Santa Rosa’s Community Action Partnership deputy director wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award

Mary Watts


Deputy Director

Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County

141 Stony Circle, Suite 210, Santa Rosa 95401


Read other profiles of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

Responsibilities with your company: I started out as a program manager for the health and wellness department. I have worked my way up to the executive team as the compliance analyst for all programming and am now the deputy director for the agency.

I am responsible for overseeing the direct implementation of several existing programs, as well as contributing to the development of new programs. This includes the monitoring, understanding and facilitating the integration of community resources to improve the overall well-being of low-income community members.

How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?

I was promoted to the executive level of a large nonprofit when I was 29 years old and I have created efficiencies and higher standards for delivery of services.

Years with company: 6

Length of time in current position: 3

Number of companywide employees: 180

Number who report to you: 6

Greatest professional accomplishment: Working with my team to quickly address the needs of the community during the 2017 wildfires that destroyed almost 6,000 homes. Since then, our agency has distributed millions of dollars to the community members most impacted by the ongoing disasters,

Greatest professional challenge: Supporting employees during the ongoing difficulties our county has faced; wildfires, floods, PSPS events and now COVID. Working in a nonprofit, the disasters have created more challenges for our services to address.

We are needed more now than ever, but our employees resiliency is extremely important for the welfare of our agency and the community we serve.

Best advice received: Do your best and do what is right to your own ethics and morals.

Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: I moderated a conversation with our Santa Rosa Police Chief and two local black activists. This conversation was so important to have around police and community relations. Black Lives Matter.

What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?

For work, it has been hard to balance the safety of our employees but still providing essential services. I am very proud of our staff and their dedication.

Personally, I had my first daughter in September and so many family members and friends have not been able to meet her in person.

And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from that experience?

It is important to slow down life and appreciate what you have. I am privileged to be able to work from home and my family is safe. Most people do not have that privilege.

What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?

Serving the low income community is vital right now. We have been able to secure disaster funding to distribute to the community.

We also were able to use our platform to have “Community Conversations on Race” to have a safe space for the community to come together and understand systematic and personal racism and how it impacts BIPOC members everyday lives.

Next professional goal: I want to have an opportunity to work on education equity policies

Education: Master of Public Administration, 2013–2015, public management track, focusing on education programs and policies throughout research and case studies. Bachelor of Arts, political science, San Francisco State University, 2010

Hometown: Los Angeles

Community/nonprofit activities: First Vice Chair, Sonoma County Democratic Party; Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities Board Member; Healdsburg Performing Arts Theatre Board Member

Mentor/admired businessperson: Dr. Susan Cooper, Michelle Obama

What is your most disliked industry buzzword?: Sustainability

Typical day at the office: Meetings, meetings, meetings and some writing and reports in between

In a business sense, what is the greatest thing about being under 40; and then what is the worst?

Greatest: So many technological changes to make work efficient.

Worst: Not being taken seriously and having people judge millennials

Best place to work outside of your office: Home

Hobbies: Musical theatre travelling (Pre COVID)

What you wanted to be when you grew up: Politician

No. 1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: Visit two other continents

First job: Choreographing children's musicals with my Mom's company.

Social media you most use: Instagram

Favorite book: “Bridge to Terabithia”

Favorite movie: “Hook”

Favorite App: Apple Podcasts

Favorite after-work drink: Zinfandel

Last vacation: Amsterdam February, 2020

What does your mom or dad brag most about you? Probably that I am caring.

Mary Watts


Deputy Director

Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County

141 Stony Circle, Suite 210, Santa Rosa 95401


Read other profiles of North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

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