Councilmembers and Responsibilities

Council Responsibilities

The Council’s responsibilities are set forth in both federal and state law. Under the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, the Council and all the programs, activities and projects it funds, including the Community Program Development Grants and local Regional Offices on Developmental Disabilities, must adhere to the following principles (as amended in the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000):

  • Individuals with developmental disabilities, including those with the most severe developmental disabilities, are capable of self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life, but often require the provision of community services, individualized supports and other assistance;
  • Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families have competencies, capabilities and personal goals that should be recognized, supported and encouraged, and any assistance to such individuals should be provided in an individualized manner, consistent with the unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and capabilities of such individuals;
  • Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are the primary decisionmakers regarding the services and supports such individuals and their families receive, including regarding choosing where the individuals live from available options, and play decision making roles in the policies and programs that affect the lives of such individuals and their families;
  • Services, supports and other assistance should be provided in a manner that demonstrates respect for individual dignity, personal preferences, and cultural differences;
  • Specific efforts must be made to ensure that individuals from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds and their families enjoy increased and meaningful opportunities to access and use community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance available to other individuals with developmental disabilities and their families;
  • Recruitment efforts in disciplines related to developmental disabilities relating to pre-service training, community training, practice, administration, and policy making must focus on bringing larger numbers of racial and ethnic minorities into the disciplines in order to provide appropriate skills, knowledge, role models, and sufficient personnel to address the growing needs of an increasingly diverse population;
  • With education and support, communities can be accessible to and responsive to the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families and are enriched by full and active participation in community activities, and contributions, by individuals with developmental disabilities and their families;
  • Individuals with developmental disabilities have access to opportunities and the necessary support to be included in community life, have interdependent relationships, live in homes and communities, and make contributions to their families, communities, State, and the Nation.
  • Efforts undertaken to maintain or expand community-based living options for individuals with developmental disabilities should be monitored in order to determine and report to appropriate individuals and entities the extent of access by individuals with developmental disabilities to those options and the extent of compliance by entities providing those options with quality assurance standards;
  • Families of children with developmental disabilities need to have access to and use of safe and appropriate child care and before-school and after-school programs, in the most integrated settings, in order to enrich the participation of the children in community life;
  • Individuals with developmental disabilities need to have access to and use of public transportation, in order to be independent and directly contribute to and participate in all facets of community life; and
  • Individuals with developmental disabilities need to have access to and use of recreational, leisure, and social opportunities in the most integrated settings, in order to enrich their participation in community life.

The federal law also allows additional requirements to be placed on Council funding to accomplish the mandates of the federal Act. These are accomplished through program instructions, information, or memoranda issued by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. Councils must also follow specific procedures to receive federal funding, and must attest to certain assurances regarding how the money is spent. The Council’s state-mandated functions are defined in California Welfare & Institutions Code (WIC) Sections 4540. The majority of the state statutes that govern services for individuals with developmental disabilities are found in WIC Sections known collectively as the Lanterman Act. For a complete list of governing statutes and regulations concerning services to individuals with developmental disabilities, visit the Department of Developmental Services web page entitled Laws and Regulations.

You can review the Councilmember Administrative Policies and Procedures here.

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.

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 has worked as a county child welfare worker and for community collaboratives as a family group conference coordinator/facilitator. She has been providing trainings for human service organizations for over 10 years.

She received her Ph.D. from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and is currently social work department chair and master of social work program director for Stanislaus State. Kilolo has been teaching at the graduate-level for over thirteen years.

Lee Bycel - Family Advocate, At-Large Representative

Lee Bycel white shirt smiling looking at the camera





Lee has been the Sinton visiting professor in holocaust, genocide and refugee studies at the University of San Francisco since 2004. He has devoted his life to a variety of social justice issues as a teacher, humanitarian and community leader. He has made several humanitarian trips to East Africa including five trips to Darfur, Chad, and South Sudan where he visited refugee and IDP camps. He has also made numerous trips to Kenya, Haiti and Ethiopia where he helped to address a variety of humanitarian issues related to poverty and disease.

He earned a Doctor of Theology degree from the Claremont School of Theology and a Master of Theology degree and rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College, where he served as dean from 1982 to 1997. Lee serves on the State Council in honor of his granddaughter, Ayala who has Down syndrome.

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

Councilmember Jeana Eriksen

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.

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.

Jonathan Nelson - Family Advocate, At-Large Representative

Councilmember Jonathan Nelson






Jonathan Nelson is the Policy Director for the Community Water Center, an environmental justice nonprofit that works to secure safe, clean and affordable drinking water for all Californians. Jonathan previously held positions at a healthcare trade association where he managed government affairs and worked to expand access to healthcare for vulnerable populations and at a Sacramento based public affairs firm where he worked on issues related to health access, clean transportation and the digital economy. Jonathan received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Davis.

Jonathan brings a unique perspective as a family advocate. He comes from a family of 16 children, nearly all of them adopted and most of his siblings have disabilities.

Kara Ponton - Self-Advocate, North Coast Region Representative (Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino)

Councilmember Kara Ponton

Kara Ponton served on the Department of Developmental Services Consumer Advisory Committee from 2013 to 2019. She is the vice chairperson of the Redwood Coast Regional Center Self-Determination Local Advisory Committee and is a former member of the SCDD North Coast Regional Advisory Committee.

Kara loves reading about U.S. history and her family history. She also enjoys listening to music including songs from her favorite band, The Fray and hanging out with her parakeets and her sisters. Both the first and second Angry Birds movies are her favorite movies, and her special talent is that she can name every United States president!

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. Rosie like to keep in touch with family and friends on the Internet. Rosie enjoys watching movies during her free time, and she loves cats especially her cat, Queen Meeka.

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.

Harold Ashe - Family Advocate, At Large Representative

Ashe has been an In-Home Provider since 2016, providing care to his 11-year-old son with Down Syndrome and his 8-year-old son with Autism. He was a Correctional Officer at San Quentin State Prison from 1990 to 2001. Ashe is a Foundation Board Member for UCP.

Viviana Barnwell - Family Advocate, Central Coast Region Representative (Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura Counties)

Barnwell has been a Parent and Education Disability Advocate since 2017. She held multiple positions in the San Jose Unified School District, including Family Engagement Instructional Coach, Curriculum and Instructional Coach and Bilingual Teacher from 2006 to 2021. She is a member of the DS Task Force Services Access and Equity Workgroup, the Racial Disparities Reduction Committee, the MIND Institute LEND Program and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

Michael Ellis - Family Advocate, Sequoia Region Representative (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare Counties)

Ellis was an Emergency Medical Technician for American Ambulance from 2012 to 2016.

Harold Fujita - Family Advocate, Institution Representative

Fujita has been Human Resources Director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks since 2000. He was Director of Human Resources for the City of Los Angeles Information Technology Agency from 1996 to 2000. He was the Chair of the SCDD Los Angeles Regional Advisory Committee.

Cathay Liu - Family Advocate, Los Angeles Region Representative

Liu has been Training Coordinator for the Chinese Parents Association for the Disabled since 1990. She is a member of KEEN LA.

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.

Andy Imparato, Disability Rights California

Photo of Andy Imparato

Andy Imparato became executive director of Disability Rights California in February 2020. He brings decades of policy and advocacy experience from Washington D.C. to the Golden State.

Prior to starting his current role, Andy shared his expertise with national organizations such as the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). He was the Senior Counsel and Disability Policy Director for Chairman Tom Harkin on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In addition, he served as President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, as General Counsel and Director of Policy for the National Council on Disability, and as an attorney at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Andy is a native Californian who grew up in Los Angeles and is married with two children. He graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School in 1990 and was a summa cum laude graduate of Yale College.

Will Lightbourne, Department of Health Care Services
Julie Neward, Non-Governmental Representative

Julie Neward










Julie Neward is a tenacious advocate for her eldest sister, Natalie, who has an undiagnosed intellectual/developmental disability. Together they are the eldest of four siblings, and include a brother and a younger sister. She is also co-founder and vice-president of the nonprofit, the California Sibling Leadership Network

She is a retail real estate professional in Southern California and earned an International Master of Business Administration from the University of San Diego and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College of California. When she is not working or advocating, she is spending time with her supportive husband and two young energetic daughters at the beaches in San Diego, California.

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.

Aubyn Stahmer, Ph.D., University Center for Excellence (University of California, Davis)

Headshot of Dr. Aubyn Stahmer.





Dr. Aubyn Stahmer is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the UC Davis MIND Institute and a clinical psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She studies ways to help community schools and organizations use research informed interventions for children with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families.

Before coming to Sacramento, she worked at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego where she established an inclusive toddler and preschool program.

Aubyn grew up in Ohio and San Diego.  She loves riding her bike, hiking and skiing, especially in Lake Tahoe.

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.