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Board of Directors

Celebrating a Decade of Leadership
Board chairs of the last ten years on why The Center matters

The Center's board of directors meets together as a full group six times a year (September, October, November, February, March, April, June) for business meetings, strategic progress review and planning sessions. Board committees meet monthly to pursue the more detailed work of the organization and the board.

The public is welcome and invited to attend Center board meetings, with the exception of the small portion of the session dedicated to personnel matters (executive session.) Because the meetings are from 6:30pm to 8:30pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month, the board has ensured that the beginning of each meeting includes opportunity for public comment and questions, allowing those unable or uninterested in staying for a full meeting an opportunity to participate or offer comment without having to make a full  two hour commitment.

Please feel free to contact The Center’s CEO at for any further information you may require or to confirm meeting times or dates.

Board Officers

Dale Kelly Bankhead  - CO-CHAIR

Dale Kelly Bankhead is the political and legislative director for San Diego-Imperial County Labor Council. Prior to that she served as deputy chief of staff for Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, assistant director of government and media relations for Family Health Centers, budget committe consultant to the City of San Diego and director of public affairs for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.


Richard Valdez - CO-CHAIR

Richard Valdez is a partner in the legal firm of Sandler, Lasry, Laube, Byer & Valdez. Over the past decade, he has represented business and property owners in over 125 cases involving claims of disability access. Richard has been a part-time instructor for USD Paralegal's Program for 13 years, and an instructor with the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.  He has served on the San Diego County Bar Association's Judicial Evaluation Committee for 4 years and as a member of the California State Bar Standing Committee on Legal Services for Persons with Disabilities.

In addition, Richard has served on the boards of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Centers of San Diego.

G. Joyce Rowland - VICE CHAIR

G. Joyce Rowland is senior vice president of human resources for Sempra Energy. Prior to that, she served as vice president of human resources and chief ethics officer of Pacific Enterprises, the parent company of SoCalGas.

Joyce holds a Master's degree in business administration, with a concentration in industrial relations, and a Bachelor's degree in psychology from UCLA. A board member of the San Diego Better Business Bureau and the Equality California Institute, she is also an active member in a number of professional groups, including the Society for Human Resource Management, World at Work and Anthem Blue Cross of California's consumer relations committee.

Simonne Ruff - VICE CHAIR

Simonne Ruff is the director of the San Diego Program at Corporation for Supportive Housing.  She currently directly oversees the San Diego Program’s work in Southern California, including San Diego, Imperial and Orange Counties.  She directly engages in training, Technical Assistance, lending, and advocacy work that creates permanent housing with services to prevent and end homelessness. Prior to her relocation to San Diego, Simonne worked at Neighborhood Link/Senior Link, a multi-service agency in Toronto, Canada. In addition, Simonne has experience in organizational development and program evaluation.  

Simonne is former vice-president of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and a current board member of the San Diego Housing Federation. She holds a Master's Degree in Anthropology and a Diploma in Refugee and Migration Studies from York University and a Certificate in Human Resource Management from the University of Toronto

Gil Cabrera - SECRETARY

Gil Cabrera has been an attorney in San Diego for over fifteen years. Prior to forming The Cabrera Firm, he was a senior associate with Cooley Godward Kronish LLP and an associate with Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps LLP. From 2005-2010, Gil served on the San Diego Ethics Commission, which monitors and enforces the City’s governmental campaign finance and ethics laws and proposes new governmental ethics law reforms.  He served as Chair of the Ethics Commission from 2007-2009, and also has served as the Chair of the San Diego Chief of Police’s Use of Force Task Force, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego and member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America National Board of Directors.

Lisa Nicole Sanders  - TREASURER

Lisa Nicole Sanders is the sales and marketing manager for Black Mountain Ranch.  An outspoken advocate in the ongoing fight for marriage equality, she has served on multiple boards and committees, including the GSDBA Charitable Foundation board of directors, the Nicky Awards Board of Governors, the No on 8 Campaign, and the Lambda Archives. Prior to her community activism, Lisa was the assistant to the campaign manager for her father Jerry Sanders’ successful mayoral campaign.  She is a graduate of The University of Redlands and is currently working towards her MBA.

Board Members

Linda Cory Allen is a native San Diegan and attorney who began her legal career in 1978, as the first female legal clerk hired by the Honorable Howard B. Turrentine. Following a few years in private practice, Linda left her partnership at Procopio Cory Hargreaves & Savitch for public interest work. For most of her career, she directed a walk-in legal clinic for people living with HIV/AIDS. She designed and taught the first “AIDS and the Law” course in San Diego. Linda also served for several years as house counsel for Community Health Group, a health group serving a low-income population, then returned to HIV/AIDS work as a staff attorney for the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program.

In addition to her legal career, Linda has served on several community boards, including eight years with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and is a long-time volunteer for Mama’s Kitchen.

Eric Banks is a member of the California Public Employment Relations Board. Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown and confirmed by the State Senate, Eric is one of five members of the Board, charged with the overall administration of eight collective bargaining statutes in the state. Prior to his appointment Eric worked at the Service Employees International Union, Local 221, representing employees in San Diego and Imperial Counties. He served in numerous positions including president, advisor to the president, chief of staff and director of government and community relations.
Eric moved to San Diego from Albany, NY, where he worked as the policy associate for the New York AIDS Coalition (NYAC). He spent over a decade working at the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP), directing case management, treatment education and housing services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Eric lives in University Heights with his partner Richard Aguirre.

Joanna Clark joined The Center Board in 2014. She works with Wells Fargo & Co,  Community Bank Division as a Recruiting Leader responsible for more than 11,000 hires annually. Prior to that she worked as a recruiting leader with the AT&T family of companies in various positions and lived in five cities and three states before settling here in San Diego in 2005. Her involvement with the community really began in volunteering with her daughters' schools and working as coach in the Mira Mesa area for five years. She has also served as a Regional Champion for HISPA and a coach/mentor for Girls on the Run.

Pam Clifford served as executive vice president and division manager on the Wholesale integration team, part of the Wells Fargo Wholesale Banking Group. A 35 plus-year veteran of the company, Pam assumed her most recent role in 2009. Previously, she was the division manager for Wholesale Marketing and Customer Strategies from 2003 until 2009, overseeing a team that provided marketing and sales support, and conducted on-site studies of customers to better understand their needs. Prior, she was an executive vice president in Treasury Management. After joining Wells Fargo, she held a number of management positions in cash management sales, customer service, and operations.

Vernita Gutierrez is Director of Community Engagement for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (PPPSW). As part of her work, she is responsible for representing and advancing the organization’s mission by contributing to and strengthening partnerships in San Diego County through community collaboration, education and outreach.

Vernita serves on several boards and committees, including Black Infant Health Program’s Community Council, the San Diego Refugee Forum Health Task Force and the Faith-Based Action Coalition of San Diego County. She is passionate about community health, food sovereignty, reproductive justice, youth empowerment and other social justice causes. 

Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Vernita studied administrative systems management at Drexel University.  She relocated to San Diego, CA in 1989.

Ryland Madison is director of product development & marketing operations for Cox Communications San Diego, where he leads acquisition, upgrade, retention and competitive strategy through to implementation. Ryland's team led the Cox San Diego launch of high-speed Internet, digital telephone, high definition cable, and digital video recorders. In 2001, Ryland led the national Cox team in the creation of a new high-speed Internet service. He was a board member of Family Matters of San Diego for over six years and was the president for two years until it merged with The Center in 2007.

Ryland has served as a senior consultant with Oracle Corporation and worked for the Walt Disney Co. as an Imagineer. A Southern California native, Ryland graduated from UCSD with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and business management. He is an active member of the UCSD alumni association. Ryland has been at the forefront of gay family rights in San Diego, along with his husband of more than 20 years and son.

Dr. Shaun Travers is a Diversity Officer at the University of California, San Diego and the Director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center on campus. Shaun received his Doctorate in Education, and his current research involves the leadership practice of social justice educators in higher education. In addition, he lectures on self-reflection in higher education practice, and the opportunities and challenges of working in the LGBT community.

With a 1994 Psychology and Theatre degree from California Lutheran University coupled with a 1996 MS in Education from Indiana University, Shaun has experience in diversity, higher education, qualitative research, gender issues, youth and non-profit management. An active representative of the bisexual community, he frequently speaks at and participates in forums supporting the diversity of many social justice movements. He works with the San Diego LGBT Community Leadership Council, as well as the National Consortium of LGBT Directors in Higher Education. He and his partner live in the San Diego community of Hillcrest.

Christopher Ward is the chief of staff for state Sen. Marty Block. He directs both the Capitol and district offices for Block, managing a complex and dynamic legislative office, communications operations, constituent service programs and special projects. Ward has served as a key adviser to candidates for mayor, district attorney, city attorney, state Assembly, city council and Superior Court judge. He is a member of the Uptown Planning Board and is an active member in the LGBT community. Ward is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. While attending Johns Hopkins University, he was awarded the Provost’s Top Research Award for his work on Huntington’s Disease. He holds a master’s degree in public policy and urban planning from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In Memoriam

John Laird was known and loved throughout San Diego both for his big heart and generous spirit, and as a dedicated LGBT community activist and volunteer. A former Marine, in 1981 John moved to San Diego, where he met his lifetime partner and husband, Aaron Borovoy. They were legally married on July 3, 2008.

John first became involved in the San Diego LGBT community in 1981 as a volunteer for what was then known as The Gay Center. He joined The Imperial Court de San Diego in 1982 and was elected as Grey Wolf Emperor XXI in 1992. John's service to the community personally and through the Imperial Court de San Diego and Temple Emanu-El included the Lesbian Health Project Pink Ribbon Campaign, chair of Toys for Kids, the Nicky Award Board of Governors, the AIDS Memorial Task Force, the Grocery Hearts Food Pantry, the San Diego Rescue Mission Women and Children's Center, The Storefront, Standdown for Vietnam Veterans, The Interfaith Shelter Project, and many others. He was also instrumental in Temple Emanu-El becoming the first Jewish organization to march in San Diego's Pride Parade. John served as a board member of the San Diego LGBT Community Center from 2002 until his death on August 24, 2011. His enthusiasm and commitment to his community will be sadly missed.

David H. Birnbaum was an extraordinary human being who touched the lives and hearts of all of The Center's staff, board, volunteers, clients and donors. Indeed, there are few in our community who David's warmth and generosity did not touch. The passing of his booming voice, his boundless enthusiasm, his strident support of families with LGBT sons and daughters, and his enormous love for the youth in our community will be a great loss. He and his wife, Deena, have been among our community's greatest allies, staunchest defenders, and most willing supporters.

David was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the California Society of Certified Public Accountants. Prior to retirement, he was a Senior Vice President with Bank America Business Credit. For the past five years, David has served on the board of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays) as Support/Outreach Chair. Thousands of San Diego parents and youth have spoken to David as he offered hope, encouragement and resources for them. None will forget his warmth or kindness. David also served on the board of Ohr Shalom Synagogue. He was an active volunteer speaker for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an Ambassador for City of Hope Medical Center, and a member of the Cancer Society's Action Network. He was a graduate of Queens College of the City University of New York. David joined The Center's Board of Director's in June 2001 and quickly became an active, energizing voice, advocating tirelessly for the LGBT community.

We remember and honor Ernest Green, who served on the Board from 1998 until his death on January 22, 2000. He co-chaired the Special Events Committee and was a member of the Public Relations Committee. Ernie was a lifetime title-holder in the Imperial Court. Over the years, he headed up numerous fund raisers benefiting many non-profit organizations, including The Center, and was co-chair of the Live and Let Live Alano Club from 1994 to 1997. He was a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor with Mental Health Systems in San Diego. Ernie and his work in the community will not be forgotten.

Lovel Waiters joined The Center board with an extensive understanding of non-profit organizations, and experienced knowledge regarding the importance of collaborative community organizing. Lovel had previously served as co-chair of the Ebony Pride Board of Directors, and had been an active volunteer with several San Diego area organizations, including Rolling Readers, the St. Vincent de Paul Center and READ San Diego. She had also been a volunteer with The Center’s Women’s Resource Center, including facilitating the women’s writing group.

Waiters was honored for her community service with Ebony Pride, and was named Woman of the Year by the National Council of Negro Women.