I am very pleased to announce that Chet Hewitt, a leading expert in health and social services, begins his term as chair of the PPIC board of directors today. Chet’s distinguished record of public service and deep knowledge of the forces shaping our state make him an ideal leader for PPIC at this critical time. He will take over from Steven A. Merksamer, an acclaimed authority in government and administrative law, who will remain on the board. On behalf of the board and staff, I want to thank Steven for his extraordinary leadership.
Chet joined PPIC’s board of directors in 2016, having previously served on the PPIC Statewide Leadership Council. He is president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and its independent operating partner, the Center for Health Program Management. Since beginning his tenure in 2007, he has focused foundation investments on health disparities, health equity, and the healthy development and well-being of vulnerable youth. Before joining the foundation, he served for five years as the director of Alameda County’s Social Services Agency, where he is credited with transforming its failing child welfare system into a national model and using technology to improve the delivery of human services. Previously, he served as associate director for the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and established and managed its west coast regional office in San Francisco.
Chet is a frequent lecturer on philanthropy and public sector leadership and advises organizations across the nation on issues related to the transformation of public systems. He has received numerous awards, including the Terrance Keenan Leadership Award in Health Philanthropy, an Annie E. Casey Foundation Child and Family Leaders Fellowship, and the Grantland Johnson Intergovernmental Cooperation Award; he has also been named Administrator of the Year by Black Administrators in Child Welfare. In 2021, he was elected to the National Academy of Public Administration for his commitment and contributions to public service.
I am greatly looking forward to working with Chet in his new capacity, especially as California—and the nation—confront major changes in the months ahead.
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our newest board member, Sandra Celedon. Sandra serves as president and CEO for Fresno Building Healthy Communities—a coalition of residents, youth, and community-based organizations—and is responsible for guiding and supporting multi-sector, diverse stakeholder collaborations to foster and encourage thriving communities where all children and families can live healthy, safe, and productive lives. She adheres to public health principles, which recognize that all people must have access to the resources necessary for health, and that people and their physical environment are interdependent; when one is damaged it will have an adverse effect on the other. Therefore, she dedicates herself to building healthy communities.
Before joining Fresno Building Healthy Communities in 2013, she worked in numerous public health positions and served as the outreach and enrollment programs manager at Clinica Sierra Vista in Fresno. Over the years, she has developed several public health programs with special focus on prevention and primary care access. In 2020, she was elected as the vice-chair for the Fresno Commission on Police Reform—a 37-member commission comprising residents, advocates, and stakeholders assigned to develop recommendations to institute reform within the Fresno Police Department. At the beginning of the pandemic, she co-developed the COVID-19 Equity Project, a collaborative effort that included over 17 community-based organizations and more than 100 community health workers that provided prevention education, vaccinations, and resources to over 25,000 vulnerable community residents in Fresno County. With her support, the project has been replicated in two other counties. In 2022, she joined the PPIC board of directors. She received her degree in public health from California State University, Fresno.
The other members of the board are myself; Ophelia Basgal, affiliate, Terner Center for Housing Innovation, University of California, Berkeley; Louise Henry Bryson, chair emerita, Board of Trustees, J. Paul Getty Trust; A. Marisa Chun, judge, Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco; Phil Isenberg, former chair, Delta Stewardship Council; Mas Masumoto, author and farmer; Steven A. Merksamer, of counsel, Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP; Steven J. Olson, partner, O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Leon E. Panetta, chairman, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy; Gerald L. Parsky, chairman, Aurora Capital Group; Kim Polese, chairman and co-founder, CrowdSmart; Cassandra Walker Pye, president, Lucas Public Affairs; Helen Iris Torres, CEO, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality; Gaddi H. Vasquez, retired senior vice president, government affairs, Edison International, Southern California Edison.
I want to thank these dedicated Californians for their commitment to PPIC and to improving the well-being of our state’s people, communities, and environment. Today, our mission to inform and improve public policy through nonpartisan research and engagement is more critical than ever.