Staff & Advisory Board


Mark PertschukMarkPhoto
Mark is the former President & Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights in Berkeley, CA (1986–2007), during which time he ran a grassroots campaign to ban smoking on all commercial airline flights in the United States. In 1995, Mark co-founded Californians for Responsible Gun Laws to mobilize grassroots support for 40 local gun control ordinances and three major statewide firearm laws. He has also served as Executive Director of the Marin Institute in San Rafael, CA and Legislative Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington, DC.

MichaelPhotoMichael G. Bare
Program Manager & Policy Analyst
Prior to joining Grassroots Change, Michael worked in HIV and LGBT health disparity programs. Michael has extensive experience in community and stakeholder engagement, research, evidence-based policy analysis, strategic communications across the areas of public health, social justice and human rights, community-based participatory research, grassroots, and policy maker engagement for policy and social change. Michael received his graduate training in public health at New York Medical College.

img_1820-version-2Ellie Gertler
Program & Communications Associate
Ellie is a passionate advocate for Oakland (CA), social justice, the environment, and positive change. She led a project to build a community garden at the San Luis Obispo County Jail that provided farming education, productive use of time, and a healthier food system for inmates. As a Fellow at Urban Adamah, she studied and implemented practices in urban farming and social justice/food systems in West Berkeley (CA). Ellie was the Run Director for Running for a Better Oakland (RBO), a local non-profit teaching Oakland K-12th grade students healthy lifestyles through running. She is an athlete and avid outdoorswoman, having recently completed hiking 2,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Ellie is a native of and currently lives in Oakland, and received her undergraduate degree in Sociology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

sullivan-board-headshot-1Patty Sullivan
Senior Strategy & Planning Consultant
Patricia (Patty) Sullivan has over three decades of experience in executive management, sales, operations, solutions, and marketing with IBM. During her time with the company, Sullivan developed extensive knowledge of business and technical solutions for the education industry working with a wide range of K-12 and higher education institutions globally. While serving as solutions executive of IBM’s Global Education Industry, she oversaw a portfolio of academic, administrative and research solutions that generated over $1B in revenues. Since retiring from IBM in December 2013, Sullivan has devoted herself to her long-standing efforts to develop and support community-based organizations. She continues to consult with not-for-profit organizations on sustainable business models and leadership, volunteers with community wellness programs, and serves on community boards.

Sara Soka portrait shotSara Soka
Grassroots Public Health Consultant
Sara Soka was the campaign manager for Berkeley vs. Big Soda, the first successful soda tax in the United States.  Sara consults through Grassroots Change and Ninjas for Health on public health policy and communications, specializing in soda taxes, messaging, strategic storytelling, and coalition development.  She has a MS in Population Health Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and started her career in obesity prevention and healthy food access research.

leslie-2Leslie Zellers
Senior Legal & Policy Consultant
Leslie Zellers is an attorney with more than 20 years experience in public health. Currently she works to advance health and wellbeing through legal and policy work in areas such as tobacco control, obesity prevention, prescription drug overdose prevention, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Previously, Leslie was Vice President for Programs at ChangeLab Solutions (formerly Public Health Law & Policy), a nonprofit organization that works with local governments and the community to create environments where healthy options and lifestyles are available to all residents. Prior to working with ChangeLab Solutions, Leslie conducted legal and policy work on tobacco prevention and childhood lead poisoning prevention for Contra Costa County and several nonprofit organizations. Leslie is a member of the Alameda County Tobacco Control Coalition and serves on the Board of Directors of The Shanti Project and Counter Tools (a tobacco control nonprofit). Leslie is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, and a graduate of the UC Hastings College of the Law.

photoMahmoud Abunie
Research & Media Content Intern
Prior to joining the Grassroots Change team, Mahmoud worked with the Arab American Institute as their Government Relations intern in Washington D.C.  He worked on tracking legislation concerning the Arab-American community as well as researched and wrote blog posts. He received his graduate degree in Public Affairs from the  University of San Francisco, where he had the opportunity to learn extensively about public policy, communications and social change.


(Sitting, from left to right) Liz Williams, Amy Pertschuk, Letetia Daniels Jackson (Standing, from left to right) Michelle Larson, Dan Abrahamson, Toby Hoover, Geraldine Henchy, Marjorie Paloma. Not pictured: Tonya Hoover

(Sitting, from left to right) Liz Williams, Amy Pertschuk, Letetia Daniels Jackson
(Standing, from left to right) Michelle Larkin, Dan Abrahamson, Toby Hoover, Geraldine Henchy, Marjorie Paloma. Not pictured: Tonya Hoover

Daniel N. Abrahamson
Director, Office of Legal Affairs
Drug Policy Institute
Berkeley, California

Edith D. Balbach
Professor and Director
Community Health Program
Tufts University
Medford, Massachusetts

Geraldine Henchy
Director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs
Food Research and Action Center
Washington, DC

Toby Hoover
Founder and Executive Director
Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence
Toledo, Ohio

Chief Tonya Hoover
State Fire Marshal
State of California
Sacramento, California

Letetia Daniels Jackson
President and CEO
Tandeka LLC
Dothan, Alabama

Michelle Larkin
Assistant Vice President
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton, New Jersey

Marjorie Paloma
Senior Policy Advisor
Senior Program Officer
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton, New Jersey

Amy Pertschuk
Director of Network Communication
Children & Nature Network

Liz Williams
Project Manager
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights
Berkeley, California