On Wednesday, June 16th, Supervisor Katrina Foley (District Two) announced the seven appointments for her Second District Veterans Advisory team. The appointees were selected through community feedback and stakeholder engagement, including direct input from the Veterans Alliance of Orange County.
“As the sister of a medically disabled veteran, I know firsthand the struggles of transitioning from military to civilian life,” said Supervisor Foley. “Our Veterans Advisory team got right to work addressing issues such as workforce development and housing, and supporting legislation directly addressing certain challenges faced by veteran communities, including potential exemptions around key property taxes.”
“Our District encompasses the majority of the county’s military bases, service organizations and American Legions, meaning there is urgency and impact in the work our team will address. Along with their personal backgrounds and experiences, each of the seven appointees brings a unique perspective to the committee on key issues, including ongoing social and community challenges being faced by our veterans. I am grateful for their willingness to share their expertise with my office, to help us better understand how to help our veteran residents.”
SUPERVISOR FOLEY’S FULL LIST OF VETERANS COMMITTEE APPOINTEES:
Antoinette Balta, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI)
Ms. Balta previously served in the California State Guard, first as a JAG officer and then as a marketing officer holding the rank of Major. She is also the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI), a pro-bono law firm which lifts up US military veterans in crisis and has served over 9,000 local low-income veterans to date. Ms. Balta’s work also led her to creating a veteran-based legal aid project, with more than 700 veterans receiving legal assistance during a three-year period.
Andrea Ruth Bird-Steiner, Bird Law Team of Newport Beach
Andrea Ruth Bird-Steiner is the founding attorney at Bird Law Team in Newport Beach, California. Ms. Bird is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, where she served as an intelligence analyst. She has argued high profile cases, including Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch, on behalf of Carey Avendano-Hernandez, a transgender woman from Mexico who was tortured by police and military officials, resulting in a published Ninth Circuit opinion granting relief under the Convention Against Torture.
Nick Berardino, President of the Heroes Hall Veterans Museum Foundation
Nick Berardino began representing County employees in 1973. He retired in 2015 as General Manager of the Orange County Employees Association. Nick was the first labor leader to be elected as an Executive Vice President to California Labor Federation from Orange County. He was appointed to the Orange County Fair Board by Governor Jerry Brown and led the effort to build Heroes Hall Veterans Museum. He currently is the President of the Heroes Hall Veterans Museum Foundation. He is also the President of VALOR (Veterans Alliance of Orange County). Nick is the Co-Founder of Voice of OC and the Orange County Voter Information Project
Alexander Gonzalez, Chief of Staff to the City of Costa Mesa (Veterans Commission appointee)
Alexander Gonzalez is a former Intelligence Specialist with the US Navy. He received is BA in Political Science and International Relations from Temple University, and a former staffer to Congressman Harley Rouda.
Bobby McDonald, President and Executive Director of the Orange County Black Chamber
Robert “Bobby” McDonald is the President and Executive Director of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, an organization beginning its 37th year. Mr. McDonald has helped expand the chamber’s educational outreach programs, including establishing the chamber’s veteran business networking programs. Mr. McDonald has also committed to developing programming around veteran’s history, including supporting the productions “History of the Buffalo Soldiers” with Explorer Studios.
Steven Spriggs, Board Member, Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation
Steven Spriggs is the former District Commander for the American Legion, 29th District, the former Post Commander for the American Legion, Newport Harbor Post 291 (2008-2011). He also serves as board members across multiple Orange County and Southern California veterans’ organizations, including the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative, VALOR, and CA Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
Chase Wickersham, Founding Member of OC Veterans Business Network
Chase Wickersham served as a First Lieutenant with the U.S. ARMY as an Artillery Officer in Vietnam in 1970. He has served in a variety of roles in Orange County, including as the the first Director of the the Tierney Center for Veteran Services at Goodwill of Orange County and retired from that position in 2017. He started the Veteran Business Network in Orange County which now has over 5,000 veteran members and meets monthly. He is one of the founding members of the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative and sits on the Steering Committee, amongst many other roles.
The committee will meet once a month to discuss critical issues facing the veteran communities of Orange County. Meeting notes and presentations will be made available on the Supervisor’s website.