Nick Berardino, President
Retired General Manager, Orange County Employees Association
- Nick Berardino is a U.S. Marine Corp. Veterans who has served Orange County public employees since 1974 at the Orange County Employees Association. He has been the General Manager of OCEA for more than eleven of those years, overseeing a staff of about 30 in several divisions, including employee relations, benefits, communications and political.
- Nick has been a member of the Orange County Fair Board since 2011.
- He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign War (Vietnam Services 1967-1968) and American Legion.
- At OCEA, Nick has been responsible for negotiating many collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the more than 18,000 employees that OCEA represents within the County of Orange, Superior Court, and various cities and special districts throughout the County.
- Nick was the Chairman of the Committee for Governor Brown’s People Inauguration Event in January 2011 and 2014.
Lezlee Neebe, Treasurer
President, Orange County Employees Association
- Lezlee has spent her career as a Court Clerk at Orange County Superior Court, since 1992. She joined OCEA 1992 and became a Board member in 1995.
- She currently serves as OCEA President; a trustee of the OCEA Health & Welfare Trust. She is also on the OCEA Political Action Committee; and serves as a Vice President on and Recording Secretary for the Orange County Labor Federation Executive Committee.
Douglas La Belle, Secretary
Orange County Fair Board member, Retired Chino Hills City Manager
- Douglas La Belle has been an Orange County Fair Board member since 2010.
- Retired Chino Hills City Manager (13 years).
- Doug spent his 44-year municipal government career working for the cities of Signal Hill, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Cerritos, Marysville and La Mesa.
- He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Administration.
Attorney at Law, Retired Colonel in the United States Marines
- Douglas Applegate has worked throughout the United States as a civil litigator handling business disputes, real property matters, medical malpractice and injury defense.
- He additionally served as a Colonel in the United States Marines (retired). He has served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps following law school serving many years in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, and has vast experience handling civil, criminal, war crimes and administrative trials in that environment.
- His memberships and affiliations include, all the United States District Courts of California, United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Ninth Circuit Court, Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals, Certified Judge Advocate under the U.C.M.J., the United States Court of Military Appeals, and he served as a Colonel in the United States Marine Corps from 1974-2008 (tours of duty including Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operational Law & Civil Military Operations).
Retired Brigadier General, Marine Corps
- Brahms, a 1959 Harvard College graduate, had taken a Platoon Leaders Course, while a student at Harvard Law School, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1961. Brahms graduated from Harvard Law School in 1962. He completed Basic Officer training, and training in military law in 1963, and then served as a military lawyer in the 2nd Marine Division from November 1963 to June 1965.
- By 1969, he had been promoted to major and was sent to serve with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Da Nang, Vietnam.
- In 1976 and 1977 he attended the National Law Center George Washington University, where he studied law psychiatry and criminology, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
- Brahms was promoted to Brigadier General in 1985, prior to serving as Director, Judge Advocate Division, for the final three years of his active military career.
- In 1988 he retired from active military service.
- Currently, Brahms has a private law practice, and is on the Board of Directors of the Boys Republic, Archies Acres, American Combat Veterans of War and the Friendly Sons of St Patrick (San Diego North County).
President, The Franck Firm
- Carina Franck-Pantone has dedicated eighteen years as a strategist, campaign manager and finance director. She has provided consultation to judges, labor leaders, city council members and school board trustees.
- Carina is especially proud to have worked on groundbreaking initiatives including Veterans+Labor: Partners in Service project. She took a lead role in organizing one of the region’s largest-to date Veterans Day events.
- In 2012, Carina was elected by 69th Assembly District voters to serve as a member of the Democratic Party Central Committee and serves as an Executive Board Member of the CA Democratic Party.
Military Veteran Advocate
- McDonald, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, has been involved in advocacy for veterans and small business owners for many years. He is a member of the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council.
- McDonald has supported legislative and regulatory action designed to help small businesses, through his efforts convening an Orange County Veterans Advisory Council ad hoc committee.
- McDonald, who was appointed to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors in 1998 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is responsible for creating the Veterans Affairs Committee during his involvement there.
- McDonald has improved awareness among veterans’ groups of opportunities in small business ownership by participating as a motivational speaker and panelist at the Irvine Valley College Women Veteran Leadership Summit. Previously, McDonald joined Major General (Ret.) Peter Gravett, Secretary, California Department of Veterans Affairs, to headline California’s first Black Veterans Summit co-hosted by the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County. He is also a supporter of the Veterans Business Network of Greater Los Angeles which has hosted several networking events designed to help connect younger veterans seeking to enter the business community with other veterans currently in business.
- McDonald has contributed to other efforts in the veteran community, including the implementation of the 211 Orange County Veteran portal that was launched this past Veterans Day, the establishment of the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative.
Aaron Read & Associates
Aaron Read has been a legislative advocate for more than forty years. He began his career in the late 1960s after he obtained a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) and went to work for a large statewide association.
Aaron formed Aaron Read & Associates (ARA) in 1978. ARA has grown into one of the most influential lobbying firms in California. The select list of clients covers a broad spectrum and allows the firm an opportunity to work with the entire political spectrum. ARA has a unique perspective of what works and what doesn’t in government and counsels clients on effective strategies to achieve their goals.
Aaron has extensive experience in all phases of political work, including lobbying extremely complex and controversial issues, public relations and coalition building, as well as constitutional offices, legislative and initiative campaigns. Aaron also has special expertise in creating and managing large political action committees.
Aaron has a lifetime teaching credential and is also a former graduate level instructor in business and public administration at Golden Gate University. He enjoys spending time with his family, golf, water sports and real estate investments when not walking the Capitol halls.
Former Co-owner & President, Freedom Communications
- As president of Freedom Communications, since 2011, Eric engineered the acquisition of The Orange County Register and its parent, Freedom Communications, in 2012. Freedom’s former co-owner and president, oversaw daily operations, strategy, digital initiatives, marketing and partnerships.
- Previously, Spitz was chief financial officer of Narragansett Brewing Company, the official beer of the Boston Red Sox for more than 30 years, where he tripled revenues in three years. He also launched digital startups Gazelle and Beerdog, co-founded UFood Restaurant Group, which offers healthful fare in airports and other high-traffic locations, and founded Trakus, a digital sports-information service.
- Eric received an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from University of Pennsylvania.
Community Committees (Currently Active)
Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation, Board Member 2017
Fisher House SoCal Foundation, Director 2013
OC Veterans & Military Families Collaborative, Member-at-Large 2011
Bob Hope USO Orange County, Volunteer 2014
Orange Elks Lodge 1475, Veterans Committee Member 2014
City of Newport Beach 1/1 Marines Foundation, Director 2004-2014
City of Newport Beach 1/1 Marines Memorial Committee, Member 2008
City of Costa Mesa 1/5 Marines Adoption Committee, Member 2009-2010
American Legion Orange County, District CMDR 2013
VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), Life Member
National Museum of the U.S. Army, Founding Sponsor
AUSA-Greater LA Chapter (Assn. of the United States Army), Member
11th Armored Cavalry Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia, Life Member
Blackhorse Association (11th Armored Cavalry Regiment), Life Member