Boards & Commissions: Kicking Off 2024


Written by Toni Belknap-Brinegar, CVI’s Senior Civic Engagement & Leadership Coordinator, and Samantha Miller, CVI’s Program Associate

On the Docket: 2024 Fellowship Cohort 
Every year, I say that I have met the best people who have chosen to participate in the program and this year doesn’t disappoint! Here is a peek at some of the fellows you will get to know over the next six months:

Esperanza Pablano
Esperanza currently lives in Nampa and works for a national organization providing training in diversity, equity and inclusions. She aims to learn the dynamics of boards and commissions and to authentically represent the Latinx community. When asked what she wanted to learn overall, she stated, “To soak up as much information as possible to be a more effective advocate for my community.”

Maxine Durand
Maxine Durand currently lives in Twin Falls but is originally from Richfield, Idaho – a small town of about 400 people. She is a proud graduate of the College of Southern Idaho and the University of Idaho. Above all else, she is dedicated to serving in the public sector. She states that she wants to learn what “healthy boards” look like and how they operate, as well as gain practical knowledge and education.

Teh Lai
Teh Lai is originally from Taiwan and has lived in a few states before coming to Idaho two years ago. He’s served in the Taiwanese military as an Administrative Cadre and is now a dedicated employee at Micron. Teh is looking forward to learning more about the lowest level of government in Idaho as well as meeting new people who have the same goals as he does in developing unique ideas on how to solve local issues.

Over the last month, it’s been my pleasure to spend one-on-one time with each of the fellows. During our conversations, I ask them two questions:
1. What are you most looking forward to learning in the fellowship?
2. What are you most nervous about?
Here are a few of their answers:

“Connecting with other leaders who are interested in learning how to better interact with [local] government.”

“Getting out of my comfort zone and learning about the process of decision making.”

“Learning the ‘how’ behind decision making and understanding the impact of being on a local board.”

“Of course, I’m nervous about meeting new people, but I’m also excited about it.”

“I’m nervous about all of the new information and not being able to understand all of it.”

Each of the 2024 candidates brings a new, fresh perspective that makes us excited here at CVI – we are beyond thrilled that these folks have chosen to dedicate six months to learning how to make positive change in the state that we all love.

New Business: Mentor Recruitment

We have a fabulous group of Mentors that will play a critical role in the 2023 cohort’s leadership development, including returning mentors and mentors from previous classes:
2 Mentors who are 2021 Boards and Commissions graduates
4 Mentors who are 2022 Boards and Commissions graduates
2 Mentors who are 2023 grads
11 Mentors who are returning for their second or third year
6 New mentors

Here are a few of the wonderful people serving as mentors for 2024:

Margaret Szeles is a 2023 graduate of the Boards and Commissions fellowship. She currently is a J.D. candidate at the University of Washington School of Law. Prior to this, she worked as a long-range transportation planner with the ACHD. Before moving to Seattle to start her next endeavor, Margaret had already made plans to engage with local boards in Washington by researching what was available to her and which she’d like to participate in. There is no doubt that Margaret will make positive change no matter what state she lives in!

Camilla Barnes Kelly was a 2022 Boards and Commissions graduate and a mentor for the 2023 class of fellows. She is an educator at the Global Village School, an international online K-12 school. In 2022, she applied for the fellowship to increase her understanding and interaction with local government. Camilla is a quiet and fierce leader who has dedicated herself not only to public service but to bettering her state through her leadership.

Dr. Alex Zamora is a new mentor this year. He filled-in as a trainer last year and decided he wanted to engage at a deeper level with the leaders based on his interaction with the 2023 class. He currently serves as the Chairman of Caldwell Planning and Zoning commission but has previously served on multiple non-profit boards. Dr. Zamora brings a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors and we are so very grateful for his time and expertise. 

Because the fellowship is starting in March, the new class of bios and headshots will not be available until February. Please check back next month to get the link after our official 2024 Fellowship kick-off!