Transportation manager for Sonoma County's Becoming Independent wins Latino Business Leadership Awards
Arturo Gonzaga, transportation manager for Santa Rosa-based Becoming Independent, is a 2021 winner of North Bay Business Journal's Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Professional background: Nonprofit
Education: College courses
Staff: Five direct reports
Tell us your story and that of your organization:
I’ve been with Becoming Independent (BI), a nonprofit organization providing services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the North Bay with the purpose of elevating human abilities, for 6 years.
I started as a driver and worked in our Life Skills department before being promoted to my current role as transportation manager.
As the transportation manager, I oversee Becoming Independent’s fleet of vehicles and manage the transportation needs for all of BI’s programs and clients while ensuring the safety and well being for all.
During my tenure as transportation manager I have helped grow BI’s Secured Document Destruction enterprise through customer acquisition, which has led to a greater market share and profitability for the organization, and cultivated relationships with local businesses to help support BI’s mission and provide meaningful employment for adults with disabilities.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
As an organization, BI took a 50-year-old way of operating and completely transformed the way we provided services during the pandemic and into today.
As a result, we now offer a new hybrid of services, have implemented new protocols and procedures to ensure the safety and well-being for staff and clients. This has been a transformational redevelopment of the way BI delivers services to over 600 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and we are creating the framework to serve even more of the North Bay’s 9,000 individuals looking for services.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Becoming a manager at BI has been one of my proudest professional achievements and being able to ensure that hundreds of individuals are receiving the support they need to access their community.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve taken pride in being able to facilitate opportunities for individuals to connect and re-engage with one another.
What is your biggest challenge today?
With COVID, new regulations and safety measures in regards to transportation and interfacing with the community are constantly being reevaluated and implemented. The constant change and remaining flexible is both a challenge and an opportunity.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
I am proud to see how diverse our community is becoming and seeing Latino run businesse expanding all over our county. I have friends who have started small businesses that have now grown to larger successful restaurants.
One of the greatest challenges the Latino community is facing is affordable housing. This continues to be a struggle for our community and business owners who want to work and live in the same city and stimulate our local economy.
Words that best describe you: People would describe me as professional, ambitious, knowledgeable, passionate, friendly, and loyal.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
In 2013, I made the decision to apply for a work permit through DACA and have maintained an active status. Having to apply every two years and the shifting political landscapes causes a sense of uncertainty and anxiety. As a community we have to make our voices heard and continue to fight for immigration laws.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
As leading innovators in the field of human services I see significant change on the horizon for the types of services we are able to offer those in our community – especially around employment and workforce development for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Becoming Independent is on the cusp of creating a program headquarters that will transform services and create attainable opportunities for all who receive services.
Who was your most important mentor?
The most important mentor in my life was my father, Jaime. He taught me that having a passion and a drive will get you further in life and he supported me in my career decisions that have led me to my current career. His lessons on treating others how you want to be treated continue to inspire me to be a better person and leader in my community.
Tell us about your community involvement: An organization that I am passionate about is Corazon Healdsburg. Their mission of uniting people to celebrate diversity is an important matter in our community and inspires me to give back.
Additionally, I enjoy volunteering for BI fundraising events and community education forums.
What advice would you give to a young person today?
Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to think big and act bold.
It’s a challenging time for all but the COVID-19 virus has been especially tough on the Latino community. Tell us your experience either personally or with the group or company you work with in dealing with the economic impact of the virus.
Personally, I lost my father in December of 2020 due to COVID. It has been a struggle for our family emotionally, but we continue to encourage one another to make each day a better day.
My father always encouraged us to be the best versions of ourselves and I look to him for inspiration and motivation to stay strong.
What are the lessons of this difficult year – including the COVID-19 virus, the economic downturn and the fires – for you and how has it changed your outlook for the future?
Tomorrow is never guaranteed and in order to succeed in uncertain times you have to learn how to be flexible and adaptable.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Cesar Toxqui | Cesar Toxqui Cellars
Current reading: “Go Tell It on the Mountain”
Most want to meet: Barack Obama
Stress relievers: Long hikes and walks
Favorite hobbies: Going to soccer games