Rohit Sharma, Board President
Rohit joined the BenitoLink team in 2015, serving as Board President since 2016, the year BenitoLink was incorporated as a 501c(3). It was an opportunity of a lifetime, building upon what the founders envisioned–a hyperlocal news and information website serving San Benito County. What drives Rohit to serve is the dedication and passion of our team to deliver the kind of stories that matter to our county. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCSB and a Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Global Management. As a real estate broker, he manages investments in a four-county region. As a second-generation immigrant and having lived all over the globe, he has called San Benito County home since 1996.
Chang So, Board Vice President
After attending UC Berkeley, Chang was curious about the internet and decided to join the technology industry. The startup that he was a part of was quickly acquired by Yahoo! and he spent 6+ years at Yahoo! in the design and usability group. Looking to slow down and raise his family, he turned back to San Benito County and joined his father to operate the family business, Hollister Super. Chang So joined the board of BenitoLink in late 2020. He found that the grassroots campaign to get local news out to the community to be fascinating and was honored to be asked to initially serve on one of the committees. Chang has served as a board member of various groups and organizations one of which is the Community Foundation for San Benito County. Chang believes, “Giving back is how we build a strong community.”
Heather Callens, Board Treasurer
Heather was raised in a 3rd generation ranching family in Santa Clara County. She graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics. She is currently the Underwriting & Credit Delivery Executive for American AgCredit, which specializes in providing financial services to agricultural customers throughout the West and Midwest. Heather joined the BenitoLink board in 2021. She has also been involved in the San Benito County Cattlewomen, San Benito County Farm Day, and Ag Against Hunger. Heather resides in Paicines with her husband, Ed, where they run a commercial cow-calf operation.
Lois Locci, Board Recorder
A Hollisterian since 1999 (and a Silicon Valley escapee), Dr. Locci taught English and Intercultural Communication at De Anza College in Cupertino for years before adding a second career as chair of the education department of UC Extension, providing professional training in four counties and three countries. Also at UC, Dr. Locci led the development of Advanced Placement® and honors courses for the University of California College Prep Online until retiring in 2012. She served a four-year term as Trustee for Gavilan Joint Community College District and resides in “Southside Valley” with her extended family.
Kris Waller, Board Member
Kris Waller grew up in Hollister and attended local schools including San Benito High and Gavilan College where she served as the editor for both of the school newspapers. She finished her education at San Jose State in Graphic Arts and worked at FreeLance Printing until opening her own graphic design business which she operated for 10 years. During this time, she served on the Chamber of Commerce and the Hollister Downtown Association Boards. After selling her business, she changed career paths to the corporate world, working for Thomson and Wadsworth Publishing printing college textbooks followed by 8 years at HSBC Bank/Capital One managing the print buying team for marketing materials and promotional items. Her last career change was working for Hazel Hawkins Hospital Foundation where she got her experience running a non-profit organization. She served four years as Associate and two years as Director before retiring in 2020.
She and her husband, Danny, have two grown sons in the wine business so they are enjoying retirement together with events usually involving wine tasting. She is still active as a member of Gabilan Chapter Seneca (formerly Kinship Center) where she has volunteered for several decades and has chaired the annual Wine & Food Tasting fundraisers many times.
Mike Graves, Board Member
Mike Graves is a fifth-generation resident of San Benito County. Growing up in Hollister, he attended Sacred Heart, San Benito High School, and Gavilan College. He holds a BA in Political Science from San José State University.
Mike was a Hollister Firefighter before he was elected to the San Benito County Board of Supervisors in 1984. As a supervisor, Mike served on several boards in Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties. In addition, Mike was active in the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and in 1995 elected President by his peers of County Supervisors. In 1996 Mike was hired as an executive with CSAC as the corporate relations manager, acting as a direct liaison with the Fortune 50 corporations doing business with California counties.
In 2005 Mike become a consultant to several California corporations, dealing with broad issues, including mobile homes, real estate development, and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee.
Today, when the truth matters more than ever, Mike considers it a true honor to be asked to serve on the BenitoLink Board and can think of no better way to give back to our community.
Phil Esparza, Board Member
Phil Esparza has over 50 years of experience in the performing arts as an actor, technical director, media production specialist and producer. He is a founding member of El Teatro Campesino and has worked closely with director/ playwright/ filmmaker, Luis Valdez. Phil retired after 25 years as the Operations Manager of California State University Monterey Bay World Theater. He serves on the Board of Directors of El Teatro Campesino and has served as a board member of the Western Alliance of Arts Administrators, the California Association of Local Arts Agencies, the California Theater Council and the Pacific Peoples Theater Festival. Phil has served on various grant making panels for local, state, national and international theater and film agencies and foundations. He also serves as Board President of the Digital Media Foundation (Salinas, CA), Board Member of BenitoLink (San Benito County), California Presenters and Chairperson of the Access Committee of the San Juan Bautista Rotary.
Shawn P. Herrera, Board Member
Serial Entrepreneur, Non-Profit Board Member, and Educational Philanthropist, Shawn is a native to the Silicon Valley and has now come back to family origins to set deeps roots in San Benito County. Shawn has 20+ years of successful business and technology leadership experience, setting strategy and vision for Silicon Valley startups. His diverse background encompasses strategy, operations, sales and marketing, and product and business development. Shawn has led several world’s first product innovations and built business ventures in the Compute/IT, Real Estate, and Entertainment industries. He has received industry recognitions and has co-authored multiple patents.
Shawn is also chairman of the board of the Shawn P. Herrera foundation. The Shawn P. Herrera Foundation was founded in efforts to provide support for deserving students in STEM achievement. Through donations to such Academic and supplementary programs, as well as University Scholarships, Shawn seeks to provide prosperous futures for those students willing to take responsibility to the highest level.
Shawn is also an active member of the LULAC council where he has committed his time to helping serve the LULAC youth as well as the community at large. Moreover, as board chairperson of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce and Executive Board member of the San Benito County Business Council, Shawn is further committed to assuring the success of San Benito County business and how it serves the greater good.
The BenitoLink board meets monthly and strives to have a representative mix of members reflecting the variety and character of San Benito County. Please feel free to contact a BenitoLink team member or board member and learn more about contributing as a committee or board member.