About the Councilmembers

The Governor appoints the Council’s 31 members. Some are appointed because they are self or family advocates, some by virtue of their position in state government, and some as representatives of other organizations involved in the developmental disability services system. Under federal law, self-advocate and family advocate representatives must comprise at least 60 percent of the Council membership.

The self-advocate and family advocate Council members include: 

Nicole Adler - Self-Advocate, At-Large Representative

Lady with long straight brown hair against yellow wall





Nicole Adler is currently working towards her associates degree in communications from the College of San Mateo. She is an active participant of the California Disability Commission. She is also a member of the Redwood City Women’s club and frequently volunteers her time in the community.

During her free time, Nicole enjoys writing poetry and listening to Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys, and Halsey.

Sandra Aldana - Self-Advocate, At-Large Representative

Sandra Aldana has been a self-employed educational consultant since 2013 and held a variety of educational positions including an instructor of advanced Spanish grammar and beginning literature, a graduate teaching and research assistant, and a consultant and facilitator at the ALS Association’s Kern County Patient and Caregiver Support Group.

Sandra earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in education from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Master of Public Health degree in health education from California State University, Northridge.

Diane Ambrose - Family Advocate, At-Large Representative

Curly hair lady with blue glasses and gray shirt





Diane Ambrose served as deputy director at the North Los Angeles County Regional Center from 2010 to 2017, where she held several positions from 1982 to 2010 including program services director, manager for the training and information department, manager of community affairs, area specialist, supervising counselor of the Children’s Unit and counselor of the Adult Unit. She was clinical counselor at the Catawba Center for Growth and Development from 1982 to 2009.

Diane earned a Master of Education degree in special education from the University of South Carolina, and she loves cooking and traveling.

Julie Austin - Family Advocate, San Diego Imperial Region Representative (Imperial and San Diego Counties)





Julie Austin has been a caregiver at In-Home Supportive Services since 2010 and an independent special education and disabilities advocate since 2001.

Julie was director of the Sales and Marketing Division at Pacific Quartz Inc. from 2013 to 2015 and owner and manager at Brengle Terrace Animal Hospital from 1993 to 2004.

Kilolo Brodie - Family Advocate, North Valley Hills Region Representative (Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne Counties)





Dr. Kilolo Brodie is a professor in the Department of Social Work at Stanislaus State University. Her areas of interest are diversity and inclusion, and interagency collaboration. Most importantly, she is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter with Down syndrome!

Jeana Eriksen - Self-Advocate, North Bay Region Representative (Napa, Solano, and Sonoma Counties)

Jeana Eriksen loves to give back to her communities and has volunteered at the Center for Attitudinal Healing. Jeana also served in several different positions while attending the California School for the Blind. She was a staff assistant, a teacher’s aide, and even participated in an on-campus student group that made and sold holiday gift bows.

Jeana has worked for Redwood Empire Industries and Goodwill Industries. She is currently a volunteer for the City of Santa Rosa Paratransit Group.

Julio Garnica - Self-Advocate, San Benardino Region Representative (Inyo, Mono, Riverside, San Bernardino)





One of Julio Garnica’s favorite activities is walking his dog. Julio loves “The Godfather” the movie and is interested in college theater, culinary, and politics.

Matthew Lagrand - Self-Advocate, Sequioa Representative (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa,  Merced, and Tulare Counties)





Matthew Lagrand was a worker at BARC Recycling in 2003. He is a member of the Kern Regional Center Board of Directors and the California Department of Developmental Disabilities Consumer Advisory Committee. 


Francis Lau - Family Advocate, Bay Area Region Representative (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties)





Francis Lau has been a vice president and area manager at First Bank since 2000. He was co-manager and vice president at the Washington Mutual Bank Retail Banking Division from 1997 to 2000.

He is treasurer at the Donaldina Cameron House and a member of the Operation HOPE Advisory Council and the Habitat for Humanity, Greater San Francisco Family Selection Committee.

Francis earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of San Francisco School of Management.

Maria Marquez - Self-Advocate, At-Large Representative





Maria Marquez was an advocate at People First of California in 2012 and a peer self-advocate coordinator at Disability Rights California from 2005 to 2012.

She is a member of the Regional Center of the East Bay’s Board of Directors and Consumer Advisory Committee and serves as vice president of the center’s Self-Determination Program Local Advisory Committee. Maria is a member of the Developmental Disabilities Council of Contra Costa County. 

Karen Millender - Family Advocate, Orange Region Representatives (Orange)






Karen Millender is an advocate for special needs children and their families. Karen’s area of interest is inclusion in education. Karen also guides families through the appeal process when children with disabilities are denied necessary services by insurance companies.

She is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy (CAPCA). Karen serves on CAPCA’s legislative and public policy committee.

Karen enjoys reading and taking her dog Taffy, to the dog park with her son.

Joyce McNair - Family Advocate, Sacramento Region Representative (Alpine, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba, Sierra)





Beginning in 1977, while seeking supports and services for her youngest daughter, Joyce became a strong and effective advocate. Joyce served on the Sacramento Regional Advisory Committee for three years and continues to serve on the Self-Determination Advisory Committee for Alta California Regional Center as a State Council appointee.

In 1996, Joyce began coordinating a yearlong affordable housing public education campaign throughout Alameda County for East Bay Housing Organizations. Joyce incorporated a comprehensive affordable housing component into the life skills curriculum and staff training material for Women in Community Service. She was recognized for “outstanding service, dedication, and accomplishment in helping young people achieve success.”

Joyce has two degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, University of California, Berkeley and Master in Public Administration, University of San Francisco.

David Pegos - Family Advocate, At-Large Representative 





David Pegos has been special assistant in the Plant Division at the California Department of Food and Agriculture since 2011, where he has served in several positions since 2006, including deputy secretary for communications and external affairs, assistant secretary for public outreach and assistant secretary for legislation.

Previously, he worked for the California Exposition and State Fair, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and in the Office of the Governor. David was legislative director for State Senator K. Maurice Johannessen and before that for Assemblymember George House Jr.

David is a member of the National Down Syndrome Congress, The ARC, Alta Regional Center, Down Syndrome Information Alliance, Cowan Fundamental Elementary School Site Council and the San Juan School District Community Advisory Committee.

Kim Levy Rothschild - Family Advocate, At-Large Representative 





Kim Levy Rothschild has been senior director of marketing and business development at Shaw Yoder Antwih Schmelzer & Lange since 2010. Rothschild served as governmental relations officer at the San Mateo County Transit District from 2009 to 2010. She was a sales representative at Novartis Pharmaceuticals from 2005 to 2009 and area director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee from 2003 to 2005. She served in multiple positions in the California State Assembly from 1996 to 2002, including as a chief of staff and legislative consultant.

Kim is a member of the American Society of Association Executives and California Society of Association Executives. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree in intergovernmental management from the University of Southern California.

Rosanna "Rosie" Ryan - Self-Advocate, North State Region Representative (Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Plumas, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity)





Rosanna “Rosie” Ryan was a peer instructor at the We Care A Lot Foundation from 2010 to 2016.

Andrea Vergne - Family Advocate, At-Large Representative 





Andrea Vergne is the mother of five grown children and she has been an advocate for the rights of children with developmental disabilities including her developmentally delayed grandson, Cade, through the public school system. Andrea adopted Cade and has been advocating for him since he was little.

Andrea has served as a board member of the Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast. She facilitated the creation of the Arroyo Grande School Teen Closet and served as an Advisory Board member to the District Attorney’s First Responders Group.

In collaboration with other professionals, she introduced a draft for the Adults in Transition Program Serving Students 18 through 22 years of age.

Wesley Witherspoon - Self-Advocate, At-Large Representative 





Wesley Witherspoon has been project coordinator at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles since 2006 and is a member of the Community Emergency Response Team.

He likes to read, exercise, travel, and volunteer. Wesley’s favorite movie is “Hoosiers” because the underdog wins against good competition.

In addition to the self-advocates and family advocate members, 11 Councilmembers are appointed because of their position in state government or because of their role with a specified organization. They are:

Nancy Bargmann, California Department of Developmental Services






Nancy Bargmann is Director of the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and has extensive experience in the developmental services field, both in the private, non-profit and corporate sectors, and the State.

Nancy started her career working with individuals who have developmental disabilities as a direct service professional with The Arc of Orange County in 1984.

She is a native Californian who was born and raised in San Bernardino, and she earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Pepperdine University School of Business and Management, and a Master of Science degree in social work from San Diego State University.

Mark Ghaly, M.D., Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency







Dr. Mark Ghaly, of South Pasadena, has served as director of health and social impact for Los Angeles County since 2018. As both a physician and an expert in public health, Ghaly brings a deep knowledge and understanding of how individual and community health outcomes intersect with policy and law on issues like whole-person care, mental health and stage of life care.

Mark earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School and a Master of Public Health degree in health policy from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Robin Hansen, M.D., University Center for Excellence (University of California, Davis) 






Dr. Robin Hansen is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician/researcher with vast experience in diagnosing and treating children with neurodevelopmental problems such as pervasive developmental disorder, autism, learning disorders, and attention deficits. She heads a multidisciplinary clinic that diagnoses children, initiates intervention strategies, and works closely with patient families.

Robin has developed services for families affected by parental substance abuse, infant mental health, and children in foster care in Sacramento County. She has been an advocate for children at high risk for developmental and behavioral disorders, through her research and her community service at the local, state and national level.

Julie Neward, Non-Governmental Representative





Julie Neward has been general manager at Somersville Towne Center Mall for Urban Retail Properties since 2016. Julie is co-founder and president of the California Sibling Leadership Network and is co-chair of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee and a member of the Contra Costa County Mental Health Commission and Shelter Inc.

Julie earned a Master of Business Administration degree in international business from the University of San Diego.

Olivia Raynor, Ph.D., University Center for Excellence (University of California, Los Angeles) 4521(b)(2) (F)





Dr. Olivia Raynor is the Director of the Tarjan Center, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Semel Institute, UCLA. She established and provides leadership to the CA Higher Education Consortium for People with IDD. Under contract with the CA Community College Chancellor’s Office, she is the developmental disability consultant to the community college system.

Olivia chaired the UCLA Committee that lead to the establishment in 2006 of Pathway at UCLA Extension, a ground breaking 2-year postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities.

She holds degrees from Boston University and USC in Occupational Therapy and a doctorate from UCLA in Educational Psychology.

Tony Thurmond, Superintendent of Public Instruction





Superintendent Tony Thurmond is an educator, social worker, and public school parent, who has served the people of California for more than ten years in elected office.

Tony’s family relied on public assistance programs and great public schools to get out of poverty. He attended Temple University, where he became study body president. He went on to earn dual master’s degrees in Law and Social Policy and Social Work (MSW) from Bryn Mawr College and began a career dedicated to service.

Tony now lives in Richmond with his two daughters who attend local public schools. They are his inspiration and a constant reminder about the promise of our neighborhood schools and the strong future that every child deserves.

Kim McCoy Wade, Department of Aging





Kim McCoy Wade led advocacy campaigns at several national organizations based in Washington DC, including the Children’s Defense Fund (juvenile justice), the Alliance for Justice (gun violence), and Bread for the World (food stamps). Kim is an alumna of NYU School of Law, Carleton College, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and the Emerge California training program.

Kim has been a volunteer at free tax clinics for low-income families and, in 2010-2011, was a foster parent. Her greatest joy is weekends spent camping with her family and finishing the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle. Kim is a native of the Washington, DC area.

Joe Xavier, Department of Rehabilitation






Joe Xavier came to this country as a seven-year-old child, and he is one of eight. He grew up on dairy farms working with his family. In his sophomore year of high school, the Department of Rehabilitation reached out to him, and Joe went through in-depth services in 1982. He became self-employed for 14 years as a result of that. He has spent more than two decades as a civil servant including four years of being one of the first blind Auditors in the State of California.

Larry Yin, M.D., University Center for Excellence (University of Southern California) 





Dr. Larry Yin is a clinician practicing both Developmental-Behavioral and General Pediatrics. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. He also holds the academic position of Associate Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at USC. He is the Medical Director of the Boone Fetter Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (an Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network site) and the Director of the USC University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

For over 15 years, Larry has been the Medical Consultant to the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center, and he has over 20 years providing care for children with neurodevelopmental disorders and special health care needs.