USC Price School of Public Policy

USC Price Leadership Council

The Leadership Council is comprised of individuals who represent the various aspects of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. The Council represents key constituent groups in real estate, urban planning, health, and government. Members work closely with Dean Knott in reaching out to alumni, friends, parents, and corporations to engage others in the life of the school. Their efforts have led to the successful establishment of the Dean’s Speaker Series, and they are also instrumental in raising support for USC Price.

If you would like to contact a member of the Leadership Council to discuss how you can become more involved at USC Price, please e-mail athenian@usc.edu.


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Deborah Castro, EML ’12
Chair, Leadership Council

Deborah is President/CEO of Creative Productions, an award-winning strategic marketing agency, specializing in strategy, creative and digital solutions. The company focuses on partnerships and collaboration by connecting organizations and brands with their constituents, leveraging public-private partnerships to accelerate growth. The company’s licensing division provides representation and commercialization of intellectual property. Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Marshall School of Business and an Executive Master of Leadership from the Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Deborah’s involvement with USC spans all corners of the university, impacting alumni, volunteers and parents through a variety of engagements. She has twice led parent volunteers at the USC Day of SCervice for the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission, and launched a first-of-its-kind Trojan Family Weekend mobile app and mobile experience to support alumni and parent engagement. In 2012, through sponsorship, her company orchestrated the Junior Seau Tribute, distributing over 90,000 keepsake wristbands to fans on game day. Her company has provided strategic services and support for the Sol Price School of Public Policy, Marshall School of Business, USC Sports Properties, Keck School of Medicine and Leventhal School of Accounting.

Deborah is an active member of several philanthropic, professional and industry organizations in the greater Los Angeles area and nationally, including Think LA, the Asian Business Association and the Car Care Council Women’s Board, dedicated to furthering education and professional development for women in the automotive industry. Deborah is an emerita member of the USC Alumni Board of Governors (2013-15), and currently serves as chairman of the Athenian Society and member of the Board of Councilors for the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. She is the chair of USC Marshall Partners South Bay/Long Beach (2014-16), and a member of the USC Board of Counselors for the Master of Business for Veterans. Regionally, she is a trustee of the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation Board (California historical landmark), and is a leadership cabinet and board member of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

In 2014, the Long Beach Women’s Business Council recognized Deborah as the inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year; also in 2014, she and her husband Larry were the recipients of the USC Alumni Volunteer President’s Award. The Castro family resides in Belmont Shore and their son and daughter are both Trojans.

Steven Acevedo

Steven Acevedo, BS ’87
As founder, President and CEO of Regatta Solutions, Mr. Steven Acevedo is responsible for creating and driving the long-term vision for the company. Mr. Acevedo has more than 25 years of experience in energy and high technology entrepreneurial management, sales and marketing, energy and data center consulting services, and infrastructure support. Mr. Acevedo blends his extensive background in technology solution sales, business, and strategic planning to guide Regatta Solutions.

Mr. Acevedo runs operations for Regatta Solutions, Inc. a premier infrastructure consulting / distribution company providing client’s environmentally friendly solutions related to distributed power generation. Specializations include cogeneration, oil and gas and data center optimization solutions that drive its focus on “Smart Power Solutions.” As a Premier Capstone Distributor, Regatta’s territory includes California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. Mr. Acevedo also operates Regatta Development Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Regatta Solutions, Inc. and licensed general contracting firm focused on development of Cogeneration and Datacenter Infrastructure Projects and Regatta Finance LLC a firm focused providing energy project financing.

Mark Alexander

Mark Alexander, MPA ’90
Mark R. Alexander currently serves as the City Manager of the City of La Canada Flintridge; a position he has held since June, 2003. Prior to his appointment as City Manager, Mr. Alexander served in other management positions with the City including: Assistant City Manager; Deputy City Attorney; Assistant to the City Manager; and Administrative Assistant. Prior to his arrival to La Cañada Flintridge in 1988, Mr. Alexander held administrative positions with the cities of San Dimas, Glendora and Simi Valley. From 2009 to 2012, he represented the USC Price School of Public Policy on the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors and served as liaison to the Price School’s Alumni Board. Mark currently serves on the School’s Master of Public Administration Advisory Board, the School’s Executive Education Advisory Board, the Athenian Society Leadership Council and is immediate past chair of the USC City/County Management Fellowship Advisory Council. Mark is a past recipient of the USC Widney Alumni House Volunteer award.

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Derek Allen, BS – MPL ’06
Derek Allen is the President of LandForge, Inc. an urban infill development group based in Salt Lake City with operations in California and Utah. LandForge identifies, acquires, and profitably transitions underutilized properties to their highest and best use. This is accomplished through creating physical environments, and their associated infrastructure, that provide rich spaces for people to live, work, and play. These places bring together diverse people, foster relationships, and inspire people to become vested in, value, and maintain the space, thereby creating Places People Love. Prior to LandForge, Derek ran ROEM Development Corporation as the Vice President of Operations. He has worked in the practice of development, construction and design for over 15 years. He holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in urban planning and construction management from the University of Southern California and is an alumnus of Harvard Business School. Derek is an active member of the Urban Land Institute, is USGBC-LEED accredited, holds an OSHA 30 Certification, and is certified in IA Project Facilitation. Over his career Derek has held leadership positions in development, construction, and architecture. His past experience includes professional advisory and management consulting with emphasis in operations and business planning. Responsibilities have included all aspects of project development including feasibility, planning, entitlements, outreach, marketing, sales or leasing of the final product, and collaborative engagement of public stakeholders. He has lead complex and challenging development projects with public and private partners to achieve successful results.

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Ray Bustamante, BS ’84
After graduating with a degree in Public Administration and an emphasis in Health Care, Ray Bustamante decided that a hospital environment was not for him. In 1985, he moved into the hospitality business, specifically hotel management which had many similarities to hospital administration. He began working for Westin Hotels and Resorts as a trainee at the famed Plaza Hotel in New York – and never looked back. His career spans 30 years as a hospitality veteran working for such iconic brands as Westin, Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton. He has lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe, NM. He currently works at the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport and resides in Long Beach, CA where he enjoys supporting many worthwhile causes including USC, KURE-IT Rivals United, Long Beach Memorial Hospital and American Cancer Society to name a few. He has been a member of the USC Marshall Partners and is currently a member of the USC Associates. He joined the USC Price Athenian Leadership Council in 2015.

Dan Cassidy

Dan Cassidy, BS ’59
Dan Cassidy is among the most experienced and accomplished practitioners in the fields of public sector labor relations, negotiations and employment law. For more than 30 years, he has effectively advocated on behalf of counties, cities, special districts, community colleges and school districts in negotiations, arbitrations and in civil service commission and other administrative hearings. Dan, a founding partner of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, has negotiated hundreds of labor agreements for his public agency clients, and various public safety, general, professional, and supervisory units. He has also represented public agencies as a presenter and panel member in numerous interest arbitrations and fact-finding proceedings. Prior to founding the Firm, Dan served as Chief of the Labor Relations Division of the Los Angeles County Counsel’s Office, where he gained first-hand knowledge of the needs of his public agency clients.

Courtney Criswell

Courtney Criswell, BS ’03
Courtney Criswell serves as the Government Affairs and Policy Director for the KIPP Foundation. KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life. To date, her advocacy efforts have enabled the KIPP schools to harness more than $100 million in public funding and grow to a network of 141 schools in 20 states and Washington, DC. Prior to joining the KIPP Foundation, Criswell was Assistant Director of Policy for The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, a national venture philanthropy focused on dramatically improving K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition. Criswell was a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education, specifically serving as Outreach Director in the Office of Innovation and Improvement. At the age of 20, Criswell was elected to office as a Neighborhood Councilwoman, representing 64,000 residents in South Central Los Angeles.

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Max Frank, BS ’05
Max Frank serves as the Division President for Watt Communities for Southern California and the Bay Area. This includes sourcing and controlling new land opportunities, conducting land feasibility and underwriting, financing, and directing Watt’s planning and entitlement efforts. Max has held various posts in both acquisitions, land development, and finance since joining Watt in 2002. He is experienced in developing a variety of project types; however he specializes in urban infill development and brownfield redevelopment. Max’s sustained career growth at Watt can be attributed to his commitment to leadership, integrity, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Max is a California native, and attended the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. He has been an active member on the Alumni Board of Directors for USC Price and now serves on the Price Athenian Society Leadership Council. He also currently serves as a Board Member for the BIA LAV Chapter. Max lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife and two sons.

Andrew Katersky

Andrew Katersky, BS ’92
Andrew Katersky is West Coast Managing Director for Blue Horseshoe Capital Advisors. Previously, Mr. Katersky was Vice President of Finance for Pacifica Ventures, where he handled all financial aspects of the firm’s projects. In 1992, Mr. Katersky earned a B.S. in Public Administration from USC. He credits this degree as the foundation to his professional success and has tried to thank USC by actively supporting both the Academic and Athletic sides of the University. Mr. Katersky is a member of the USC Alumni Association, USC Associates, USC Libraries Top Drawer Society, on the board of the Second Decade Society and sits on the Dean’s Annual Fund Council for USC Price.

Robb Korinke

Robb Korinke, BA ’01
Robb Korinke is a veteran of candidate and ballot measure campaigns across California and beyond. He leads GrassrootsLab’s client and campaign activities in Southern California, and also serves as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles League of Cities. He has a proven record of success in both online and grassroots advocacy, and is an expert in political communication, public affairs and local government issues.

Jim Lewis

Jim Lewis, BS’ 97
Jim Lewis currently serves as City Manager for the City of Pismo Beach, CA. Prior to serving as City Manager of Pismo Beach, Jim served as the Assistant City Manager and President of the Office of Economic Development for the City of Atascadero. In this role, Jim was responsible for economic development, human resources, labor relations, technology, organizational development, the creation of new revenues and operating efficiencies and several special projects. Prior to this role, Jim served as the Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Claremont. In both positions, Jim was successful in transforming downtowns and building pride and positive relationships amongst business owners, community groups, neighborhoods and the city.

Jim served as president of the Municipal Management Association of Southern California (MMASC) in 2001 and currently serves as the First Vice President of the League of California Cities City Manager’s Department ad as a Trustee of the California City Management Foundation. Jim is the only ICMA credentialed manager (ICMA-CM) in San Luis Obispo County.

Jim graduated with honors and received a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Management from the University of Southern California and a Master of Public Administration at Syracuse University.

Jim is Chairman of Pivot Charter Schools, and is active in the Rotary Club of Pismo Beach and the Los Padres Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He is married with two young children.

Meghan Loper

Meghan Loper, BS ’04
Meghan Loper currently serves as a lobbyist for Capitol Strategies Group based in Sacramento, CA. She previously served as Public Policy Director for Majestic Realty Co., one of the nation’s largest privately held, family-owned real estate development firms. During her five and a half year tenure, Meghan worked actively with several trade associations and represented the company’s interests throughout Southern California and in Sacramento. With Majestic properties playing a critical role in the supply chain, Loper severed on several regional goods movement committees and stakeholder agency advisory groups and serving as the lead staffer for a member of the California Transportation Commission. Additionally, she co-chaired the legislative action committee for the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. In addition to her career endeavors, Meghan is actively involved as a member on the board of directors of Coro Southern California, where she previously studied as a fellow in the Public Affairs program.

Aaron Margulis

Aaron Margulis, EMHA ’13
Aaron Margulis is a Senior Manager with 10 years of practice management and hospital operations experience. He has led and participated in many complex consulting engagements in practice redesign, service line development, financial turnaround, hospital joint-ventures, due diligence, fairness opinions, performance and operational improvement. Prior to joining MDS, Aaron focused on physician-hospital alignment and designed and managed specialty hospitalist programs in orthopedics, neurology, critical care medicine and cardiology. Aaron received his MHA at the University of Southern California and his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from California State University, Los Angeles. Aaron is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, and is a board member at “For the Unseen,” an international relief organization focused on the plight of refugees in conflict zones around the world.

Patsy Rincon Lichtl, MHA ’07
Patsy Rincon is Assistant Department Administrator in Gastroenterology at Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest not-for-profit health plan, which exists to provide affordable, high-quality health care services to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. Previously, Patsy was Senior Managerial Consultant in Strategic Planning & Consulting at Kaiser. She has led and supported a wide variety of initiatives including performance improvement and innovation efforts, bandwidth and performance optimization, and region-wide implementation of new protocols of care. Patsy earned a Master of Health Administration from USC in 2007, during which she completed an administrative residency at Children’s Hospital’s USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Currently, Patsy is developing expertise in non-profit board governance through her participation in the Riordan Leadership Institute. She is interning with the board of First Place for Youth, an organization that helps foster youth build the skills necessary to successfully transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood.

Natalia Rincon Austin, MHA ’08
Director, Clinical Business Operations
Molina Healthcare

Elizabeth Smith

Elizabeth (Liz) Smith, EML ’08
Elizabeth Smith (Liz) has over 30 years of experience in the health care industry. She has held many diverse roles including leadership in Nursing, Hospital Administration and Public Health. During her tenure she contributed significantly to many successes of the hospitals she was affiliated with and appreciated the opportunities for personal and professional growth along the way. Currently Ms. Smith is the founder and owner of Connective Outcomes LLC, an Executive Coaching and Leadership Development company which focuses on helping health care leaders and emerging leaders align their strengths with their organizations core values to meet critical success factors necessary in fulfilling the mission, vision and goals of their organization. She is passionate about transforming lives from good to great and her executive coaching affords her that opportunity. In addition she has held leadership positions in various organizations she has volunteered with and values the collaboration and the many joint accomplishments. Ms. Smith currently serves on the Sol Price Alumni Association Board of Directors and enjoys mentoring graduate students in our programs. She is an active member of Toastmasters International and enjoys the opportunity to motivate and empower others to be the best they can possibly be. She is an active member of Health Care Executives of Southern California as well as Women in Health Administration. She has also been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for over 20 years whose core mission is to be of “Service to All Mankind.”

Brissa Sotelo

Brissa Sotelo-Vargas, MPP ’06
As the Government and Public Affairs Representative for Tesoro, Brissa Sotelo-Vargas manages and coordinates the communication and stakeholder management activities for the company’s Los Angeles Refinery. She handles issues ranging from government, community, and media relations to crisis communications. In addition to her leadership at Tesoro, Brissa has played an active role in numerous community organizations by serving as the Chair of the South Coast External Affairs Committee of the Western States Petroleum Association, Board Member of the San Pedro, Peninsula & Wilmington YMCA, and Legislative Affairs Member of the Carson Chamber of Commerce, among others.

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Shane Swerdlow, BS ’10
Shane is a Land Use Consultant at Craig Lawson & Co., LLC, where he specializes in zoning research, land use analysis, and preparation of entitlement applications for complex real estate development projects throughout greater Los Angeles. In his previous experience as a Historic Preservation Planner at Chattel, Inc., he was involved in design collaboration and environmental review for projects involving rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic properties, including Mission Santa Barbara, Las Vegas’ Neon Museum Visitor Center (housed within the Mid Century Modern La Concha Motel Lobby), Torrance’s Pacific Electric Railway – El Prado Bridge, and Downtown Los Angeles’ Maxfield, Garment Capitol, and Sears, Roebuck & Co. Mail Order Buildings. He also managed the firm’s role for five years as consultant to the Office of Historic Resources within the City of Los Angeles, Department of City Planning to process nearly 300 Mills Act Contracts providing property tax reduction to qualified owners of historic buildings. Shane holds dual B.S. degrees in Public Policy, Management, and Planning and Business Administration, with concentrations in Real Estate Development and International Business, from USC and meets the United States Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards in Architectural History. For the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, he serves as President of the Alumni Association, as well as a member of the Board of Councilors and Athenian Society Leadership Council. He also serves on the Board of Directors and Planning and Land Use Committee for Los Angeles’ Mid City West Community Council and is a member of the Accordion Federation of North America.

Wendy Wang

Wendy Wang, MPP ’01
Wendy currently serves as the Corporate Director for Community Education, Outreach, and Public Policy for Pacific Clinics, the largest behavioral health care provider in Los Angeles. Prior to this role, Wendy worked for the Association of Community Human Service Agencies as the Mental Health Policy Director. While she currently works in the non-profit sector, Wendy has a public service background demonstrated by her previous work in the Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn’s administration. Wendy has served as a former City of Torrance Library Commissioner, City of Pasadena Northwest Neighborhood Commissioner, and board member for OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans), Los Angeles chapter. Her love for books and the library led her back to another Library Commission, this time for the City of Pasadena. Wendy is committed to her alma mater (USC) through volunteering on the Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Alumni Board of Directors and the Asian Pacific Alumni Association Board of Directors (APAA). Last year, Wendy served as the Chairwoman for the APAA Scholarship Committee where over $100,000 in funds were awarded to undergraduate and graduate students dedicated to the Asian Pacific Islander communities. She is also a member of the Trojan Junior Auxiliary Club and the Altadena/Pasadena Soroptomist.