Sonoma Speaker Series: Current Board of Directors
Kathy Witkowicki - CEO / Co-Founder
Kathy Witkowicki is the Founder and Director Emeritus of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides one-on-one mentoring for at-risk youth in Sonoma, California. Since 1996, the program has served more than 2200 disadvantaged kids by matching them with long-term, committed volunteer mentors. As a result of the program’s enduring success, she presented mentoring workshops at the local, state, and national level for 16 years.
She has received widespread recognition for her work with young people in Sonoma Valley, including the Woman of Distinction Award from Soroptimist International, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the 2014 National Classic Woman Award from Traditional Home Magazine, and the Jewel of a Woman Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern California.
She 'retired' from the Mentoring Alliance in 2015 and co-founded the Sonoma Speaker Series in 2016.
Kathy has lived in Sonoma since 1979, where she raised 4 children, and stayed very active in their schools, as well as their sports. She presently sits on multiple non-profit boards, including the Mentoring Alliance. She has been a mentor to Jackie since 2011 and is currently mentoring Angie since 2019.
Bob Smith - Secretary
Robert A. Smith graduated Cum Laude from the University of San Diego School of Law. For more than thirty years he has been the City Prosecutor for the City of Sonoma, as well as maintaining a private practice. He has enjoyed volunteering as a mentor with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, and sitting on the Boards of local NGOs including Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma and the Sonoma Community Center. He has also served on the Board and as a Facilitator for Challenge Sonoma Adventure Ropes Course, an experiential education experience targeting youth-at-risk, for more than twenty years. Smith is the Program Director for Sonoma Valley Youth and Family Services, a juvenile diversion program utilizing a trauma-informed care model to keep juveniles from entering the juvenile justice system. A three-time Boston Marathon finisher, he is an active runner and involved as a "want to be" actor in local theater.
Jennifer Rochlin - Treasurer
Jennifer is an active member of her community in many ways. She stays busy as a Realtor® with Compass, helping her family, friends, and acquaintances buy and sell residential real estate throughout the North Bay. She also helps in the office of her husband's business, PlanTerra Landscapes. In support of local non-profits, she’s currently an active member of Impact100 Sonoma, Sonoma Valley Chapter of North Bay Association of Realtors®, which has been providing high school graduates scholarships for nearly 40 years, and as a board member for Sonoma Speakers Series.
Past efforts in philanthropy and volunteer work include Sonoma Valley Mother’s Club, Sonoma Charter School, Star Academy, Girl Scouts of Northern California, Boost Conductive Education with United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay, WilMar Family Grief and Healing Center, Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), and North Bay Association of Realtors®.
Jennifer was born and raised in Sonoma, and she and her husband raised their kids there too. In their downtime, she and Stephen enjoy training & hiking with their golden retriever, Beanie, visiting their kids in Portland, OR, or at UC Davis, traveling, reading, visiting art museums, dining out, cooking big meals for friends and family, and designing and remodeling their home in “the Springs”.
Before beginning her career as a Realtor® in 2015, she owned a successful bookkeeping company throughout Sonoma, Napa, and Marin Counties for 18 years.
David Bolling - Board Member
Sharon Knight - Board Member
Sharon is a former Fortune 500 finance executive who leapt into the healthcare startup world as President of One Medical Group in 2009 after 7 years in the videogame industry at Electronic Arts. She now works as a wellness and disease prevention advocate, growth strategist, startup advisor and angel investor to advance healthcare innovation and health equity. Sharon and her husband John renovated a home in Sonoma in 2014 and steadily migrated from San Francisco to live here full-time in 2019. Sharon has been a member of Impact 100 for 10 years, serving for the last 5 on the Finance Review Committee. She is a founding board member of Village of Sonoma Valley, a new nonprofit focused on helping seniors to remain lively independently in their homes, and recently joined the Development Committee for the Sonoma Valley Catalyst Fund.
Laura Zimmerman, Board Member
Laura Zimmerman is the former Executive Director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation for more than 6 years. She brings a background in communications, fundraising, and community service to the post. Like many before her, Laura got involved in school related activities as her own children entered the California public school system. Volunteering for a decade or so led her to choose a path in the non-profit (or better said, social-profit) sector. She worked with Paul Newman’s camp for seriously ill children called ‘The Painted Turtle,’ and also served as the Director of Development for the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Previously, Laura worked in television news as a reporter and anchor. She reported the daily news for several Bay Area TV Stations including KNTV, KGO-TV and KTVU. She and her husband Jeff have three grown children and they are also grape growers in the Sonoma Valley.
Joelle Smith, Board Member
Joelle Smith is a community connector for philanthropic organizations, an inspiring floral designer, and a passionate consultant & promoter of women-owned ventures.
Recognized as a ‘Hands-on-Philanthropist’ in the Sonoma Valley Sun and recipient of the Sonoma Star Volunteer Award by Teen Services, Joelle has poured herself into philanthropic activities for 20+ years.
In 2018, Joelle founded SHENOMA, which has been behind many heartful community efforts such as empowering our youth through Teen Service’s ‘ Ready to Work program’, spreading the love with Cancer Support Sonoma’s Valentine Project and other past involvements, as well as starting the SHENOMA Scholarship Program. Joelle has created a space that continues to spark impactful partnerships and give back, with Chateau Sonoma and Tiddle E Winks, to name a few.
Through her business, Valley of the Bloom, sustainable, female-owned local floral farms cross with intentional floral design projects that are one of a kind.
Joelle calls Sonoma her home, since 2000 and enjoys time with her husband, two kids and chocolate lab! Her continued innovation and light cultivates positive movement and possibility in the community.
Sonoma Speaker Series: Board Members Emeritus
Alex Chadwick - Co-Founder/Board Member Emeritus
Alex Chadwick is an independent journalist whose distinctive work makes him one of the most recognized reporters in public radio.
At NPR, he was a co-creator of Morning Edition, the most widely heard news program in public radio, and a host of that program as well as All Things Considered. As chief correspondent for the Radio Expeditions series from NPR and the National Geographic Society, he won the Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2001 for exposing the story of illegal mining in eastern Congo of coltan, a substance used in high-tech electronics. Other honors include The Overseas Press Club for Outstanding Foreign Reporting (twice) and sharing in a Dupont Award for general excellence to Radio Expeditions. In 2012, he was recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a special documentary on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima, Japan.
He has worked as a writer and feature reporter in network television (CBS, ABC, National Geographic), and for the online political magazine Slate.com, where his popular feature Interviews 50 Cents was named ‘must see’ video by the New York Times. He wrote the 1996 three-hour CBS News television documentary In the Killing Fields of America that won a national Emmy, a Peabody and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for reporting on the disadvantaged.
Wendy von Wiederhold - Co-Founder/Board Member Emeritus
Wendy von Wiederhold is a clinical psychologist and the Interim Executive Director of A Home Within, a national organization, with 50 chapters in 23 states, which provide open ended, pro bono psychotherapy to current and former foster children and youth, as well as, tools and trainings to those living and working with at-risk, traumatized, and foster youth.
She is in private practice in San Francisco and St. Helena and a partner in Beyond Coping, a group practice specializing in treating the psychological effects of major medical illnesses and conditions, with offices in Sonoma, San Francisco, Oakland, Marin, and St. Helena.
John McChesney - Co-Founder - In Memory (1939-2018)
John McChesney joined NPR in 1979 where he developed NPR’s first national desk, a team of reporters based in cities across the country. He later created NPR’s first foreign desk, initiating major coverage of the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, the Lebanese civil war, and the fall of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He then went on to become a correspondent reporting on Silicon Valley during the rise of the internet. After nearly ten years on that beat, he reported on agricultural technology and the organic revolution. He ended his NPR career covering the war in Iraq (three embeds) and the severe impact of the war on military families at home. In a major investigative piece aired on All Things Considered, he reported the CIA’s torture and killing of an Iraqi detainee at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
John won several awards for his work: the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for his documentary on grand jury abuse; the World Hunger Media Award for reporting on famine in Chad; Dartmouth’s Champion-Tuck Award for reporting on health care costs in America; twice a participant winner of Overseas Press Club Awards for work done as editor of NPR’s foreign desk.
Before he joined NPR, John completed four years of graduate work at Stanford and was an assistant professor of American Literature at Antioch College for six years. After leaving NPR, he returned to Stanford at the Bill Lane Center for the American West. There he directed a program researching the rural West.
“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Sonoma Speaker Series is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization - Federal Tax ID #81-4625504.
Your sponsorship/donation is tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law. To claim a donation as a deduction on your U.S. taxes, please keep your email donation receipt as your official record. We'll send it to you upon successful completion of your donation.