012 summer conference.

As Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships for California Forward, a nonprofit focused on state government reform, Victor lead a statewide team of public affairs professionals building a network of organizations supporting a reform agenda.

He is currently a Principal at JVA Group, a strategic communications consulting agency.


Ron Garcia

ron_garcia_profileRon is a Founding and Ex Officio Board Member. He wrapped up nearly 15 years of public service last year when he announced his retirement from the Brea City Council by choosing not to run for another term. During his tenure as a council member he served as Mayor of the Orange County City twice. Ron also serves on the NALEO Board of Directors and several other boards and commissions including SCAG and the National League of Cities.

Ron is retired from Fannie Mae where he held the position of Senior Deputy Director. His education includes a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; with a minor in Finance, from the University of Redlands. Ron is a veteran of the United States Navy, where he completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was recently awarded the Veteran of the Year Award for the 72nd Assembly District. Ron and his wife Marcy have lived in Brea for 38 years. They have one daughter, Jessica; one son, Ron; and three grandchildren.



Who Can Join? The Southern California Latino Policy Center is open to any Latino elected official in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino or Riverside Counties representing a city, school board, special district, community college or other “public entity” as recognized by the State of California. For the purposes of membership, Public Entities are identified as, “any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a local government.” This does not include associations, committees or commissions where members are appointed or volunteer. Members must be elected by eligible California voters through a state or county sanctioned election. Members must also be current elected officials.


Members of the Southern California Latino Policy Center will have access to some of the most up-to-date research and information available to policymakers. In addition, that research will be produced and formatted especially for local policymakers ensuring they can effectively access and utilize it. Members will also be able to participate in regular Policy Forums where they get the opportunity to do a “deeper dive” into the issues and hear from the experts and professionals that work in the field and are on the front lines of those issues. In addition, members will have access to subject matter experts that can provide a better understanding of the issues and give them more focused attention. This access will come digitally through conference calls and webinars. And there will also be opportunities for one-on-one sessions. The Latino Policy Center will also produce regular Membership Development Workshops available only to members. These workshops will focus on topics and issues that will increase policymaker “capacity” – supporting their efforts to be more effective leaders.

Topics will include:

  • Hiring effective public executives (superintendents, city managers, etc.)
  • How to use outside legal services more efficiently
  • Campaign finance law updates
  • Effective constituent outreach
  • Ethical leadership
  • Successful Social Media strategies