Chief Executive Officer
Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq.
Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq. is the Chief Executive Officer of The San Diego LGBT Community Center. Prior to being named CEO, she served as the organization’s Chief Development and Community Engagement Officer.
A queer Latina, Dessert is an attorney and non-profit executive with 15 years in social justice leadership.
Dessert was previously the executive director of Immigration Equality, a national organization focused on LGBT immigrant rights. She worked closely with the Obama Administration, as well as local, state and national organizations working at the intersection of LGBT and immigrant rights. During this time, she was also named an Arcus Leadership Fellow.
She served in the California Department of Justice in the Office of the Attorney General as a Deputy Attorney General in the Public Rights Division, Consumer Law Section where she also worked with then-California Attorney General (now U.S. Senator) Kamala Harris’ executive team. Dessert also worked with the U.S. Central District Court and with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission.
Dessert has deep roots in the San Diego area. A native of El Centro, she previously served as The Center’s public policy and community organizing coordinator, and as San Diego’s field director for the No on 8/Equality for All campaign. She also worked for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.
She completed her JD at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, where she was the editor-in-chief of the Chicana/o Latina/o Law Review and earned degree specializations from the Epstein Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies programs. She earned her BA at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).
Dessert is married to Lisa Valenzuela.
Chief Operating Officer
Beth has nearly 20 years of experience in program development and oversight. Prior to coming to The Center in 2011, she was the executive director of adoptions and senior director of quality assurance for Walden Family Services. She also created Walden’s LGBTQ Foster Care Network, which provided safe and loving homes for foster youth who identify as LGBTQ and provided on-going cultural competency trainings for Southern California foster parents and child welfare providers around the country. Beth is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Tulane University, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University. She is currently the co-chair of the San Diego Youth Homelessness Consortium and is a board member of the California Coalition for Youth. In 2009, Beth was named by the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine to its annual list of “Top 40 under 40,” recognizing her professional accomplishments.
Chief Financial Officer
The Center is delighted to welcome Angela M. Reyes (pronouns: she/her/hers) to the team as our new Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Prior to joining The Center, Angela worked in public accounting for ten years with firms Mayer Hoffman McCann and BDO managing audit engagements within the private, public, and nonprofit sectors including our local Planned Parenthood. She also worked for several years as the Foundation Manager for a major institutional client of the Tides Foundation, a nationally known, public foundation. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Masters of Science in Accountancy and has an active CPA license. Angela is a member of the LGBTQ community and a decade ago, as a new parent, participated in The Center’s Families program with her son.
Chief Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Officer
Rebekah Hook-Held holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Western Washington University. As an experienced policy professional, Rebekah spearheads the public policy and justice-focused advocacy efforts on behalf of The Center and the greater LGBT community. Additionally, she leads The Center’s civic engagement and leadership development programs, aimed to empower and build power within the LGBT community. In 2015, Rebekah was honored as a “Woman of the Year” by the Speaker of the California State Assembly, Toni G. Atkins. Committed to leading in her community, and investing in leadership development, Rebekah is a member of the San Diego Leadership Alliance Board of Directors, a 2013 Alumni of New Leaders Council Institute, and a member of The Center’s Young Professionals Council.
Dr.Kurt Buis,Counselor Emeritus
Leo Cartier Jr.
Edgar Chavarin Ayala
Shah Pezeshk Fallah
Joseph Severino PhD
Lee A. Wilczek
Rick-Arlo Yah Lira