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People

The Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) program team is fortunate to collaborate and synergize efforts with leading practitioners, policymakers, community advocates, and mission-driven investors across the state of New Jersey. Below you can get acquainted with the New Jersey Advisory Committee made up of these leaders, as well as the program team at Reinvestment Fund.

Advisory Committee

Staci Berger

President & Chief Executive Officer

Housing and Community Development Network New Jersey
 

As the President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (HCDNNJ), Staci Berger directs this statewide association of over 150 community-based development organizations, created in 1989 to enhance the efforts of these groups to create affordable housing and revitalize their communities, and to improve the climate for community development in New Jersey. Previously, Staci served as the Director of Advocacy & Policy at HCDNNJ where she was responsible for leading the community development policy staff team, including working with the Policy Coordinator and field organizers, to broaden and mobilize support for the Network’s public policy agenda. Prior to joining the Network, Staci worked for nine years with New Jersey Citizen Action where she went from being an organizer to the Political and Legislative Director. She received her Masters in Public Affairs and Politics from Rutgers University.

Victoria Brogan

Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives

New Jersey Hospital Association
 

Victoria Brogan is the New Jersey Hospital Association’s (NJHA) senior vice president for strategic initiatives. While advancing the organization’s work to help the healthcare providers close the gap in care equity and eliminate disparities, Ms. Brogan also leads the education service line aimed at positioning NJHA and its 400-plus members as the premier source for industry training and leadership development.

Prior to joining NJHA Ms. Brogan served as deputy chief of staff in the N.J. Department of Health, where she facilitated strategic planning, public health initiatives, policy development and legislation. A graduate of Assumption College with a BA in Political Science, her early career included time in the NJ Senate and Republican offices. Ms. Brogan, a N.J. resident, is a long-time volunteer for under-represented communities and initiatives that support providing housing and wraparound supports for individuals in need.

Tai Cooper

Chief Community Development Officer

New Jersey Economic Development Authority
 

As Chief Community Development Officer at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), Tai Cooper is responsible for leading the NJEDA’s communications and enhanced engagement strategy. This includes strengthening ties with policy-makers at the federal, state, and local level as they look to advance strategies, research and data that will help drive equitable and inclusive economic development policies and programs, with a specific focus on innovating and generating greater social impact. Prior to joining NJEDA in February 2019, she was the Deputy Chief Policy Advisor to Governor Murphy and led New Jersey’s Federal Opportunity Zone initiative. She previously served as Chief Policy Advisor to Mayor Ras Baraka, where she provided policy analysis and project management across municipal agencies. She began her political career as Senior Aide to Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Orange, New Jersey. A Newark resident, Tai earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Urban Planning from The Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and a Master’s Degree in urban planning from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.

Rev. Eric Dobson

Deputy Director

Fairshare Housing Center
 

Rev. Eric Dobson is Fair Share Housing Center’s Deputy Director. He joined Fair Share Housing Center’s as Director of Community Engagement in 2012 and is an ordained minister, a community organizer, outreach specialist and social entrepreneur. He has extensive experience working with diverse audiences and communities and specializes in interfaith outreach. Eric is the Co-Founder of Open Communities LLC, a racial integration consultant firm that works to resolve simple and complex conflicts of race, ethnicity and socio- economics. He also founded a non-profit focused on youth development and education, Planting Seeds of Hope, and in 2008 served as the PA Clergy Outreach Director for the Obama Campaign. He holds a B.A. from Temple University in Religion.

Barbara George Johnson

Vice President, John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research

Kean University
 

Barbara George Johnson is Vice President of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Kean University (formerly at Thomas Edison State University), bringing more than 25 years of experience as a public policy professional in New Jersey. In her role, she manages the activities of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association and oversees the five policy centers housed at the Institute focused on early childhood education, urban environmental issues, public health, civic engagement and leadership development, and capacity building. She has been a leading voice in shaping health and social policy in the region and came to the University with experience as managing principal of GOVCONNECTIONS, LLC and as Senior Associate for MBI-GluckShaw. She was also the first Legislative Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. In that role, she spearheaded the passage of Domestic Partnership Legislation and worked with state leaders on policies to address racial profiling. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Technology from Cornell University, a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University’s School of Public Health and her Juris Doctor from Rutgers-Newark Law School.

Darryl Godfrey

Chief Operating Officer

New Jersey Redevelopment Authority
 

A seasoned finance and community development professional, Darryl serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority (NJRA), a multi-million dollar independent financing authority created by the state of New Jersey to transform urban communities through direct investment and technical support. In this capacity he oversees internal operations as well as works with municipalities, real estate developers, community organizations, and businesses to assist in providing financing to redevelopment projects in underserved neighborhoods.

Since joining NJRA, Darryl has worked to increase the authority’s impact and expand its reach. To this end, he has played an integral role in the authority applying for and receiving New Market Tax Credits from the federal government. These tax credits provide subsidies for commercial and retail redevelopment projects in low-income communities. In 2014, NJRA received its first ever tax credit allocation of $20 million. Upon receipt, Darryl spearheaded the effort to deploy these subsidies to critical economic development projects in Camden and Newark. Most notably, NJRA leveraged these credits to close a funding gap for the nationally
acclaimed Ray and Joan Kroc Center in Camden, which ultimately led to the successful
completion of this project.

Before joining NJRA, Darryl served as the Executive Vice President of Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC), an autonomous community development entity created by the City of Newark to spur economic development. In this role, he led the management team that was responsible for providing capital to the underserved small businesses. During his tenure, he successfully negotiated the establishment of a $4 million fund provided by Prudential Insurance for small business financing, leveraged $10 million in financing from Small Business Administration lenders in order to provide funding to small businesses, and created a technical assistance program that trained over 600 startups and entrepreneurs in effective business plan development.

Darryl began his career in banking where he spent over 15 years working for some of the nation’s largest financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase, GE Capital, Commerce Bank, Banco Popular, and First Fidelity Bank. During this time, he rose from a commercial lending officer to a Vice President of Commercial Lending. Darryl earned his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University where he is currently completing his Master of Public Administration.

Jeanne Herb

Executive Director, Environmental Analysis & Communications Group, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

Rutgers University
 

Jeanne Herb is Executive Director of the Environmental Analysis and Communications Group, a center of service, research and practice at the Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy where she leads initiatives at the intersection of social and environmental determinants of health, health equity, environmental sustainability, state and local public policy, and inclusive, participatory decision-making. She Co-Directs the state’s Climate Change Resource Center and also co-facilitates the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance. Prior to joining Rutgers, she spent more than two decades at the state Department of Environmental Protection, most recently as the Assistant Commissioner of Policy, Planning and Science. Dr. Herb is an adjunct member of the faculty and teaches applied community planning studio courses and a graduate course on engagement and communication of science-related topics with decision-makers. She received her a Master’s in Science, Health and Environmental Journalism from New York University and her Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from Rutgers University.

Marie Mascherin

Chief Operating Officer

New Jersey Community Capital
 

Ms. Mascherin serves as Chief Operating Officer at New Jersey Community Capital. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the Address Yourself mortgage platform, compliance, local government relations, and lending activities. Ms. Mascherin joined NJCC as Chief Lending Officer in 2008 after serving on the Board of Directors for nine years. As Chief Lending Officer, she was responsible for managing all of NJCC’s lending strategies and investment programs, including production goals, new product development, borrower relationships, budgeting, and portfolio performance. Ms. Mascherin brings over a decade of commercial banking and real estate mortgage lending experience, including more than ten years at Midlantic National Bank, now PNC Bank. Other prior experience includes leadership positions at GMAC Commercial Mortgage (formerly Berkadia Mortgage), and Quaker Capital, L.P.

Ms. Mascherin is a Lead New Jersey Fellow, the Chair Emeritus and current board member of the American Repertory Ballet/Princeton Ballet School and a New Jersey Real Estate Licensed Agent. Ms. Mascherin holds a Master of Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Seton Hall University. She is a graduate of the Achieving Excellence in Community Development fellowship program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Amanda Medina-Forrester

Executive Director, Office of Minority and Multicultural Health

New Jersey Department of Health
 

As the Executive Director of Office of Minority and Multicultural Health (OMMH), Amanda Medina-Forrester, MA, MPH, is charged with ensuring health equity policies, practices and programs that reduce health disparities among marginalized populations are effective and implemented. With her leadership, OMMH has led workforce development, such as cultural competency and grant-writing workshops, provides state funding to local community- and faith-based organizations, and provides guidance on policies that affect vulnerable populations.

Medina-Forrester facilitated the development of COVID-19 testing and other mitigation strategies for migrant/seasonal workers, continues to establish vaccine implementation workgroups comprised of state agencies and community members, and currently is enhancing vaccine consumer engagement by overseeing community/consumer outreach initiatives (e.g., Covid Community Corps, State vaccine call center). In addition to the current COVID-19 work, she is the Principal Investigator to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention $25 million grant to reduce COVID-19 health disparities among racial and ethnic populations, including rural populations.

Melanie Walter

Executive Director

New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA)
 

Melanie R. Walter is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA). Before joining NJHMFA in January 2021, Walter previously served as Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Director of the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) And Former Deputy Attorney General. In the role of DCA Director of the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) and Local Finance Board Chairwoman, Ms. Walter advocated for local government interests, revitalizing the Division’s supportive initiatives and developing grant programs while overseeing the financial and operational regulation of New Jersey local units to help ensure fiscal solvency. Through these functions, she championed transparency measures as well as expansive open data and local education programming and enhanced local procurement, municipal officer certification, and distressed municipality resources. More recently, Ms. Walter has developed and implemented numerous COVID-19 response and recovery measures. Prior to joining DCA in 2018, Walter served as Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Division of Law’s Personnel, Community Affairs, and Elections section. In that capacity, she counseled several departments, handling a broad array of complex counseling and litigation matters for the Department of Community Affairs, the Civil Service Commission, and other state agencies. Ms. Walter, a New Jersey native, earned her Juris Doctor from the College of William and Mary School of Law, her master’s in public policy from the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William and Mary, and her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Mary Washington. She is a member of the New Jersey and Virginia bars.

Janel Winter

Director, Division of Housing & Community Resources

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
 

Janel Winter acts as Director for the Division of Housing and Community Resources with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA) where she leads a 225-person division administering more than half a billion dollars in federal and state funds, including rental assistance, housing production, homelessness prevention, neighborhood revitalization, community development and home energy assistance programs serving more than 300,000 people annually. As Director, she designed and launched the Statewide Housing First, Housing First for People with Opioid Addictions and Moving On Initiatives, lead DCA’s collaboration with the Department of Children and Families on the Keeping Families Together and Youth at Risk of Homelessness Initiatives, and managed the growth of DCA's Housing Choice Voucher Program. Prior, she served as the Director of the Office of Housing and the Director of Housing in the Division of Developmental Disabilities for the New Jersey Department of Human Services. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago.

Program Team

Jennifer Fassbender

Director, Program Initiatives

Reinvestment Fund
 

Jennifer Fassbender (she/her) is the Director of Program Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. She provides leadership in the program development, delivery, and quality control components for the initiative and engages with external stakeholders on strategic partnerships. With over 20 years of experience in healthcare delivery, research, administration, and advocacy, she has served in a national leadership role with the American Diabetes Association and as Program Director for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Healthy Weight Program, as well as Senior Research Project Manager for a health disparities research group at the University of Pennsylvania. She represents Reinvestment Fund on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Obesity Solutions and is the Chair of the innovation collaborative for the Integration of Clinical and Social Systems. Ms. Fassbender has co-authored numerous scientific publications and presented at national scientific and regional conferences. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science at the Pennsylvania State University and her Master’s of Science in Exercise Physiology at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health.

Leah Rusenko

Program Manager, Social Determinants of Health

Reinvestment Fund
 

Leah Rusenko is the Program Manager for Social Determinants of Health at Reinvestment Fund. She works with the national Invest Health and regional Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) program initiatives. She brings nearly a decade of experience in community health and philanthropy in both local and international arenas. She is passionate about the intersection of urban health and sustainable development. Her professional background includes managing place-based initiatives, coordinating state-wide cross-sector collaborations, overseeing large grant portfolios, and building a research institute for health equity. Most recently, she led the Independence Blue Cross Foundation team in strategic development, execution, and assessment of the Foundation’s programs and activities. Ms. Rusenko holds a Bachelor of Science in International Health from Georgetown University.

Jacob Kraybill

Program Associate, Social Determinants of Health

Reinvestment Fund
 

Jacob Kraybill (he/they) is the Program Associate for Social Determinants of Health Programs at Reinvestment Fund. He works with the national Invest Health and regional Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) in New Jersey program initiatives. With over 10 years of experience working in the nonprofit, campaign, and healthcare sectors, Jacob is dedicated to building a more just and equitable world. Before joining the Reinvestment Fund, Jacob worked to bridge the gaps between the health and community development sectors and developed & launched the Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities at the Build Healthy Places Network. Previously he worked at the Public Health Institute, as well as five years at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health as a communications and public relations consultant, where he coordinated people, logistics, and contracts. Jacob’s professional work is rooted in community service; he completed two years of volunteer work in San Francisco during which he managed community and student volunteers at Mission Graduates, an organization in the city’s Mission neighborhood that increases the number of K-12 students who are prepared for and complete a college education. He graduated from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a B.A. in Global Studies. Jacob lives in Philadelphia with his boyfriend where he loves to bake sourdough bread, swim laps at the YMCA, and scheme up camping trips and scuba diving excursions with his friends and family.

Sara Vernon Sterman

Chief Program Officer

Reinvestment Fund
 

Sara Vernon Sterman (she/her) currently serves as Chief Program Officer at Reinvestment Fund. In this position, she expands on Reinvestment Fund’s work in Healthy Communities by focusing on investment models that integrate the organization’s lending and policy work in education, health care, childcare, food, social services, and affordable housing. Additionally, she co-directs Reinvestment Fund’s Pay for Success investments. Previously Ms. Sterman served as Chief Lending Officer, responsible for leading business development, originations and relationship management within Reinvestment Fund’s lending operation. Prior to joining Reinvestment Fund in 1999, she taught elementary school in New York City and Washington, D.C., with the Teach For America program, and was a program director for Teach For America in eastern North Carolina. Ms. Sterman holds an M.S.W from the School of Social Work and an M.B.A from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.