We Are Ready.

DEDICATED TO THE COMMUNITIES OF CALIFORNIA'S SIERRA NEVADA

Sierra Forward’s mission is to encourage and support candidates that will work towards mainstream solutions and fact-based decision making to address the needs of our Foothill and Mountain communities. We encourage engaging in the many things that unite us while speaking honestly and with respect about those that divide.Sierra Forward’s mission is to encourage and support candidates that will work towards mainstream solutions and fact-based decision making to address the needs of our Foothill and Mountain communities. We encourage engaging in the many things that unite us while speaking honestly and with respect about those that divide.

We Are Organized.

DEDICATED TO THE COMMUNITIES OF CALIFORNIA'S SIERRA NEVADA

Sierra Forward’s mission is to encourage and support candidates that will work towards mainstream solutions and fact-based decision making to address the needs of our Foothill and Mountain communities. We encourage engaging in the many things that unite us while speaking honestly and with respect about those that divide.Sierra Forward’s mission is to encourage and support candidates that will work towards mainstream solutions and fact-based decision making to address the needs of our Foothill and Mountain communities. We encourage engaging in the many things that unite us while speaking honestly and with respect about those that divide.

We Are Sierra Forward.

DEDICATED TO THE COMMUNITIES OF CALIFORNIA'S SIERRA NEVADA

Sierra Forward’s mission is to encourage and support candidates that will work towards mainstream solutions and fact-based decision making to address the needs of our Foothill and Mountain communities. We encourage engaging in the many things that unite us while speaking honestly and with respect about those that divide.Sierra Forward’s mission is to encourage and support candidates that will work towards mainstream solutions and fact-based decision making to address the needs of our Foothill and Mountain communities. We encourage engaging in the many things that unite us while speaking honestly and with respect about those that divide.

The Sierra Forward Leadership

Today, across America, citizens of all stripes, civic and community leaders, businesspeople, workers, friends and neighbors, students and teachers, are disgusted with the current state of our political environment. But rather than turning away in despair, they are working to turn their aspirations for the future into action.

This spirit of activism and engagement is evident in the Northern California counties that include the Siskiyou and Sierra Mountain ranges, adjacent foothills, and their nearby valley communities.

Sierra Forward is an expression of that renewed spirit.

Sierra Forward is reaching out to, engaging with and involving voters from across the region, and from across the political spectrum—left, center and center-right. We believe common ground can be found through conversations among those with open minds.

Believing that no elected official, and no one seeking to become an elected official, should be immune from listening, responding, representing and ultimately reflecting the values and needs of their constituents, Sierra Forward’s leadership team is working to inform, register, engage, motivate and turnout voters who share our concerns and our commitment to makes ours “a more perfect Union.”

Corley Phillips

Corley Phillips

Chair

Corley Phillips is the founder of American River Ventures, a $100M venture capital fund investing in early-stage information technology companies. He founded the firm in 2000 and retired as Managing Director in 2008. From 1993 to the founding of ARV, Corley was an active private stage investor in Northern California start-up companies.

Prior to his activities as an investor, Mr. Phillips had a distinguished entrepreneurial career. From 1990 until its successful merger with a public company at the end of 1994, he served as President and CEO of Manzanita Software Systems, an accounting software company based in Roseville, CA. 

As with many residents of the Sierra foothills, Corley has business roots in Silicon Valley. From 1984 to 1990, he was President and co-founder of Grafpoint, a communications software company based in San Jose, California. He previously held various sales and marketing positions with Envision Technology and Hewlett-Packard.

Corley retired so he could fish and sing more. He fishes all over the world, and sings with a local barbershop chorus, the Stay Tuned a Capella Chorus, and several quartets. He and his wife Patricia have lived in Granite Bay since 1996. Corley is registered with the Common Sense Party the founders of which, including former Rep. Tom Campbell (R-San Jose), are pushing for centrist policies and more civil discourse. 

Les Francis

Les Francis

Co-Founder and Director

A resident of Camino, CA (El Dorado County), Les Francis brings a wealth of political and policy experience to the leadership of Sierra Forward, of which he was a co-founder (with Jim Hermann) in 2017. 

A native Californian and product of the state’s public education system, Francis cut his political teeth in Santa Clara County. A protégé of the late former San Jose Mayor, Congressman and Cabinet Secretary, Norman Y. Mineta, in the late 1960s and early 70s, Francis was one of the national organizers of the 18-year-old-vote campaign, and the eventual successful passage and ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.

During his career and at various times, Francis has been a Congressional chief of staff, a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Chief of Staff (Jimmy Carter), and Executive Director of both the DNC and DCCC. He has managed and/or consulted on campaigns for every office from City Hall to the White House, and literally dozens of ballot measure campaigns in every region of the country. Among other activities, Les is a national leader in the current bi-partisan drive to expand and enhance civic learning in our public schools. He is registered now as a No Party Preference voter.

Elizabeth Betancourt

Elizabeth Betancourt

Board Member

Elizabeth Betancourt does not just dabble in politics; she is an active and able leader. Currently the Chair of the Shasta County Democratic Central Committee, Elizabeth has also served as the Northern Region Chair of the California’s Democratic Party’s (CADEM) Rural Caucus since 2019 and has represented rural interests on CADEM’s Anti-Racist Organization Work Group (2021-22), and on the CADEM Platform Committee, as chair of the Energy and Environment Plank (2021-22). 

Elizabeth learned about “where the rubber hits the road” in politics when she ran for office; first, in a special election for the State Assembly (AD District 1) in 2019 and then as the Democratic nominee in the same district in 2020. Although not successful in either race (registration is overwhelmingly Republican in AD 1), she was a credible and competitive candidate both times, raising more money than any Democrat in the district in the previous four decades, primarily via small dollar donors from within the district! She tallied a higher percentage of the vote than any Democrat in AD 1 since 1980. Elizabeth knows rural issues and is passionate about building rural California’s capacity.

Elizabeth has a Master’s degree in Watershed Science from Colorado State University, and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology and Management from UC-Davis. Her day job is in natural and working lands state policy, focused on climate resilience and economic sustainability, largely in rural communities. 

To stay busy, she and her husband, Pedro, own a small Shasta County farm which they share with a puppy, four cats, Soay sheep, and forty or so chickens. The farm is an extra-active place as it also provides educational programs for underserved and at-risk youth.

Jaron Brandon

Jaron Brandon

Board Member

In a stirring 2020 victory, Jaron Brandon became the youngest currently serving county supervisor in the State of California, securing a place for his vision of rural leadership and proving that age is no barrier to public service.

Jaron’s campaign was underpinned by a vision for enhancing the quality of life and bringing people together in Tuolumne County, an idyllic part of central Sierra and its foothills, housing approximately 55,000 residents within its 6% developable land. Running on the three pillars of housing, jobs, and transparency, Jaron is known for his scrappy, fierce, and collaborative leadership approach to changing the priorities and approaches of modern government. In addition to these core issues, he hasn’t shied away from tackling other hairy challenges such as illegal dumping, broadband deployment, biomass utilization, forest management, public safety, homelessness, digital government transformation, green hydrogen, cyber security, and more.

Having honed his leadership skills in student government at UC-Merced and through political internships with the non-partisan Maddy Institute out of CSU Fresno, Jaron’s unassuming entry into the political landscape belied his remarkable ability to rally grassroots support and the power of “ideas over ideology” — focusing on “meat and potato” issues and innovation over partisan stances and political rhetoric. A no-party-preference independent representing a conservative district, he won an incumbent’s seat 59-41 learning the power of listening to people, modern campaign tools, wearing out shoe leather, and bringing compelling ideas forward that focus on improving people’s day-to-day lives.

Beyond his role as County Supervisor, Jaron holds multiple other leadership responsibilities including the Chair of CHIPS Forestry working with indigenous tribes, membership in the CalRecycle Illegal Dumping Task Force and the Institute for Local Government board, Vice-Chair of the National Association of Counties Technology & Telecommunications Steering Committee, cofounder of a local housing collaborative, among others. He’s been a speaker at the Green Hydrogen Coalition Catalyst H2, UC Ag and Natural Resource 2040 Vision Conference, and local high school classes alike. In his free time, he enjoys getting his hands dirty with trash cleanups in local waterways and roadsides. 

Jaron’s commitment to crossing political boundaries mirrors his belief in Sierra Forward, and he actively cultivates unity by championing shared values over partisan politics.

Mary Elliott-Klemm

Mary Elliott-Klemm

Board Member

After showing great resolve and resilience—and success—in Sierra Forward’s voter registration efforts in 2018, Mary Elliott-Klemm was persuaded to become the organization’s El Dorado County Coordinator, where she worked with various local groups to Get Out the Vote. That, in turn, led to her becoming a member of the Sierra Forward Leadership Team.

Mary is a native Northern Californian, whose father grew up in San Francisco, married and bought a home in Marin County. She grew up in the Bay Area at a time when citizens felt empowered to create Open Spaces and preserve the historical nature of their small towns. The purchase of land on the Point Reyes Peninsula for its transition to National Seashore status again demonstrated what a few people with a vision can achieve.

All of that left a mark on Mary, as she realized what grassroots activism might accomplish.

Mary moved to El Dorado County in 1975, taught at a local elementary school for 38 years, raised a family, and engaged in local politics. Involved in everything from Recreation Advisory committees to Area Plans, her proudest achievement has been the organization of Trails Now, a citizen group that worked with El Dorado County and the City of Placerville to create The El Dorado Trail, a hiking, biking and equestrian path that stretches thirty-five miles, from the old gold rush and timber town of Camino westward to the Sacramento County line.  

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Mary was drawn back into the political world, knowing that, if our democracy is to survive, it will take all of us working together to be a force for good. Mary decided that Sierra Forward, with its unique approach and strong Team, was a natural place for her energies.  

John Friedrich

John Friedrich

Board Member

A native of Iowa City, Iowa, and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA in Business Administration), John Friedrich moved to South Lake Tahoe in 2005 to join his now wife, Kim Carr. John and Kim have a daughter Rosie, who is set to graduate high school in the spring of 2024. 

Since becoming a dad, John has been motivated to do everything he can, politically and otherwise, to help create a better world for Rosie and all children everywhere.

John was elected to the South Lake Tahoe City Council in 2020 and serves on the Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, as well. John also works full time with Momentum, a small business based in Sacramento that works with a variety of corporations, municipalities, ports, and airports to design, develop and deploy renewable energy and zero-emission transportation projects.

John has extensive program and policy development experience in the private, government, and non-profit sectors, with a focus on environmental protection, renewable energy, climate policy, and electrification. He has managed numerous electric vehicle, energy efficiency, and distributed renewable generation programs and has designed and led multiple local, state, and national issue and political campaigns. 

John is strongly in accord with Sierra Forward’s commitment to engage with voters across the political spectrum to find common ground to our common challenges.

Rick Miller

Rick Miller

Board Member

Rick Miller is a principal and founding Partner with Capitol Impact, a Sacramento-based consulting firm that offers expertise and experience in developing, executing, and managing successful social impact initiatives.

With Capitol Impact, Miller serves as the Chief Executive Officer of CORE Districts a learning partnership between large California school districts representing over a million students, which Miller founded in 2010.  The CORE districts collaborate to solve inequities and ensure every student has what they need to thrive. Among their accomplishments was becoming the only set of districts in the country to receive a No Child Left Behind waiver from the federal government.

Prior to joining Capitol Impact, Miller served as a Deputy State Superintendent at the California Department of Education. In this position, Miller developed policy recommendations on promising ways to improve student achievement throughout California specifically focused on closing the state’s achievement gaps from Pre-K to Higher Education.

Previously Miller worked at Microsoft Corporation developing communications strategies on privacy, security, and overall corporate image. Miller also served as a strategic communications advisor to the Chancellor of the California State University System (CSU). Prior to working at CSU, Miller served the U.S. Department of Education as Press Secretary to Richard W. Riley, then-Secretary of Education. Miller also spent time during those years periodically detailed to the White House Office of Advance where he traveled domestically and internationally on behalf of President Bill Clinton.

Miller currently serves on the boards of the Placer County Food Bank and the Alliance for Regional Collaboration to Heighten Educational Success (ARCHES.)  Miller was also elected as a Trustee for the Rocklin Unified School District in 2018 and served a four-year term.

Miller lives in Rocklin, California with his wife Julie, an elementary school speech therapist. They have two sons, the oldest a senior at the University of Washinton and youngest in his second year at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Pete Minett

Pete Minett

Board Member

An activist by nature, Nevada County’s Pete Minett declares, “Politics is not my first passion. I am involved because it is necessary.  I was stunned by the rise of the tea-party movement in spring of 2009. Their tactics echoed the Brown Shirts in the early thirty’s – hauling weapons into public meetings, shouting down folks they did not agree with…. using the same bullying tactics. That was enough to get me involved in politics!” 

While he had always been interested in civic engagement, Pete’s truly serious involvement began in his local teachers’ association. That early school-level involvement eventually saw him moving into leadership, then regional and state positions. Then followed organizing and deeper involvement with the Nevada County Democratic Central Committee, where he has been on the executive board for a dozen years. 

Pete Minett is and has been a mainstay in numerous campaigns, partisan and non-partisan alike, from city council, county board of supervisors, state legislature and Congress. Whenever candidates and/or campaign organizers want to know what is going on in the Northern Sierra, or how to create a base, Pete Minett is on their call list—and eventually on speed dial. His first advice is always the same: “Go meet and listen to people. Then learn to speak their language.”

Although an active and partisan Democrat, Pete describes his political philosophy as “center-right on foreign policy to ‘progressive’ on social issues”. He grew up overseas (in Germany), which helps account for his interest in foreign policy, and his centrist views on the topic. As he puts it, “I have seen first-hand the skullduggery that goes on – the worst of it comes from non-American sources, and as a nation we are becoming less naive than when I grew up.” 

Pete worries that “The greatest threat to the United States is no longer being united, and the rise of distinctly anti-democratic forces with no respect for the rule-of-law. I lived in a country run by a dictator. I do not want that here. And, so, I am still involved. Sierra Forward is doing the non-partisan, practical work of trying to win elections for viable, reasonable candidates who will preserve our democratic processes and institutions while working to improve the lives of all their constituents.”  

Kathleen Mintert

Kathleen Mintert

Board Member

As a young social worker, with a Masters degree from St Louis University, Kathleen first learned the power of elections when the then- Illinois Republican governor, Jim Thompson, after campaigning on children’s services, redlined the budget for the successful children’s treatment program where she worked. That’s when Kathleen first became a community organizer and advocate. Politics was personal for those parents who had no place else to turn for help for their children. 

Kathleen is a clinical social worker whose career spanned four decades of direct services to families and children in Missouri, Illinois and California; she worked in and oversaw mental health and developmental disability programs, women’s health, the NICU, and public health policy and statewide program development for underserved groups while working in senior positions in California state government, under both Democratic and Republican governors.

A resident of El Dorado County since she and her husband built their home in 1985; she joined Sierra Forward to work on local issues and help candidates succeed. When not campaigning, Kathleen can often be found on a sailboat, snowshoeing in the Sierras, gardening, cooking, or attending theatric productions in San Francisco. 

Sara Rogers

Sara Rogers

Board Member

Raised in Northern California, Sara Rogers has been engaged in helping her communities and advocating for marginalized populations from an early age. Her perspective is in part informed by her experience as a disabled woman born with a hearing loss, and her educational background in Sociology, Comparative Literature and Art History from the University of California, Davis.

She currently works at Way to Win, a homebase for progressive donors and organizers to transform political funding with data-backed strategies to win elections across the South and Southwest. While this work is part of a national strategy, she cares deeply about her home region and believes that the same strategies of building a reflective democracy by centering long-term organizing can be done in Northern California.

She has previously served as Senior Program Manager at the California Fire Foundation, where she managed fundraising efforts and a wide variety of programs including implementing multiple local disaster relief plans in response to the devastating fires and natural disasters throughout California. 

Sara has also served as a Field Representative for State Senator Lois Wolk in California’s 3rd Senate District where she functioned as a liaison to constituents through developing and maintaining relationships with community members. Sara has broad experience working and volunteering on campaigns, including implementing field operations, advising groups and training volunteers on community organizing and canvassing to increase voter turnout and register voters.

Steve Smallcombe

Steve Smallcombe

Board Member

A native of Chicago, IL, moved to Three Rivers, MI, at the advanced age of six months! The family settled there, and Steve graduated from Three Rivers High School in 1961. He enrolled at Michigan’s Alma College, from which he graduated with Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1965.

He went from there to graduate school at UC-Irvine, which was brand new when he enrolled. There he received his PhD in Chemistry with an emphasis in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). The next stop, first as a post-doctoral student and then as a Senior Research Fellow at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). From there he moved to Palo Alto, where he worked for thirty-three years for a major manufacturer of scientific instruments.    

In late 2006, after decades in Silicon Valley, Steve and his wife, Rosemarie, retired and made the move to the Sierra foothills—first to their vacation home in Pollock Pines and then to their dream “green” home in Mariposa, not far from Yosemite National Park. There they have become active in several community organizations.  

Steve got his first taste of politics in the Sierra Nevada when Rosemarie ran for Mariposa County Supervisor in 2014 and Steve served as her campaign manager.  Rosemarie is now serving her 3rd 4-year term in that position after being reelected in 2022.

Steve currently serves as the President of the the Sierra Nevada Alliance, the Chair of the Upper Merced River Watershed Council, and the Chief Technical Officer of the Mariposa Biomass Project. He is also the Chair of the Mariposa County Democratic Central Committee.

 He has supported Sierra Forward for many years as he appreciates Sierra Forward’s sensible policies and support for candidates for political and non-political offices who avoid extreme or divisive political positions. We all work together to support our communities in the Sierra.