Today Victory Institute announced it selected seven LGBTQ elected and public officials for its David Bohnett Leaders Fellowship, a program that includes a three-week intensive leadership development course at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The fellowship – a collaboration with the David Bohnett Foundation – aims to propel LGBTQ leaders into the next stage of their public service careers. Notable alumni include California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Colorado State Senator Dominick Moreno, and Texas gubernatorial candidate Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
We are thrilled to announce this year’s class of seven trailblazers ready to take their public service to the next level through this comprehensive leadership program.
Park Cannon, Georgia House of Representatives, District 58
Park Cannon is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and one of the few queer-identified elected officials in the nation. She is also one of the youngest. She is a University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill graduate with two majors – Hispanic Linguistics and Linguistics – and a minor in women’s and gender studies. She ran for her current seat because she wanted to be a voice for those who are underrepresented: women, African-Americans, people who have experienced homelessness and people from single-parent homes shaped by domestic violence.
In office, she has pushed for growth in neighborhoods to be balanced, smart and neighborhood-approved. She has focused on bringing good jobs to Georgia, being a strong ally for local schools, and to increase affordable healthcare for all.
Gregory Ford, Wake County (NC) Board of Commissioners, District 6
Wake County has been Greg’s home since 1997, when he began an 18-year career as a Wake teacher and principal. He grew up in Churchville, New York, the middle of three boys in a large and loving family. Greg was an active Scout who grew up playing baseball and working on his family’s farm. Greg’s father was an Air Force veteran, businessman and college professor; his mother was a homemaker, community volunteer and longtime elected member of the local school board. Education and public service have always been important to Greg and his family.
Greg earned a Bachelor of Arts from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY and holds a Masters in School Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a NC Principal Fellow and graduate of the NC Executive Leadership Program. Greg has served as a member of various schools’ PTA boards for over a decade and is a past youth advisor at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. He has served on his local State Employees’ Credit Union Advisory Board and volunteered as a coach for several youth organizations.
Greg is married to Anthony Pugliese, COO of the nonprofit American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Their family lives in northern Wake County and has three children enrolled in Wake County Schools: a son attending Millbrook High School, and two twin daughters attending Brassfield Elementary School.
Ron Galperin, Los Angeles City Controller
Ron Galperin serves as the elected watchdog for L.A.’s taxpayers. He oversees more than 160 employees conducting independent audits, managing the City’s payroll and disbursements, preparing reports on the City’s finances, pursuing waste and fraud, providing information about the City’s finances and operations online, and focusing on modernization, management and metrics. Galperin launched ControlPanel.LA, an open data portal featuring the City’s checkbook, details on the goods and services the City buys, assets and liabilities, employee compensation, operating indicators and more.
Under Galperin’s leadership, the Controller’s office has issued audits focused on improving the efficiency and accountability of City government and on delivering quality City services. Galperin brings more than 20 years of experience as a transactional and litigation attorney and small business owner. He received his J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and his undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Jess Herbst, former Mayor of New Hope (TX)
Jess Helene Herbst is a Texan politician and transgender rights activist, who served as the mayor of New Hope, Texas, from May 2016 until May 2018. Herbst became the first openly transgender mayor in Texas in 2016 when the then-mayor suffered a heart attack and died days before the election, but still won, leaving the town without a mayor. Herbst, who was Mayor pro-tem, was then appointed to the position. Herbst has lived in New Hope, Texas, since 1999. She previously served as alderman, road commissioner and mayor pro-tem. Herbst became mayor of the town, which has an aldermanic form of government, in May 2016 after the previous mayor died while seeking reelection. In an open letter to the town residents, Herbst came out as transgender on January 23, 2017. Herbst states the reaction to her coming out has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis City Council
Andrea Jenkins is a writer, performance artist, poet, and transgender activist. She is the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. Jenkins has experience working in community development in North Minneapolis, and in delivering social services in South Minneapolis.
Jenkins moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota in 1979 and was hired by the Hennepin County government, where she worked for a decade. Jenkins worked as a staff member on the Minneapolis City Council for 12 years before beginning work as curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota’s Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.
Andrea holds a Masters Degree in Community Development from Southern New Hampshire University, a MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University and a Bachelors Degrees in Human Services from Metropolitan State University. She is a nationally and internationally recognized writer and artist, a 2011 Bush Fellow to advance the work of transgender inclusion, and the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships.
Byron Macfarlane, Howard County Register of Wills (MD)
The Honorable Byron E. Macfarlane was first elected Register of Wills for Howard County in 2010. He is the 18th Register and first openly gay elected official in Howard County history. From 2013 to 2016, Byron served as President of the Maryland Register of Wills Association.
Byron credits his education in Howard County public schools for inspiring his passion for government and public service. He has had the privilege of working at the county, state, and federal levels of government, for then-County Councilman Guy Guzzone, Circuit Court Judge Richard Bernhardt, State Senator Edward J. Kasemeyer, and United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy. From 2004 to 2006, Byron served as Legislative Director to Delegate Peter Franchot, now the Comptroller of Maryland. In 2006, Byron was elected to serve on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee.
Byron earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he concentrated on public and governmental service. Prior to earning his law degree, Byron attended the University of Maryland, College Park, receiving his bachelor’s degree in government and political science, with Citations in Public Leadership and Communication.
Byron values community involvement. He is a member of several local, state, and national organizations: Howard County Bar Association; Maryland Bar Association; National College of Probate Judges; Howard County Estate Planning Council (Founding Member); Maryland Student Legislature Board of Advisors; Columbia Democratic Club; Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club; PFLAG of Howard County; League of Women Voters of Howard County; Howard County NAACP, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland; American Civil Liberties Union; Sierra Club and Human Rights Campaign. Byron is an Honorary Alumnus Member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and is a graduate of the Leadership Howard County Premier Class of 2017. Byron was a 2013 Baltimore Business Journal “40 Under 40” Honoree and served as a former adjunct faculty member at Howard University School of Law from 2015 to 2017.
Fernando Ramirez, Special Assistant/Policy Advisor, Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
Fernando Ramirez is the Special Assistant/Policy Advisor in the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Prior to his current position, he served as a legislative assistant in the California State Senate for then-Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas and proudly served as a Jesse Marvin Unruh Assembly Fellow in the California State Assembly in the office of then-Assemblymember Mark Ridley-Thomas.
He has served on the Board of Directors for La Casa de la Raza, a non-profit community center in Santa Barbara, the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District and the United States Student Association. He currently serves as the Board President of the statewide non-profit, the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, and is a fellow with the Next Generation LGBTQ Leaders’ Initiative.
Mr. Ramirez earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.