Gilroy Foundation Board of Directors
JOEL GOLDSMITH, PRESIDENTJoel retired President/CEO of Goldsmith Seeds, Inc., now Syngenta Flowers. He grew up in Gilroy and graduated from Gilroy High School. After a brief career as a cucumber farmer and then co-owner of the local Yamaha motorcycle shop, he attended UC Davis before starting his career in the flower seed business. Joel joined Goldsmith Seeds in 1978, holding a number of positions before becoming President in 1991. He was also very active in the horticultural industry, serving on a number of Boards, including time as President of two major flower seed organizations, All America Selections and Fleuroselect. Joel is also very involved in the community and currently serves on the boards of Leadership Gilroy and Community Solutions. He is a past president of Gilroy Rotary and a past Chair of the Board of Directors at Gilroy Gardens.
Karen La Corte, Vice PresidentMarx Towing, Inc. – V.P.
Karen grew up in Gilroy and has served in various Leadership positions including St. Mary School, the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Leadership Gilroy and the Arts & Culture Commission. A past Woman of the Year for the Chamber of Commerce, Karen was a Hearts of Gilroy award recipient and the Silicon Valley Philanthropy Volunteer award recipient. She is a former Gilroy Foundation ambassador, chairing the Foundations "Day in the Country" event. Karen has also served the Foundation as a grant reader and was a founding board advisor to the Youth Board. She has been married to Frank (a former Major League Baseball player) for 43 years and has two married children and four grandchildren. Karen also teaches etiquette and manners and writes a column on the subject for the Gilroy/Morgan Hill Today magazine.
Marie Patane Blankley, TreasurerMarie's ties to Gilroy date back to her father's birth at Wheeler Hospital in 1928. She was raised in Gilroy, the oldest of four children, and graduated from Gilroy High School in 1981. She later graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in accounting then went on to receive a Master's degree in Taxation from Golden Gate University. She has been in practice as a certified public accountant since 1988 and started her own public accounting firm in Gilroy in 1996. Together with her husband, Steve, she has two children, both raised in Gilroy and now pursuing college degrees. In addition to being a member of the Gilroy Foundation board, she is a Gilroy City Councilmember with her term expiring in 2022, a member and past board member of Gilroy Rotary and the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, a former two-term planning commissioner for the City of Gilroy, current treasurer and volunteer for the Gilroy Youth Task Force, and President and member of the Gilroy Assistance League.
JAY BAKSA, SecretaryJay joined the City of Gilroy, as the City Manager in 1983 and retired in 2008. He continues to be involved as a City Managers Senior Advisor/Range Rider for Santa Clara County. He has been a member of Gilroy Rotary Club since 1984 and was a founding member of Leadership Gilroy. Jay loves all sports, running, reading and Youth Sports coaching. Jay currently coaches 6th and 7th grade basketball at South Valley Middle School and has coached over 1250 games. Jay was selected into the Gilroy High School Athletic Hall of Fame for coaching basketball and volleyball in 2018.
Edwin Diaz, Past PresidentEdwin retired after 35 years as a public-school educator in California. The last 12 years of his career he served as Superintendent of Schools in both Gilroy and Pasadena Unified School Districts. Born and raised in Gilroy, Edwin has been involved in numerous community activities and causes. Currently, Edwin and his wife, Delia, serve as Immediate Past Co-Chairs of the Latino Family Fund, a local donor-advised fund of Gilroy Foundation and he also serves on the Board of Directors of ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.
The first in his family to attend college, Edwin received a B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Educational Leadership. He also possesses both Teaching and Administrative Services Credentials.
Lee BlaettlerLee, a native of Gilroy, is proud to be raising their daughter as a 3rd generation resident. Lee graduated from San Diego State University in 1983 with a degree in Business Administration. She enjoyed a 23-year career in the Financial Services industry. Lee worked in New York on Wall Street, Los Angeles, London, and Dallas as a VP at Standard & Poor’s and as a Stockbroker in Carmel with Prudential Securities and First Union Bank. She also spent four years as an Event Coordinator at the Gilroy Foundation. Lee is a Lifetime Member of the Gilroy Foundation, Past President and active member of the Gilroy Assistance League, Graduate of Leadership Gilroy Class 2010, Past President of Professional Women’s Network of Monterey Peninsula and Volunteer of the Year in 2000 for YWCA Monterey.
VITO MERCADOVito Mercado has worked for Nob Hill Foods for 40 years currently serving as a Store Team Leader. Born in Gilroy, Vito has been volunteering for the Gilroy Garlic Festival for many years, serving as President in 2014. Vito also volunteers for the Gilroy Sister Cities Association where he currently serves as Treasurer. Together with his wife Debra, they have to grown children, Marisa and Monica.
Chris OrdazReal Estate Broker
Chris is a 3rd generation Gilroyan. Chris has been in the real estate industry since 1984 and is currently an instructor at Gavilan Community College teaching real estate classes. Chris is also president of CDO Properties Inc., a real estate renovation company. Chris has volunteered throughout the years for the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Chris also volunteered for 10 years as a Paid Called Firefighter for the City of Gilroy. He has been a 20+ year member of the Gilroy Sportsmen Chefs. Chris has two grown daughters Kaylyn and Claire.
Carlos PinedaKneaded Bakery
Carlos Pineda is the Program Manager and Chef at the Culinary Academy and Kneaded Bakery at Rebekah Children’s Services. Born and raised in Gilroy, after high school he graduated with Honors from the Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell in 2007. After his experience interning at the Inn at Spanish Bay with the Pebble Beach Company, he went on to worked as Chef in Monterey, Los Angeles, Morgan Hill and Gilroy.
Jennifer SpenoHeadstart Nursery
Jennifer grew up in Gilroy and attended local schools. Jennifer is active in many community organizations including Leadership Gilroy, Gilroy Assistance League, Gilroy Rotary Club, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival where she was President in 2005. Jennifer graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant. Jennifer currently works as the Accounting Manager for Headstart Nursery in GIlroy. Together with her husband Jeff, they have two grown children, Lindsay and Brad.