Board of Directors

Saint John’s Program for Real Change is currently governed by a 17-member Board of Directors. Board members share their extensive experience running businesses and organizations in varying sectors of the economy to help Saint John’s run efficiently and effectively while keeping the best interests of our clients top of mind. Saint John’s recruits board members in the spring and fall. If you are interested in seeking a board position, please email Julie Hirota at info@saintjohnsprogram.org for more information.

Meet the Board


Julie Hirota

CEO Saint John’s Program for Real Change

Julie Hirota is an accomplished business executive and CEO for Saint John’s Program for Real Change. She has more than 25 years of extensive leadership and operational experience in private, public and non-profit sectors driving meaningful outcomes. Hirota’s extensive career experience includes: advocacy, fundraising, finance, community relations, and managing multi-million dollar operations.

Before joining Saint John’s Program for Real Change, Hirota served as the Chief Operations Officer for UC Davis Biomedical Engineering, advancing educational and research objectives.

In her early years, Julie held a successful engineering career in the tech sector with Fortune 100 companies followed by creating a retail business and starting her family. Her family and efforts led her to mission-driven work in the non-profit sector as both an executive and board member.

Her passion for helping communities has driven Julie to volunteer and serve on boards for causes relating to life-skills development, independent living and education. She serves as a board member on the Sacramento region’s Continuum of Care and the City of Sacramento Homeless Assistance Task Force. She also serves as an elected board of education trustee for the Roseville Joint Union High School District and pursues legislative change related to protecting children.

Julie holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from University of CA at Davis. She is married with two children, two dogs, and loves to trail run.

Laura Hewitt

Board Chair

Laura Hewitt has over thirty years of professional and volunteer work in the philanthropic, public, and nonprofit sectors, focused on improving the lives of children and families in California and nationally. She has served as Executive Director of a partnership between public agencies, foundations and nonprofits to reduce youth violence in Oakland through systemic change, coordinated operations for a multi-site national welfare reform project, and served as the Planning and Special Projects Manager for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth and Families. Her volunteer work has included chairing the Board of the Napa Valley Education Foundation, as well as leadership positions on the boards of several nonprofits serving children and families in the Bay Area and Sacramento. She is also a member of the Sacramento Chapter of The Links, Inc and volunteers her time to support the strategic planning and resource development needs of the Simmons Community Center in South Sacramento.

Laura has a B.A. in American Studies and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University. She and her husband, Chet, have two teenage sons.

Board Members

Since 2018, Amanda has served as President and CEO of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (Metro Chamber). As the first full-time female President and CEO in the 128+ year history of the organization, her five years of leadership have created record breaking performance financially, politically, reputationally, and culturally within her own organization as well as over $250 Million dollars in direct economic impact to the region she represents, an 87%-win rate for her PAC.

As a senior fellow of both the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program & American Leadership Forum she is dedicated to intentional growth, candid dialog, and ensuring that those who want to build a better future have a seat at the table. Her commitment to industry leading results while embracing authentic DEI has resulted in the first ever all female C-Suite (or she suite!) in her organization and 50%+ female representation on the governing boards of the Metro Chamber, Metro Chamber Foundation, and the MetroPAC for the first time in history.

For almost a decade, Amanda has also been the Managing Partner of OE Consulting Group, an organizational effectiveness consulting firm that works with public, private, and nonprofit clients.

Amanda served for almost four years as the Chief Development Officer of Elevation Entertainment, a California card room owner/operator, successfully empowering a 700+ diverse statewide workforce.

Prior to that she served as Chief Financial Officer for Folsom Asset Management for over six years, working with a team of other young women and a custom tech solution to create, scale, fund and manage a residential and commercial real estate fund valued at over $100M in assets in three markets and 13 active partnerships all while winning “The Best Place to Work Award” from the Sacramento Business Journal and having two little girls along the way.

Amanda is highly decorated in her field winning the “2023 National 40 Under 40 Economic Developer of the Year Award”; Jorgenson Consulting/DCI Partners, “2013 & 2022 Best Place to Work Award”, “2020 Most Admired CEO Award”, “2020 Women That Mean Business Award”; Sacramento Business Journal, “2020 National 40 Under 40 Executives”; Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and others.

Amanda’s passion, tenacity, and drive extends beyond the professional. As a wife and mom to two young girls, Amanda’s personal life intentionally embodies the perseverance, strength, and inspiration it takes to create authentic and genuine change. Coupled with her enthusiasm to debate the tough policy issues facing the region, openly discussing the reality of mental health challenges, or calling out the disfunction of a status quo approach in a rapidly changing world – all while enjoying a great glass of bourbon – Amanda doesn’t shy away from much.

Kimberly Bleichner-Jones is the Associate Chief Operating Officer at UC Davis Health, where she has worked since 2001. She is responsible for providing strategic direction, executive-level leadership, and operational oversight for UC Davis Medical Center.

Kimmie is active in the community and involved in various community organizations. In addition to serving on the board for Saint John’s Program for Real Change, she serves as board chair for Sacramento Sierra/UC Davis Rehabilitation Hospital. She is a member of Women United, United Way – California Capital Region, and Impact100 Greater Sacramento.

Kimmie received her B.S. in organizational behavior and leadership from University of San Francisco, and her M.B.A. from Wayne State College. She is board certified in healthcare management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

She and her husband, Jake, reside in Lincoln with their two daughters.

Erin Cabelera, Pharm.D. is the Area Pharmacy Director in the South Sacramento service area of Kaiser Permanente. Erin holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from University of the Pacific and a Master’s in Public Administration from Arkansas State University.

She resides in Carmichael with her partner Liesel and two adorable dogs (Nelson and Hazy) that moved in when their kids (Aidan and Lize-Lee) left for college. Erin enjoys working out, traveling, and even doing absolutely nothing – as long as it’s with Liesel.

Daisy Castellón is a Vice President at Lucas Public Affairs (LPA), a leading California-based public affairs partner with the state’s leading foundations, nonprofits, businesses, and government entities to strategically navigate the crossroads of policy, politics and communications on the issues that define California’s future.

She provides strategic communications, media relations and social media counsel to clients in industries such as philanthropy, public health, technology, and education. She is instrumental in leading LPA’s equity and civic work ranging from broadband access to homelessness and housing issues.

Daisy has led high-profile campaigns, including managing the first-ever Governor’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s, where she oversaw the development of a comprehensive policy roadmap for how the state can lead the fight for families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. She also spearheaded a legislative strategy for transforming California’s financial aid system to provide more access to higher education for low-income Californians.
Through her work, Daisy has demonstrated the ability to assess complex policy issues, identify key audiences and create compelling messaging that resonates with diverse communities throughout the state.

Before joining LPA, Daisy worked at Imprenta Communications, focusing on outreach to multicultural and bilingual populations. She played an integral role in leading the California Endowment’s Northern California Building Healthy Communities Initiative, a $1 billion campaign to advance statewide policy, change the narrative and transform communities with high rates of health inequities into places where all people and neighborhoods thrive. Daisy provided digital, social and media training for grantees and partners. She previously interned in the California State Assembly, conducting legislative research, managing monthly newsletters and creating social media content.

Daisy is fluent in Spanish and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government–Journalism from California State University, Sacramento.

Community and Civic Involvement:

• Senior Fellow, American Leadership Forum – Mountain Valley (Class XXVI)
• Board member, She Shares

Cara is a strategic marketing and communications leader with more than 20 years’ experience developing and executing successful marketing, communications, media, social media, digital engagement, and crisis communications strategies that strengthen brand and reputation, increase program enrollment and support key business objectives.

As SMUD’s Director of Marketing & Corporate Communications, Cara has responsibility for the utility’s marketing, market research, branding, corporate communications, website, video services, social media, crisis communications, speech writing and public affairs activities.

Her team’s work is critical to showcasing SMUD locally and on the state and national stages as the undisputed authority on how to decarbonize aggressively, safely, affordably, reliably and equitably.

Cara joined SMUD in 2012 as a Public Information Specialist II and became the Manager of Corporate Communications in 2014.

Before SMUD, Cara held communications management positions at Sydney Water in Sydney, Australia and at Western Power in Perth, Australia.

She was recently recognized as one of Ragan Communications’ Top Women in Communications and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Brock University in Ontario, Canada.

Dave Cloninger is a Vice President and Financial Advisor in Merrill Lynch’s Sacramento office and is a Principal in The Cloninger Group, one of Merrill Lynch’s premier Private Wealth Advisory Teams in the Central Valley, specializing in advising affluent families and solving their complex financial issues. He has been with Merrill Lynch since 2006.

Dave is also an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Downtown Sacramento. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. His major was in International Relations with a minor in German. Dave also played three years on UOP’s varsity baseball team under athletic scholarship.

Dave is a 52-year resident of Sacramento and lives in the East Sacramento area with his three children. Dave is an avid soccer coach, assisting with his 11-year-old son’s soccer and baseball teams. He most enjoys spending time and traveling with his family, as well as golfing, hiking, or most any outdoor activity.

Kimberlie Hiltachk is the founder of Hiltachk Marketing Group, a full service advertising agency based in Sacramento. Kim’s expertise in brand and marketing strategy has been integral to the success of both large and small organizations including airports, trade associations, health systems and tourism destinations, among others. 

Kim received her B.A. in Communications from Sacramento State University and completed the 4A’s Agency Management Development Program. In addition to serving on the board of Saint John’s Program for Real Change, she is a member of the AAF Sacramento Advertising Club and Sacramento Metro Chamber, and a sustaining member of the Sacramento Junior League. She was also named to the Sacramento Business Journal’s 40 under 40 in 2013.

Kristine has over 25 years of human resources experience, and launched her own HR Consulting firm in October 2015. Kristine Hyde HR Consulting still operates with a team of HR professionals providing expertise to a wide range of customers focused on aligning business processes, practices and talent for a variety of industries. Kristine is also a co-owner of two Drybar franchise locations in Sacramento and Roseville. She is a certified Senior Professional of Human Resources, or SPHR, Senior Certified Professional with the Society of Human Resources Management, a California Certified SPHR-CA from the Human Resources Certification Institute, and she holds a Certificate of Human Resources Management from Sacramento State. Kristine graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Communications from University of Southern California, and she is a graduate of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Sacramento. She is a former Board President of St. Michael’s Episcopal Day School.

Ed Manning is one of California’s leading lobbyists on energy, resource, tort liability and environmental issues. He has successfully led efforts to overhaul construction defect liability, Brownfields redevelopment laws, CEQA in the context of climate change and the effort to build new water conveyance. His clients include developers and homebuilders, energy companies, water and energy agencies, the wine industry and myriad other business interests. He is dedicated to successful client outcomes through the development of sound policy and political strategies.

He serves on the Board of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce as Vice Chair for Public Policy. He also is a member of the Sacramento Metro Chamber PAC and California Asian Chamber of Commerce.

John Petrovich is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, where he uses technology and business transformation to help state governments across the country better serve their citizens. He focuses primarily on Unemployment Insurance modernization and is on Deloitte’s national Labor and Workforce leadership team. He’s been providing consulting services to clients for over 35 years.

John holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Purdue University. He’s the proud father of four adult children (who are scattered across the country) and lives in West Sacramento with his husband, Wilfren.

Kevin is responsible for managing the investment decisions for a 25+ million square foot commercial real estate portfolio valued at more than $2.5 billion and oversees the development of approximately $75 to $100 million projects annually. The portfolio assets are primarily located in the Central Valley of Northern California, and El Paso, Texas. He is responsible for overseeing new investments and development projects, transaction execution, and portfolio asset management. Kevin has been an integral part of Buzz Oates since 1995.

Prior to joining Buzz Oates, he worked for eight years with the Capital Markets Group of CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) where he specialized in the placement of debt and equity capital investments with institutional investors. Kevin has over 30 years of experience and extensive relationships in the Northern California Commercial Real Estate industry. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Nevada, Reno, in Corporate Finance and Real Estate, and is a Licensed California Real Estate Broker. He also holds memberships with NAIOP, ULI, the Association of Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) and Lambda Alpha International. He is also on the Board of Directors for Power Inn Alliance, Five Star Bank and is a past Board Chairman of Jesuit High School.  

Kevin is a bilateral below-the-knee amputee; however he strives to be as active as possible. Outside the office, he enjoys traveling, hiking, cycling, and snow skiing. Additionally, he is a fan of the 49ers, Giants and Sacramento Kings. Kevin resides in the Gold River area of Sacramento County with his wife of over 30 years, Kathleen. They have four children Nicolaus, Frank, Carlin, and Kristen.

Mark A. Wiese is the President of Pacific Housing, Inc., a California non-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to the mission of developing quality affordable housing and affordable housing resident service programs. Pacific Housing plays an integral role in over 130 affordable housing communities throughout California that total approximately 18,000 apartment homes. Mark has been involved in real estate development, financing and management for 35 years.


He has considerable real estate development experience, as well as, experience in Redevelopment Agency Participation, Municipal Finance Placement, Tax Credit Financing, and HOME and HUD Financing Programs. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in Real Estate from San Diego State University. He resides in Sacramento with his wife, Molly. They have three adult children.

A graduate of the University of California, Davis, with a B.S. degree in mathematics and computer science, Michele was with Synergex International Corporation from 1982 until retiring from Synergex in 2017. She began as a systems programmer, and then rapidly progressed through the positions of project leader and vice president of software development. She was promoted to executive vice president in late 1984, achieved the position of president in November 1990, and was named CEO in December 1996. Under
Michele’s leadership, Synergex grew from a 20-employee, one-product firm into an internationally recognized software manufacturer with a wide range of products installed in all 50 states and more than 80 nations. Michele continues to be involved
with Synergex as a director and shareholder.

Michele has been named one of the “Best and Brightest in Sacramento” by Sacramento Magazine, Sacramento’s 2006 Businesswoman of the Year by the Sacramento Metro Chamber, and one of the “Women Who Mean Business” by Sacramento Magazine in 2007. She was honored by Jr. Achievement of Sacramento in the 2008 Sacramento Business Hall of Fame, and was chosen Woman Innovator of the Year by Northstate Innovate in 2013.

Michele is deeply immersed in the Sacramento community, and has served in leadership positions on boards that include American Leadership Forum, Saint John’s Program for Real Change, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, KVIE Channel 6, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Her current pet project is the Museum of Science and Curiosity (MOSAC) – the future home of the Powerhouse Science Center. Michele is currently the Executive Director. She has served on the board of directors since 2006 and co-chaired the capitol campaign for the new $84 million MOSAC campus.

Michele’s support for the region drove Synergex to create the wholly-owned Synergex Ventures, which in 2011 made a strategic investment in clean-tech startup CleanWorld. As CleanWorld’s president and CEO, Michele has led CleanWorld’s commercialization of a High Solids Anaerobic Digestion technology that was developed at UC Davis to convert organic waste to renewable energy. CleanWorld has since built 3 commercial BioDigester facilities, including a facility on the UC Davis campus which processes up to 20,000 tons per year of campus food and agricultural waste, as well as waste from the surrounding community, to create electricity for the campus grid.

Michele lives in Fair Oaks with her husband Tony. They have three adult children and 2 grandchildren