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Livability Summit 2023 Panelists & Speakers

The Livability Poll: A Wellness Check of the Sacramento Region

by Evan Schmidt, CEO of Valley Vision

Valley Vision fields a quality of life poll, the Livability Poll, that tracks residents’ experiences with issues such as affordability of necessities, access to services, job and career satisfaction, safety and belonging, as well as residents’ perspectives of the Sacramento Region. The Livability Poll’s findings were revealed at the Livability Summit and served as the basis for presentations, speakers, and discussions that followed throughout the day. Evan presents some of the more notable findings from The Livability Poll fielded in the summer of 2023.

You can read the full poll report here.

View the PowerPoint here.

Evan Schmidt is the CEO of Valley Vision, a nonprofit organization that leads regional and statewide initiatives to advance livability by supporting social equity, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability. She oversees the organization’s six impact areas of Workforce Development, Clean Economy, Food and Agriculture, Broadband and Digital Equity, Healthy Communities and Leadership and Civic Engagement. She is committed to building communities that are vibrant and sustainable and where every person has the opportunity to meet their potential. Under her leadership, Valley Vision creates the foundation for collaboration, research, and vision that enables us to meet those goals.

Keynote: Transformative Economic Development

Judith Taylor, Partner at Hr&A Advisors

View the PowerPoint here.

Judith Taylor is a Partner at HR&A Advisors, in her role, she focuses on creating vibrant, equitable, and resilient communities with over two decades of experience in real estate and inclusive economic development. Her expertise combines technical economic knowledge with a profound understanding of community values to drive transformative yet practical change for public and private clients.

Transforming Corridors

Spotlight on the Built Environment

Presented by Kacey Lizon and Aaron Laurel

The Sacramento region is full of corridors and industrial areas that are skeletons of the functions they once served. Many of them are right in the heart of our communities, ready for something new. Many of our region’s commercial corridors struggle today with vacant or underutilized lots and lack the density or mix of residential and commercial uses that support a sense of place that can attract more people. Learn about what it takes to transform these corridors and bring back the energy and vibrancy that once filled these spaces.

View the PowerPoint here.

Kacey Lizon, Deputy Executive Director of Planning and Programs, Sacramento Area Council of Governments

In her role as Deputy Executive Director for Planning & Programs, Kacey serves the 22 cities and six counties of the Sacramento region. During her 20-year tenure at SACOG, Kacey has played an instrumental role in innovations in regional planning and smart growth planning processes. She has led initiatives in land use, housing, transportation, transit-oriented development, environmental and rural planning. She has played a critical role in SACOG’s sustainable communities strategy work since the enactment of SB 375. Kacey is a board member of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association and member of the California Planning Roundtable.

Aaron Laurel, City Manager, City of West Sacramento

Aaron was appointed by the City Council to serve as West Sacramento’s City Manager and the Port of West Sacramento’s Chief Executive Officer in July 2018. He has nearly 20 years of experience in local government, including over 16 with the City of West Sacramento. Before becoming City Manager, he served as the City’s Economic Development and Housing Director, overseeing investments in infrastructure and real estate, business attraction, affordable housing, and management of the Port of West Sacramento.

Community Economic Resiliency

An Action Plan for Inclusive Economic Growth

Presented by Renee John and Ebony Joy Benzing

A thriving regional economy and equitable communities depend on inclusive economic opportunities. Valley Vision is proud to lead the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) program, fostering collaboration to create a vision for an inclusive and prosperous regional economy. In this segment, we’ll explore Valley Vision’s work on CERF, introduce communication resources, and encourage conversations about shifting our culture towards more collaborative, equity-centered efforts.

View the Powerpoint here.

Renee John oversees Valley Vision’s 21st Century Workforce, Health Communities, and Clean Economy impact areas. She came to Valley Vision with ten years of experience initiating and leading projects for community-based nonprofit organizations. Renee has also worked in the region supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. She is a proud graduate of California State University Sacramento (Go Hornets!) and California’s community college system (Sierra College). Her driving force is working to ensure all community members have access to opportunity to live a healthy, fruitful life.

Ebony Joy Benzing is the interim Director for the North Far North Center of Excellence (NFN COE) for Labor Market Research, hosted by Los Rios Community College District. Ebony is committed to using data to connect students and adult learners to good jobs. Ebony joined the NFN COE in 2019 as the research manager. Prior to these roles, she taught mathematics to middle and high school students in Sacramento. Ebony graduated from UC Davis with dual bachelor’s degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology and holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

Neighborhood Transformation

A Spotlight on Del Paso Boulevard

Moderated by Daniel Kaufman

Daniel Kaufman (Moderator), Co-Founder and Principal at Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies.

Daniel helps design and lead the strategic direction of Third Plateau, a Sacramento-based agency driving social change. He enthusiastically works to ensure the firm is ever-evolving, learning, and growing to best meet the needs of changemaking leaders and organizations. An entrepreneur-at-heart, Daniel serves as a mentor, advisor, and strategist for an array of nonprofit executives, philanthropists, and civic leaders.

Gina Warren, Co-Founder and CEO of Sacramento’s Neighborhood Wellness Foundation

With a mission to navigate and disrupt intergenerational trauma and poverty in Del Paso Heights (DPH) and surrounding neighborhoods, Dr. Warren leads an interdisciplinary, multigenerational team that includes fourteen Peer Support Specialists generationally rooted in DPH. Dr. Warren offers both clinical and grassroots perspectives while operating with a strategic vision, innovative leadership, and an unwavering commitment to raise ACEs awareness to mitigate human suffering and help build a healthy community.

Janet Rice, President of DAD partners

Janet Rice is President of DAD Partners, Inc a premier consulting company located in Del Paso Heights dedicated to the mission of providing extraordinary service and value to a variety of clients in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She has served on numerous boards and committees and is a visionary leader and executive professional with a proven track record of spearheading major real estate development projects that revitalized communities to help ensure sustained economic growth.

Erica Taylor, Vice President, Communications & Community Relations at Golden 1 Credit Union

Erica’s background includes work in radio and television promotions and marketing, as well as a broadcast journalist. She joined Golden 1 in 2015, overseeing the organization’s external communications, government relations, community partnerships, corporate giving, and financial education. Erica has led numerous initiatives for Golden 1 aimed at addressing local needs, volunteering, charitable partnerships, and social programs. In addition to currently serving as Valley Vision’s board chair, she also holds board positions with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership and Sacramento Covered. In 2015, Erica was named the “Young Professional of the Year” by the Sacramento Metro Chamber. She was also named one of the “Top 40 Under 40” by the Sacramento Business Journal in 2012. She also won the “Best Posture” award at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in the third grade.