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New Leaders Council

Board Bios


IMG_0995.JPGTristan Brown - Labor Lobbyist, California Federation of Teachers


Tristan is a full time labor lobbyist and active member of several political clubs in Sacramento. He has worked in the labor movement since 2006, starting as a representative for in-home healthcare providers. During this time he also began a part-time program at the McGeorge School of Law to obtain his law degree in 2013. After serving in-home care providers for over 5 years, including serving as the Political Director for a state-wide local, he attempted traditional legal work with the prestigious political law firm of Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, LLP.

Finding that he couldn’t ignore his passion for working families, he sought out a legislative career in organized labor and landed with the 220,000 member CA School Employees Association, AFL-CIO. He now works for the California Federation of Teachers, AFT, AFL-CIO as a legislative advocate. He spends much of his free time working with his local Freemason lodge and supporting the Shriner’s Hospital for Children and volunteers as a member of the McGeorge Capitol Center Advisory Board, and sits on the board of the Sacramento Center for Workers Rights.



Gardner Hensill - Attorney


Gardner Hensill is a licensed attorney whose includes defense of small subcontractors in complex construction defect, and property matters. Gardner graduated from the University of California at Davis with a Bachelor ofArts Degree in Political Science in 2005. He earned his Juris Doctorate with distinction from The University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in 2009, where he was admitted into the Traynor Honors Society for his academic accomplishments. Gardner was admitted to the California State Bar in 2010. He is a member of the Sacramento County Bar Association and the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada. In his free time, Gardner enjoys training for triathlons, marathons, and learning Spanish. He also enjoys brewing beer and is an avid hiker.  Gardner also volunteers with Volunteer Legal Services Program of Northern California



Paco Torres - Legislative Director, Assembly Member Cervantes

At-Large Board Member

Paco Torres is a legislative aide for State Assembly Member Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside). He first joined Senator Hancock’s staff in 2011 as a Senate Fellow. From 2011 through fall 2013, Paco advised Senator Hancock on environmental issues. He currently staffs the Senator on the Senate Public Safety Committee, which she chairs. Paco was a 2014 NLC Fellow with the Sacramento Chapter. Paco graduated from Stanford University, earning a Bachelor of Arts with Honors and Distinction in Political Science. He was also awarded admission into the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

While at college, Paco interned in the district office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). A member of the State Bar of California, Paco graduated from Stanford Law School earning a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. While in law school, he summered with the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball in New York, and Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley. Paco also participated in both the Three Strikes Clinic and the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. He was a Co-President of the Stanford Latino Law Students Association. A native Southern Californian, Paco is originally from Orange County. In his spare time, he is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Lakers, and Stanford football.


GSEC_Elena_Ruiz_headshot_highres-wpcf_250x350.jpgElena Ruiz - Manager of Engagement, Greater Sacramento   Economic Council

Curriculum Chair

Elena has over seven years of fundraising, communications, and strategic outreach experience within both the political and nonprofit sectors. Elena is currently the Manager of Engagement at the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, following many years of leading multi-million dollar fundraising operations for competitive congressional races across the country.  Elena is a proud University of Arizona Wildcat, where she studied Public Policy, Health Administration, and Philosophy.  Elena is invested in building vibrant communities and serves as a board member for the Food Literacy Center, United Nations Association Sacramento, and New Leaders Council Sacramento, and is the incoming Curator of the Sacramento Global Shapers Hub.



claire_vz_photo.JPGClaire van Zuiden - Alumni Relations Chair

Curriculum Chair

Claire van Zuiden is an Associate Principal at California Strategies & Advocacy, a state-wide governmental affairs consulting firm, where she is focused environment and energy policy. On behalf of clean technology clients, van Zuiden develops strategies to facilitate progressive alternative transportation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency policies and programs in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. 

In addition to permitting, policy and regulation, van Zuiden has extensive experience in securing public funding and incentives for key projects in California, and since joining the firm in 2009 has helped achieve unparalleled levels of funding awards to accelerate the deployment of alternative transportation, renewable energy, and water conservation projects. 

Prior to joining California Strategies, van Zuiden managed the CPV Consortium, a global, non-profit Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) industry organization. She continues to advise and support the solar association, including orchestrating full-day educational workshops and media events in conjunction with worldwide solar conferences and speaking on behalf of the CPV industry at many conferences around the world. Van Zuiden executes the CPV Consortium’s initiatives to ensure that there is a single industry voice in addressing energy issues and an accurate knowledge of the technology and deployment available to audiences worldwide.
Van Zuiden earned a Master of Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University where she was the President of her graduate program and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from University of California Davis where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She lives in Sacramento with her Partner and has been a Community Tree Planting Leader for the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

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