18 North Bay human resources leaders you need to know
Here are some of the human resources managers working in a wide range of industries in the North Bay. They provided North Bay Business Journal their biographical information and discussed how the October wildfires affected their companies.
Their submitted material is listed in alphabetical order.
Merrilee Alvarado and Natalie Haddix
Employee Relations Manager; Human Resource Assistant
Hansel Auto Group
PO Box 750069, Petaluma, CA 94975
Alvarado partners with Benefits and Compliance Manager Bernie Gibb, in managing the Human Resources Department. Although she finds herself at meetings with the top executives of the company, she didn't start her career there. In fact, she started as a front desk receptionist.
After graduating from California State University of Sacramento with a bachelor's degree in communications, Alvarado started her search for employment during the downturn of the economy. She was eager to find a job that was close to home and that could pay the bills while she concentrated on her next move - and an opportunity at Hansel Honda in Petaluma for a receptionist seemed like exactly what she needed. Little did she know that she was falling right into the perfect opportunity with the perfect company. After working a few months at Hansel Honda, there was an opening in the corporate office, working side by side with the executive administrative team. She quickly learned about the organization's long-time history in Sonoma County and with their employees. Alvarado's growing company knowledge allowed her to also assist in the human resources department.
After a brief period of time splitting her role between administration and human resources, she found that her passion was in HR. Diving into pre-employment applications, backgrounds, and new hire orientations; Alvarado was convinced she had found a long-term career with the Hansel Auto Group. As part of her dedication to this new direction in her career, Alvarado went back to school - this time, at Santa Rosa Junior College - to expand her knowledge and qualifications while still working full-time. Even so, Alvarado was able to obtain a business certificate in human resources, in one short year- an accomplishment that usually takes two.
Shortly after achieving her certificate, the Hansel Auto Group had nearly doubled in employees and saw an opportunity to expand their Human Resources Department. Alvarado was offered the position as employee relations manager, responsible for handling employee situations with a focus on conflict resolution in a fast-paced environment. She knows what truly drives the people of the organization and says, “It's how well you connect with the heart-beating people you're trying to help, and understanding the ‘Vision and Values' that drive the organization,” that really leads to success in an HR role.
Haddix began her career with the Hansel Auto Group at Henry Curtis Ford. From receptionist, to finance assistant, to consumer experience manager - she feels very fortunate to work under leaders who have given her a wide variety of training and experience. Haddix was recently given the opportunity to work with Alvarado in the human resources department as the human resource assistant. What's to love about the Hansel Auto Group? According to Haddix, it's that Hansel employees feel connected and appreciated: “We are a team that is devoted to seeing each other succeed.” She is excited about where Hansel is headed and how the Human Resources Department can help drive the company's success!
How have the wildfires affected your ability to recruit or retain your workforce?
Russ Oertel, Hansel's recruiting manager: “The aftermath of the wildfires – combined with historically low unemployment numbers - appears to have reduced the number of people actively looking for work. Now that there are fewer homes available in Sonoma County, candidates from outside the area seem much less likely to consider relocation. I feel a responsibility to look locally, we're working harder than ever to attract talent to our group.”
What is the most substantive change you have seen in the Human Relations field in the past five years?
“The number of candidates for all jobs has sharply declined.”
Human Resources Director
Epicenter Sports & Entertainment
3215 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa
Epicenter is a new company, entering our 18th month of business and are a large employer with 340 employees. Barragan started at Epicenter just over a year ago and gave shape and structure to the HR Department. He wrote and put policies and procedures into effect and developed our best practices for the recruitment, hiring and onboarding processes.