Gus Pedrotty -President, Board member
Former Candidate for Mayor of Albuquerque, Pedrotty grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in May 2017 with bachelor's degrees in chemistry and psychology. His professional experience includes working as an assistant hall coordinator at the University of New Mexico and as an intern with Project Echo.
Kathleen Burke - Vice- President, Board Member
Kathleen Burke is the Associate Director of Street Safe New Mexico, where she is a leader in
human trafficking prevention and advocacy for sex trafficking survivors in New Mexico. She is a
member of the New Mexico Human Trafficking Task Force and Albuquerque’s Southeast Area
Community Policing Council, where she is a voice for the community in the U.S. Department of
Justice police reform effort. Kathleen was a National Delegate for Bernie Sanders at the
Democratic National Convention of 2016. As a committed and high-profile Progressive activist
in New Mexico, Kathleen places a high priority upon issues of transparency and improvement of
the electoral process in New Mexico.
Bob Perls - Founder
Bob moved to New Mexico when he was five years old and raised a family in Albuquerque and Corrales. He attended Albuquerque Public Schools, Pomona College, where he earned a B.A. in Government and University of Maryland where he earned an M.S. in Healthcare Management with honors. Bob started his own medical technology company, Monitech, Inc., at the age of 24 and sold it in 2008 after 25 years of operation. In addition, he was elected to two terms to the New Mexico House of Representatives representing parts of Sandoval County, did consulting for a Governor of New Mexico on ways to create jobs through renewable energy and ran unsuccessfully for Congress and the PRC for a total of 13 years of political, elected and campaign experience. He co-founded a charter school in Albuquerque, NM called Public Academy for Performing Arts. Bob spent 2009 working on two start-up companies, one in telemedicine and one in cybersecurity. He became a U.S. Diplomat in January, 2010 and served in Germany, Canada, Pakistan and The Gambia. He returned full-time to New Mexico in the spring of 2015 and lives in Corrales with his wife Joan.
He is fluent in German, tries to speak Spanish and is an avid cyclist, skier and martial artist. He is married and has four grown children.
Phone: 1(505) 259-2377
Barry Bitzer - Board Member
Barry brings a long, successful political resume to bear, often in unconventional fashion. On Capitol Hill, he was a senior aide to the late Congressman Steve Schiff and communications director for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. He served until 2008 as chief of staff to ABQ mayor Marty Chavez, and wore a variety of hats in the administration of Governor Gary Johnson – most notably as Deputy Secretary of Human Services and Director of the Child Support Enforcement Division. Barry’s recent stint as development director at the NM BioPark Society featured a campaign for a $17 million per year GRT revenue stream to overhaul and expand the Zoo, Aquarium, Botanic Garden and Tingley Beach. A 1985 UC Berkeley Political Science graduate, Barry currently works as a Church administrator and as a science teacher at Legacy Academy. He also serves on the NM Environmental Improvement Board.
Damian Lara - Treasurer, Board Member
Mr. Lara received a B.A. in political science and in philosophy from Brown University in 2001. From 2001 until 2003, he worked for the United States House of Representatives, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where he focused on federal and international legislation that disproportionately impacted Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico. In 2002, he was recognized by the National Association of Community Health Centers as an outstanding congressional staffer for his work in increasing healthcare access to underserved populations.
Mr. Lara came back to New Mexico and received his JD from the University of New Mexico in 2007. Together with two other students, Mr. Lara’s moot court team brought a Hispanic National Bar Association national championship trophy to UNM in 2006. Mr. Lara was also a legal clerk for Governor’s Counsel under the Richardson administration.
Mr. Lara is now Chair of Ward 16A and works at his wife’s law firm, Calderon Law Firm LLC, on immigration, property, domestic matters and personal injury. Mr. Lara and Ms. Calderon were recognized as the NM ACLU 2019 Attorneys of Year.
Dennis Montoya - Board Member
Dennis W. Montoya is the Immediate Past State Director of New Mexico LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens. He is the current President of the Sons of the American Revolution, Albuquerque Chapter, and the State Secretary for that organization. He is a former Ward “D” Chair for Sandoval County Democratic Party and a former member of the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s Platform and Resolution and Affirmative Action committees. He at present serves on the DPNM State Central Committee. Mr. Montoya previously practiced law for about 25 years in the State of New Mexico, for the last 18 years of his practice time focusing on employment law, criminal defense, civil rights and personal injury. He currently teaches mathematics and in the past has taught mathematics, science and Spanish at the high school and college levels. Mr. Montoya is from Lucero, Mora County, New Mexico.
Jessica Velasquez - Board Member
In 1999, Jessica Velasquez moved to New Mexico after completing her BA in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She earned her teaching credentials and MA in Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico, and taught in Albuquerque Public Schools before becoming adjunct faculty at UNM. Jessica married her husband Aaron in 2006. Together, they own and operate Theta Plate Inc., an Albuquerque-based electroplating company that has been in the family since 1976.
More recently, Jessica left public education to engage in local politics, and in 2018 she ran for the NM House of Representatives in District 22. After earning 49.57% of the vote for a narrow loss, Jessica went on to serve with Governor Lujan Grisham's interim Education Committee, and served on the Bernalillo County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee. She is a board member of New Mexico Open Elections, and also serves on the boards of Sandia Park Scenic Byway Firewise, dedicated to reducing wildfire risk and increasing community resilience, and Kindness Club International, which aims to build positive school culture through student leadership. Jessica is a member of the Democratic Party of NM's State Central Committee and is Chair of Ward 22A in Bernalillo County. Jessica feels lucky to live in Sandia Park with her husband, three kids, two dogs, and a dozen chickens.