In this episode of “Here to Lead” Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09) joins Marco Davis to talk about his journey from childhood in New Jersey to making a life in Florida, and his path to public service that led him to Congress.
Host: Marco A. Davis, CHCI President and CEO
Guest: CHCI alumni and congressional Chiefs of Staff Sandra Alcala, for Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34), Berta ‘Bee’ Alisia Guerrero, for Jimmy Gonzalez (CA-34), and Gerardo Bonilla Chavez, for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14).
Sandra Alcala serves as the Chief of Staff for Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34), where she manages a team of 16 staff in the Washington, D.C. and District offices.
Sandra was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and graduated from Our Lady of the Lake University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a double minor in Biology and Chemistry. She went on to complete her Doctorate in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota where her research focused on the investigation of a novel drug delivery method to treat neurodegenerative diseases of the retina. Following completion of her Ph.D., Sandra saw the critical need for communicating the importance of science in Americans’ daily lives.
Sandra got her start in Washington, D.C. as the first Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and completed her fellowship at the National Science Foundation. She has nearly 20 years of experience both as a senior Congressional staffer on Capitol Hill and working in the scientific, academic and health care community. Before her role as Chief of Staff, Sandra worked as the Director of Member Services for the House Democratic Caucus and Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, where she supported the 239 Members of the House Democratic Caucus. She previously served as the Policy Director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus under the chairwomanship of then-Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. Before working for the Hispanic Caucus, Sandra served as a Legislative Assistant for her hometown Congressman Joaquin Castro and worked on health care, immigration and science and technology issues.
In her free time, Sandra enjoys traveling, visiting her family in San Antonio and reading science fiction literature.
Bertha Alisia Guerrero currently serves as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jimmy Gomez (CA-34). As Chief of Staff, she is the Congressman’s principal advisor on a wide range of policy, legislative and political matters. Bertha Alisia is also responsible for the development and implementation of his public policy priorities in the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Prior to assuming this role, Bertha Alisia served as Director of Public Engagement for Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee. In this capacity, she engaged political, media, and key constituencies to build support for a wide range of conservation and environmental legislative priorities. Before returning to Capitol Hill, Bertha Alisia served as Director of National Advocacy at the Hispanic Federation, where she mobilized elected officials, businesses and community leaders, and diverse stakeholders to support Latino nonprofit organizations, improve education, increase access to quality health care, support immigrant families and expand economic empowerment and financial security.
Bertha Alisia was born and raised in Santa Ana, CA. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her dog Mia.
Gerardo Bonilla Chavez is the Chief of Staff for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY-14) and her former Legislative Director.
Gerardo was a 2011-2012 Public Policy Fellow, placed at U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Department of State, Bureau of the Western Hemisphere Affairs
Gerardo is from Bakersfield, California, but his home state is Minnesota. He attended the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for both his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. He holds a master’s degree in advanced economic policy analysis. Before working with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Gerardo held several Congressional staff positions, including the role of Senior Economic Advisor to the House Small Business Committee in 2019, and was a political appointee during the Obama Administration.