Executive Board of Directors
Andrew Behnke, DoubleTree by Hilton Claremont (Chair)
Andrew Behnke is General Manager of the DoubleTree By Hilton Claremont and also Vice President of their property management company since 2006. He has been a hospitality executive for over 24 years.
Andrew was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has lived in Georgia, Washington D.C. and Fairbanks, Alaska. He is a decorated veteran having served 9 years in the Army during the Gulf War Era and received his education from the University of Minnesota, Georgetown University and Wayland Baptist University. While in the Army he had the notable distinction of serving in the Presidential Honor Guard and Assistant to the President Escort Officer for the inauguration of President George HW Bush.
Andrew is a community and business advocate in the region and belongs to 4 different chambers of commerce. He has served two terms as Board Chair for the Claremont Chamber. Andrew is very active business advocate and has a firm belief that business has an obligation to make the community a better one for all.
His hobbies include Ice Hockey and fishing. He is married to his beautiful wife Sonja. Andrew currently resides in Upland.
Stacey Caponigro, Smart Property Services Inc.
Stacey began her career in the banking industry as a teller and quickly rose through the ranks holding a variety of positions including management of an office in the Inland Empire. A native of Southern California, her passion for real estate began at a young age observing her parents invest in real estate. In 2012, Stacey pursued her dream and joined her parents at their property management and real estate company, Smart Property Services, Inc. She brings a new perspective to the business, enjoys assisting clients with maintaining profitable investments, keeping a close eye on the real estate market, rehabbing properties, providing quick responses, and maintaining the highest quality of service. Further, Stacey is always current on new laws and changes in the real estate and property management industries through continuing education, and application of her knowledge. Stacey holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of La Verne, is a licensed Realtor with the Citrus Valley Board of Realtors (CVAR), and a certified property manager through the California Apartment Association of the Greater Inland Empire (AAGIE). In addition to her career she also enjoys networking, volunteering in the community as well as traveling the world.
Bruno Windegger, Saca’s Mediterranean Cuisine (Treasurer)
A resident of Claremont for 21 years, Bruno and Nathalie acquired Saca’s Mediterranean Cuisine in 2014 with the ambition to develop and grow the Saca’s brand. Prior to working in the food industry, Bruno worked for 25 years for a large Corporation in Consumer Goods, where he headed the International Division. In that role, he built and run a global network of professional distributors, set up and managed sales, marketing and logistics centers on all 5 continents. As Head of the Corporate Marketing Division, Bruno was also responsible for protecting and growing the brand globally through advertising, social media and public relations.
John Neiuber, Trinity Youth Services
John Neiuber is the Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Youth Services. He leads an agency of 350 employees that serves over 500 children and families daily through residential treatment services, mental health programs, a foster care agency and adoption services. John earned his BA and MA degrees from CSUSB. He is a veteran and received the Army Commendation Medal. John was a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and district office administrator in the public schools, and a management and leadership consultant to public agencies and private industry. He is the former CEO of Advanced Education Services, establishing and operating nonpublic and charter schools. He became the COO of Trinity in 2002 and CEO in 2005. John was recognized by the Center for Entrepreneurship as the winner of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016. He is an active volunteer in his community, serving on city and county commissions, and currently focuses his efforts on historic preservation and the arts.
Board of Directors
Gabriela Portugal, Portugal Insurance Agency
Gabriela has been a part of our Chamber since 2017 & is an active Chamber Ambassador. She is a bilingual (English & Spanish), local Farmers® insurance agent with over 10 years of expericence. Gabriela specializes in auto, home, renters, business insurance, and more. She helps her community members identify the insurance coverage that best fits their needs. CA License #: 0D85073
Dr. Janiel Henry, Women Rise Psychological & Wellness Center
Dr. Janiel Henry is the CEO, Founder, Clinical Director, and Licensed Psychologist #28724 of Women Rise Psychological & Wellness Center. She is passionate about restoring hope to women across the lifespan on their journey to wholeness and wellness—No matter what they are facing in this season of their life. This includes being an advocate and support within a safe therapeutic relationship by using a relational and strengths-based style.
Within the area of mental health, she has had over 16 years of experience working in some capacity both nationally and in international settings including South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. This work expanded her understanding of intersectionality and the contextual factors contributing to one’s health and overall well-being--which often plays an important role in therapy. She advocates for women’s holistic health and wellness and serves both the local community and global community in the form of professional consultations, workshops, and speaking engagements, which are also her passions.
Ehmandah Ramsey, She Stories
Ehmandah Ramsey is the Founder of She Stories – 501c3, based out of Claremont. She is a driven, passionate, and charismatic force who is fueled by the success of those around her. With a long history of grooming spiritual growth and self-love in her community, Ehmandah has been successful at igniting motivation and inspiration. She’s been able to use her experience as a spiritual care provider at a residential treatment facility serving youth with trauma, behavioral, and conduct disorders. Ehmandah is also a Board Member of Homes of Promise/The Village Pomona, Co-Pastor of Emmanuel Church in Chino Hills, and Director of Startup Grind X – Claremont Chapter. She’s a life coach in her community, helping people of all walks of life ignite their spark and seize their full potential.
Gail Polk, Consultant
Gail Polk was previously an experienced Community Outreach Coordinator for Children’s Foundation of America. During her time there, her mission was to match community partners, who possess a strong desire to help youth in foster care and underserved youth, to philanthropic opportunities, which directly benefitted and enriched the lives of sometimes abused, neglected, or abandoned youths. Gail’s experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds includes her years as a stockbroker. During this period, several of her clients were considered high-profile investors, many of whom were attained through cold calls. Because of her methodology, Gail was recognized by both John Hancock and Franklin Templeton for her level of managed money trades. Gail’s first position in a nonprofit was a Program Director for YWCA of San Diego County. Growing up in Riverside, Gail has always lived in Southern California. Most early mornings, you can now catch Gail on a sunrise hike with her pup. Gail loves forging new relationships, getting to know her community better, and figuring out ways to assist others in becoming more successful. For these reasons, she is eager to help her community as a board member of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce.
M'Lissa Swift, LifeSteps Financial
M'Lissa is a part of numerous organizations and holds significant roles. She is a member of ProVisors and the Hope Through Housing Foundation & part of their Steering, Scholarship, and Event Planning Committees. She is a Claremont Chamber Ambassador & BID Representative. She is also a Real Estate Broker & a Financial Planner at LifeSteps Financial.
Emily Moultrie, Claremont Craft Ales
Claremont Craft Ales was started in 2012 by husband and wife team Simon Brown and Emily Moultrie, along with the help of their cousins and business partners, Brian and Natalie Seffer.
Dr. Jim Elsasser, Superintendent of Schools and Secretary to the Board of Education of the Claremont Unified School District (CUSD)
After a successful eight and one-half years at CUSD, Dr. Elsasser joined the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District as their superintendent on January 1, 2021. In July 2022, Dr. Elsasser returned to Claremont Unified School District – a District that under his leadership pioneered a multitude of strategic initiatives, community partnerships, and professional development activities that positively impacted student learning and earned unprecedented recognition for the District. In 2017, Dr. Elsasser was named Region 15 Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators for his visionary leadership and student-centered work.
Dr. Elsasser is an active member of several professional organizations including the Education Research Development Institute (ERDI); National Center for Education Research and Technology (NCERT); Suburban School Superintendents (SSS); Association of California School Administrators (ACSA); the Dean’s Superintendents’ Advisory Group for the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, and a member of the Southern California Superintendents organization.
Dr. Elsasser lives in Anaheim with his wife, Lori. In their free time, they enjoy traveling and spending time with their adult children: Corey and his wife Emma, Brooke, and Nicholas.
Jed Leano, Mayor, City of Claremont
Jed Leano is serving his first term on the Claremont City Council (November 2018 - November 2022). In October 2019, he was named Democrat of the Year for the 41st Assembly District by the LA County Democratic Party.
Jed works as an immigration attorney in private practice in Pasadena, CA. He was admitted to practice law by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. He obtained his Juris Doctor from Rutgers School of Law in 2005 and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Kentucky in 2001. He and his wife Liz have one son, Welles.
Brett Strauss, Southland Data Processing
Brett R. Strauss, Esq. is the Director of Compliance at Southland Data Processing (“SDP”) in Upland, CA. He has been with SDP since 2010 and specializes in consulting with employers to find cost effective solutions to comply with California and Federal employment regulations.
Mr. Strauss is a graduate of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona and earned his J.D. from the University of La Verne College of Law. He is also a proud member of the Labor & Employment Section of the State Bar of California.
Mr. Strauss also serves on the Board of the West Inland Empire Employer Advisory Council and as the Assistant Regional Commissioner for Claremont AYSO. He and his wife Julie reside in Claremont, CA with their two children; Scarlett and Jameson.
Joshua Merry, California Bank & Trust
Creative and business savvy sales and management professional with over 12 years of progressive experience across a broad range of financial industry functions and varied industry segments.
Commercial Banking Center Branch Manager at Claremont's California Bank & Trust since September 2017.
Stephanie King, Ontario International Airport
In 2015, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California, Riverside. Received their Master of Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino in the fall of 2021.
After 6 years of working in county government, she transitioned to a position as the Community Engagement Manager at the Ontario International Airport.
Colin Tudor, The Claremont Colleges
Colin Tudor serves The Claremont Colleges (TCC) as Secretary to the TCC Board and Assistant Vice President of Community Relations. Colin provides executive management support and research assistance to the TCC Board of directors and Council of The Claremont Colleges. Through is community relations efforts Colin works to strengthen relationships and build partnerships within the city of Claremont, the broader Claremont community, and the local region.
Prior to joining TCCS, Colin held various roles with the City of Claremont including serving as the assistant city manager from 2012 through February of 2019. In this capacity, he was responsible for city-wide day to day operations, policy development and analysis for the city council, committees, and the city manager. Colin was directly responsible for the city’s administrative services department including personnel, city clerk, information technology, risk management, and public information. He has worked collaboratively with other regional organizations to collaborate on critical initiatives, including the Foothill Gold Line Extension, the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Commission, and the Amgen Tour of California 2011 Stage 7 Start. Colin has also worked extensively with local community groups on a variety of initiatives. Colin grew up in Claremont and graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a B.A. in philosophy and psychology. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of La Verne.
Randy Lopez, Executive Director
Randy Lopez, Executive Director was the recent chair of the Chamber Board before taking over his current role as ED. Prior to that he was the Founder and "Chief Instigator" of The Jake Agency, an innovative full-service brand agency. Known as a creative thinker and brand visionary, he has held marketing executive leadership roles in brands such as TGI Friday’s, Arnold Palmer Golf Management, VP of Marketing for both Buca di Beppo and Del Taco. Additionally, he has developed brand strategies and led the advertising account teams for such clients as Toshiba Medical, Tommy Bahama, Robbins Bros., Coco's, Acapulco Restaurants, and Wolfgang Puck. As a brand and marketing strategist, Randy still speaks to national and local group audiences on brand building and best practices. A 20+ year Stage 4 Cancer survivor, he is also a board member of the Colon Cancer Coalition based in Minneapolis and has appeared as a national spokesperson for cancer awareness. Randy is a founding board member of Ophelia’s Jump as well a current member of the CTEC Hospitality/Culinary Advisory Committee.
Xochitl Nieves, Event Manager
Xochitl has a demonstrated history working in events, social media marketing, public relations, and communications for over seven years. Xochitl has managed multi-level communications and marketing campaigns for various projects, government agencies, and brands simultaneously, such as Metro, Metrolink, Riverside Transit Agency, City of Los Angeles, City of Long Beach, City of Pomona, City of El Monte, and etc. Xochitl has received a Professional Certificate in Meeting and Event Planning from SDSU and a Bachelors Degree in Sociology from SFSU.
Natalia Estrada, Office Manager
Natalia is a dynamic, forward-thinking business professional with over 7 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Natalia on an ongoing basis helps fundraise & garner donations for several non-profits, i.e., Starts With One Today, The Precious Dreams Foundations, Lotus House Women’s Shelter, and organizations who aim to assist women, men, teens and children experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles and Miami counties. She brings a passion for building relationships to the Chamber and her love for Southern California outdoors. Natalia attended Barry University in Miami Shores, where she received formal training in Business Management and Marketing.
Headshots provided by Sonja Stump Photography