Board of Directors

Suzanne Cohen

President

Background: Born in Fresno and grew up in Los Banos, CA.

Education: UCSB, BA in Studio Art

Profession(s): Real estate and local businessperson

Personal Statement: I grew up in a rural town in California’s Central Valley. My family history is a combination of immigrants from Armenia and Portugal mixed with American revolutionaries and pioneers. 

In 1992, I moved to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB and stayed to raise my family and help my husband manage our local business. I’ve worked in and around real estate for most of my career, which is how I got interested in housing as a political issue. Helping friends and employees stay in the area has always been a challenge, but lately there is new urgency. I’ve served on the boards of the Rape Crisis Center (renamed Standing Together To End Sexual Assault) and Montessori Center School. My favorite dinner is pizza and a movie at home with my family. My favorite weekends are spent with my kids boogie boarding at Leadbetter Beach. When I have free time (which is almost never), I love crafting and spending time with good friends.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

-Maya Angelou, American Poet

Laura Capps

First Vice-President

Background: Born and raised in Santa Barbara

Education:  I’m grateful for Santa Barbara public schools.  I graduated from UC Berkeley and have a Master’s from the London School of Economics.

Profession(s): Public Affairs Consultant and Santa Barbara Unified School District Board Member 

Personal Statement: I give thanks to the stars that aligned in 1963 when my Omaha native father was offered one of the first teaching positions at UCSB. My parents packed up their car and settled in paradise, sight unseen, to raise our family.  My mom was a nurse. My siblings and I were raised with a strong belief in public service and getting involved to help your community.  I went to DC for the first time as a 9-year-old kid, marveled at the tall, marbled buildings and was blown away when my dad told me I could work there someday if I set my mind to it.  That I did.  From that point onward I’ve had a fire in my belly to make the world an even better place and a belief that our political system could do that. 

 As much as I love public service, being a mom to my ten-year-old boy Oscar is my favorite job.  And getting to do it in all the places where I loved being a kid is all the better.  I’m a proud aunt to eight wonderful people, especially my sister’s two boys whom I helped raise as toddlers after she passed away from cancer.  My other ‘children’ are my three pups, Lilly, , and Freddie Mercury. Weekends are spent hiking with them and my partner, Dan’l, and rooting on Oscar in whatever new activity has captured his interest.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou 

Claudette Roehrig

Second Vice-President

Background: Is a native New Yorker and was transplanted to Los Angeles with her husband and children in 1987.

Education: BA in Education and Sociology; MA in Marriage and Family Therapy; graduated as a distinguished member of the National Honor Society.

Profession(s): Legal Librarian in a very prestigious New York law firm; Marriage and Family Therapist.

Personal Statement: I was the Board President of Domestic Violence Solutions for four years, and although I agreed to take on that position with much trepidation, I thrived on it and realized I had an ability to connect with people, collaborate, and lead in a very inclusive way. I was challenged in many ways and learned so much in the process. I do value that humbling experience along with my time doing therapy with clients, learning along the way that “not knowing” can be a very positive experience. I am also serving on the board of Girls Inc. and am deeply committed to helping young girls become future leaders in our community and beyond. My husband and I met in college and have been together for 51 years, 45 years married; and together we have proudly raised our two sons and daughter while moving from NY to LA to SB.  I had come up to SB for a Child Therapy two-week workshop and knew this is where I wanted to live, and I believe this community is where I was meant to be. Our home with a view of the ocean, along with this philanthropic, artistic, and culturally rich community, gives me great joy.

“You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

-Maya Angelou, American Poet, in the poem “Still I Rise”

Meredith Murr

Secretary

Background: I grew up outside Philadelphia and have lived in Boston, Austin, and Seattle before settling in Santa Barbara in 2001.
Education: Boston University (BA in Chemistry), UT Austin (MA in Chemistry), UC Santa Barbara (PhD in Biology)

Profession(s): I have over 15 years of experience working in higher education and creating programs to develop and support students and faculty. I moved to Santa Barbara in 2001, received my PhD from UC Santa Barbara, and worked at UCSB for 12 years, most recently as Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development and Strategic Planning in the Office of Research. In 2018 I left UCSB and started a consulting business where I advise academic organizations and national labs on strategic planning and proposal development in science, engineering, and technology.

Personal Statement: I have lived and worked in Santa Barbara for over 20 years. In addition to DemWomen, I volunteer for Planned Parenthood Central Coast, the FoodBank of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee; and I serve on the Advisory Commission for the Goleta Valley Library.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Marsha Marcoe

Treasurer - on leave

Background: Born and raised in Southern California

Education: Antioch University, MA in Clinical Psychology

Profession(s): Marriage and Family Therapist involved in executive management and major fundraising for various non-profits and foundations for the past 25 years.  She is currently serving on the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County Board of Directors and on the Sanctuary Center of Santa Barbara Board of Directors. Marsha maintains a private practice as a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in Anxiety Disorder and EMDR Therapy for trauma victims.

Personal Statement: My past experiences include Major Gift Development for Child Abuse Listening & Mediation, University California Santa Barbara, Domestic Violence Solutions and Braille Institute of America. Before moving to Santa Barbara, I administrated an HIV Antibody Testing Program at Valley Community Clinic; worked for Cable News Network (CNN), and Co-owned the Jon Peters Beauty Salons in Beverly Hills, Encino, Tarzana, and Woodland Hills.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world but has not solved one yet.”

-Maya Angelou, American Poet

Kate Ford

Communications Officer

Background: Born in Portland but traveled the world as a Marine brat; Home is Santa Barbara (Go, Dons!), but I have lived in twenty-five different cities in my life.

Education: UC Santa Cruz, BA in Sociology and Education; Santa Clara University, MA in Educational Leadership; CA credentials in teaching and administrative services

Personal Statement: I never attended the same school or lived in the same house two years in a row until Santa Barbara High School. I am the eldest of five kids; my dad was a Marine Corps officer, and my mom was a Navy nurse. I was a teacher for fifteen years and a school principal and then superintendent for twenty years… across public, private, and charter schools in California and Arizona. I also spent three years working for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation K-12 Education Team in Seattle; it was a gift beyond measure. Now semi-retired and back in Santa Barbara, I have been a member of the Santa Barbara Unified School District School Board since 2018. Covid 19 changed EVERYTHING about school and life, but I am still curious, optimistic, and energized by what the future may hold.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

-Malala Yousafzai, Activist

Daniela Aguirre

Board Member - on leave

Background: Born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA

Education: Received B.A. in Economics from CSU Northridge 

Profession(s): Field Representative for the California State Assembly (D-37)

Personal Statement: In my senior year of college I became very interested in public policy after taking an environmental economics and a political economy course. Graduating in the middle of a pandemic, I became increasingly interested in the economic injustices that communities of color and immigrant communities faced. I then decided to intern for HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality) where I was trained to analyze, write, and interpret policy from a Latina lens for the benefit of all communities and the status of women. When I’m not geeking out on housing policies, I’m either salsa dancing or organizing Mujeres Makers Market. MMM was created to promote WOC owned businesses. Our vision is to cultivate meaningful and beautiful markets where locals can share their passion projects. As a result, we decided to join forces in creating Mujeres Makers Market, a project that we are passionate about and believe will enrich our community.

 “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

-Maya Angelou

Ej Borah

Board Member

Background: Born in and grew up in Riverside, CA.

Education: UCSB, BA; University of New Hampshire, MA

Profession(s): Teacher 1958-2002 in Ventura County, Seattle, WA, and Orange County

Personal Statement: I have been a political activist since I graduated from UCSB in 1958. I am a retired teacher of 40+ years. I have traveled to every continent on the planet and taken a dip in both the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans and have the tattoos (penguin & polar bear) to prove it. I moved back to Santa Barbara in 2003 to help my daughter Farfalla raise Roz (18 years old now). Besides serving on the DW Board, I am on the Women’s Political Committee Board and an elected official of the Democratic Central Committee.

“It’s 2020 and I still don’t have equal rights under the Constitution. Neither do any of you, the nearly 162 million women across the U.S.”

-Alyssa Milano, Actress/Producer/Author/Political Activist, in a Cosmopolitan article about the E.R.A.

Jill Dexter

Board Member

Background: Born in Riga, Latvia; grew up in Stockholm, Sweden, and United States

Education: UCLA, BA

Profession(s): TV Producer- Started as a PA at Wakeford/Orloff. She met husband, and they started their own company, The DXTR’S, representing a lot of directors.  Jill was living in Montecito and ran the business representing many Music Video Directors until 1998 after Ron retired in 1994.

Personal Statement: We have one son, Michael, and three beautiful grandchildren.  I seem to stay very busy with my three non-profits. I am on the Board of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and State Street Ballet.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me.”

-Kamala Harris, US Vice President-elect

Vicki Johnson

Board Member

Background: Born in Seattle, WA and grew up in Walnut Creek, CA

Education: UCLA, BA, and teaching credential; Santa Barbara College of Law, law degree

Profession(s): Elementary school teacher for 14 years, lawyer in private practice doing primarily divorce law, and prosecutor with the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office since 1989.

 Personal Statement: I have been married to my husband Ralph Minc for 40 years.  We have a son, Jeff, a daughter-in-law, Sarah, and our one-year-old grandson, Cameron, who all live here in town.   I enjoy playing tennis, biking, walking with friends, traveling, and going to the beach with my grandson.  I hope I have many more fun times with my grandson at the beach and live long enough to see him graduate from high school. 

“There are places in the heart you don’t ever know exist until you love a child.” 

-Anne Lamott, Novelist, from Operating Instructions

Teri Jory

Board Member

Background: Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada

Education: UCSB PhD in Political Psychology, Statistics, and Public Policy

Profession(s): Owner of a production company creating award winning educational videos. 

Personal Statement: As a community organizer (President, Our Mesa Neighborhood Inc.), I empower residents, business owners, and community leaders to discuss issues, reach consensus and move forward to solve problems. In addition to empowering my neighbors, I work to empower survivors of human trafficking by serving on the District Attorney Human Trafficking Task Force, chairing Policy and Legislation as well as serving on the Board of Standing Together To End Sexual Assault (formerly Rape Crisis Center). As a 4th degree black belt, I continue the work of the empowerment model. I created and teach a DFWM Personal Safety workshop DFWM (don’t F*** with me) empowering women and all genders around the world. I look forward to continuing my mission of making this a better and more peaceful world.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

-Audre Lorde, Writer and Activist

JoAnne Meade Young

Board Member

Background: Born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio, with her three siblings by her widowed mother. Resident of Santa Barbara for over thirty years.

Education: Ohio State University, BS in Elementary Education; University of Iowa, MA in Developmental Reading; Southern Connecticut State University, MA in Supervision and Administration; UC Santa Barbara, Tier II MA in Supervision and Administration.

Profession(s): Taught kindergarten through 3rd grade, was a Primary Language Development Specialist, Library Media Specialist, and Instructional Consultant in various school districts in Ohio and Connecticut.  Additionally, JoAnne served for three years as an elementary school principal in Hamden, Connecticut and served the last seventeen years of her career as an elementary school principal in the Goleta Union School District.   She retired from GUSD in 2007.

Personal Statement: I am married to Michael Young, have two children and one grandson.  I am an avid collector of ethnic art and Shona sculptures and dabble in hand building African inspired sculptures.  I also enjoy making silver and turquoise earrings and gardening.  

Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.”

-bell hooks

Olivia Loewy

Board Member

Background: Born and raised in Los Angeles

Education: UCLA; USC

Profession(s): Mental  Health, Therapist, Trainer- I am a Ph.D., California-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  Professional highlights: Clinical Director of the Verdugo Mental Health Center in Glendale; developed, evaluated and facilitated training courses for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Department of Labor, Region 9; served as Executive Director of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy for the state of California.  

Personal Statement: My husband and I met when we were Board members of a state-level community mental health association.  He lived in Santa Barbara and, when we decided to get married, asked me whether I wanted us to live in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara. I replied: “That’s a No Brainer!”  My two daughters and I moved to Santa Barbara in 1998 and became a blended family with my husband and his daughter.  All girls are grown-up, independent (Democratic) women now, and I even have a new grandson!

My best skills lie in an ability to connect people and promote community around common interests and purposes.  Now that my work has shifted and I am no longer traveling so much, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to serve on this Board with dynamic, energetic, active women who share my goals for making a difference.

Trust the Process”

 (anonymous) 

Marian Shapiro

Board Member

Background: Born and grew up in Berkeley, CA

Education: UCSB; UC Berkeley, BA in Music; University of Kansas, MA in Social Work  

Profession(s): Helped start a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hays, Kansas, in 1976 and worked there for 20 years, eventually becoming Director of Education for PP of Kansas. In grad school, she did her practicum at the Menninger Clinic Mental Health Center in Topeka. She taught Human Sexuality courses at Fort Hays State University and Wichita State University.  After 31 years in Kansas, the family returned to California where she taught The Psychology of Human Sexuality at Santa Barbara City College for eleven years. 

Personal Statement: I married Marty Shapiro (55 years) , we had two children Joel and Lanya, got a beloved son-in-law Vito, and two grandsons, Joshua and Ari. Throughout my life, I learned from my refugee parents to be an active Democrat walking precincts to elect candidates committed to work for civil rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, women’s rights, health care for all, environmental protection, and economic justice. In retirement I found a new career in photography and creating photo books honoring seniors for amazing lives of great accomplishments.  With our new reality in the world of COVID-19, I have made 3000 face masks to help make our community safer.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead, Anthropologist

Christy Stillwell

Board Member

Background: Born in Granada Hills, CA, and grew up in Northern California in the tiny town of Chicago Park, CA.

Education: M.A. Counseling Psychology, Antioch University, Santa Barbara, California; B.A. Communications, Antioch University, Santa Barbara, California

Profession(s): Christy is an educator and activist with more than twenty years working to implement a healthy relationship skills curriculum into schools across the country. She conducts workshops, staff trainings and speaks in schools, juvenile detention facilities, universities and youth serving organizations. She is a published author and researcher of The New Dating Landscape For Today’s Teens and Inspiring Healthy Relationships In The Digital Age. Christy is the founder of What is LOVE, a research-based program working to end relationship violence in schools across the country, to strengthen students social-emotional strengths, increase educator capacity, build healthy dating skills, and connect students to resources.

Personal Statement: I believe teaching the next generation to love in a healthy abuse-free way is how we create a kinder future.

“There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

-Amanda Gorman

Deborah L. Schwartz

Board Member

Background: Born in Wisconsin, lived in Missouri and Massachusetts before I moved to Santa Barbara in 1967 for my father Arthur’s academic career at UCSB and mother Naomi’s public service career for State of California and Santa Barbara County government.

Education:  UCSB, BA in Political Science, Linguistics, English; Columbia University, Certificate of Executive Development in Marketing Management.

Profession(s): Product Marketing Director and Regulatory Relations Director for Fortune 500 Company, San Francisco 1984-2004; City of Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner and Land Use Consultant 2010-2021. In my non-profit volunteer work, previous service includes the Dean’s Council at the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, and currently serving as Board President of Santa Barbara Beautiful.

Personal Statement: Having lived in four states and attended five elementary schools before starting Santa Barbara Junior High School, I learned early on the importance and richness of life in reaching out to and befriending people of different backgrounds. I have had the good fortune to work in and build lifelong relationships in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors – all together serving as the whole of community vitality.

Though my early years traversed various states and 1-year abroad in Israel at the American International School, I’ve always called Santa Barbara home. For me it is the beating heart of family, friendships, and working alongside others whose diverse interests and values continue to make it the most special place to give of myself in support of community.

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”

– African proverb

Advisory Board

  • Lois Capps
  • Hannah-Beth Jackson
  • Anna Everett
  • Monique Limon
  • Beryl Kreisel
  • Erica Reyes
  • Susan Rose
  • Janet Wolf
  • Merryl Snow Zegar
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Board members at the 2022 Retreat and Planning session.