KLA Class 2021
Eric Arias, born and raised in Bakersfield, serves as the youngest member of the Bakersfield City Council. Growing up, Eric attended several local public schools and graduated with his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He often balanced school, internships, and several part-time jobs to pay his way through college. Eric has worked closely with the residents in Ward 1 for the past six years. Since 2014, he has worked with the community through County Supervisor Leticia Perez’s Office and now works as a Field Representative for Assemblyman Rudy Salas. Through this experience, he has learned and worked on important issues for the families and residents of Bakersfield. In his free time, he serves as an advisor for Leaders in Life, a local youth leadership program, and practices his faith with his family every Sunday as a devout Catholic.
Alex Garcia was born and raised in Wasco, CA, where he serves as the youngest leader in their small town’s history. After Wasco High School, he studied political science at Fresno State, where he began his career in leadership & community organizing. Since returning to Kern County, Alex has served his rural families through constituency work and leadership on the Wasco City Council for over six years. Following his second term as Mayor, he remains focused on supporting Wasco families and beyond as a council member, board member at Kern Health Systems, and most recently, on the CalCities division executive board. Alex’s top priorities continue to be on public safety, public health & economic development. Alex lives in Wasco with his partner and two dogs. He looks forward to growing and learning through this unique opportunity.
Karina L. Moreno is currently the Business Manager for the Kern County Assessor-Recorders office. She has worked at the Assessors office since 2006; her previous position had been as an Auditor-Appraiser for the last 15 years. Born in Los Angeles, her family moved to Bakersfield when she was in elementary school. Karina has called Bakersfield home ever since. A graduate of South High School, she earned an associate degree in Business Administration from Bakersfield College and transferred to CSUB, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Married to her husband for fifteen years, they have three children. Karina keeps busy by being involved in her children’s education, extra-curricular activities, and sports. In addition, her family enjoys spending time together and traveling. Karina is excited to participate in the Kern Leaders Academy to give back to the community.
Ronda Newport, Watson Realty ERA, joined the Bakersfield Association of REALTOR® in 2008 after a lengthy, successful career with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. Ronda currently serves as the Immediate Past President of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors®, current President of the Bakersfield Association of REALTORS® Charitable Foundation along with serving as a Director for the California Association of Realtors® and National Association of REALTORS®. Since joining the association, Ronda has served on numerous committees in both member and chair positions. Ronda was awarded the Salesperson of the Year in 2018. Ronda is also a Past President of the Women’s Council of Realtors®. In addition, Ronda is a volunteer for the Kern County Wounded Heroes Fund, the California Federation of Republican Women, and a Real Estate Professionals Family Relief Fund director outside of the Real Estate Industry. She also enjoys being a member of the Christian Real Estate Fellowship group. Ronda is committed to providing a high standard of ethical and professional leadership to her colleagues, the industry, and the community we serve.
Kevin Oliver, Managing member REI Group LLC. With a background in Computer Science, he led numerous multi-million-dollar implementations for GE Consumer Finance. Receiving his master’s in project management from George Washington Univ. he served as the national top Issue manager for GE Energy. After developing a passion for Real Estate & Investing, he grew a 1.2-million-dollar investment business wholesaling and flipping homes in multiple states, all based in Bakersfield. Once achieving his Realtor® license, he went on a few years later to become a broker. He is currently running multiple corporations and leads his Real Estate team at Miramar international. Coming from a law enforcement family, he loved helping the community, at-risk kids, and our men and women in uniform. Currently serving on two commissions (Kern Co civil service commission and Bakersfield’s civil service commission). He serves on the board for PAL (Police activities league) and is a proud member of Rotary International.
Lori Pesante is the Director of Civic Engagement and Government Relations at the Dolores Huerta Foundation. She graduated cum laude from Seattle University. She successfully completed the Honors Program and Latin American Studies Program in Puebla, Mexico, earning a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Spanish. After teaching newcomer students in Delano for two years, Lori attended UC Hastings College of the Law, earning a Juris Doctorate and completing the Hastings Criminal Practice Clinic Program at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Lori also held positions at the Kern County Public Defenders Office, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, and various teaching positions in criminal justice and paralegal programs. She continues to teach for Bakersfield College. Lori is grateful for all her loved ones, many humbling opportunities, all the lessons learned the hard way, and the strength and courage to serve others, so far staying in Milgram’s 1/3.
Debbie Teofilo, a lifelong nature enthusiast, has lived and worked in the Kern River Valley for 15 years, where she and her husband are developing The Lodge at Painted Rock from an event center into a destination retreat that will introduce tourists and potential new residents to our County’s natural beauty as well as to its growing economy. She previously owned a senior home care company in Long Beach. She continues that passion for seniors as President of a local non-profit that is expanding its services to improve the quality of life for older adults. Debbie has a Master’s of Public Health from UCLA, focusing on community wellness issues throughout her career. As she transitions to the public service sector, Debbie looks forward to applying the Kern Leaders Academy training to better her community by empowering others to work together to meet common goals.
Jim Wheeler is a graduate of Fresno Pacific University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, and California State University, Bakersfield, where he received a Master’s in Public Administration. Jim currently serves as the Executive Director of Flood Bakersfield Ministries, Inc. Flood Bakersfield is a 501(c)(3) non-profit social service agency formed in 2008 dedicated to intervening in the lives of the profoundly impoverished to help them navigate available community resources to improve their quality of life. Before his position with Flood, he served as the Homeless Services Manager for the County of Orange. He helped the County develop a systemic response to the homeless crisis there. As a result, Jim is familiar with the issues surrounding homelessness in Bakersfield and Kern County. In addition, Jim Currently serves on the Executive Board for the Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative and previously served for three years as the Chairman of the Governing Board.