Office of Equity & Racial Justice: Who We Are

We are a team of passionate, dedicated individuals with diverse experience and a common vision. We are committed to doing this work with an anti-racist, intersectional lens and lead with joy, humility, and solidarity.


Taryell Simmons, Interim Director

  • “A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.” — John Lewis

On July 1st, Taryell (he/him) joined the Office of Equity and Racial Justice as Interim Director.  In this role, he works to identify and eradicate systematic bias and racism while creating a culture of equity and belonging in the County of San Diego.  Taryell joined the County in 2018 as a Human Resources Analyst in Talent Development and currently serves as a Human Resources Services Manager overseeing the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Division.

During his tenure as EDI Manager, Taryell led “Jay's Program," a collaboration with PRIDE Industries offering internships to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He brings extensive experience in fundraising and previously served as a corpsmember with AmeriCorps, National Civilian Community Corps. Taryell is an active member of the Board of Directors of the Emerging Workforce Association and a Steering Committee member of Leaders 2020 and is also a RISE Urban Leadership Fellow.


Melissa Bartolome, Deputy Director

  • "The work of anti-racism is becoming a better human to other humans.” – Austin Channing Brown

Melissa (she/her) has 24 years’ experience with the County of San Diego. Prior to joining OERJ, she worked at HHSA, leading finance and administration teams for Child Welfare Services, EOC Finance, and East and North Central Regions. She also worked at First 5 San Diego as a Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator and Health Projects Coordinator. At HHSA, Melissa was a Diversity & Inclusion Champion and part of a team that developed workplace strategies to create an equitable, diverse, and inclusive community. A lifelong San Diegan and second-generation Filipino American, she enjoys the outdoors, travel, and spending time with her family.


Alejandra Chaidez, Equity Impact Manager

  • Primary focus: Equity Impact Grant, Equity Indicators, Organizational Equity Assesment, Communications
  • "To survive the borderlands you must live sin fronteras/be a crossroads." - Gloria Anzaldúa

Alejandra (she/her) rejoined OERJ from the Finance and General Government Group (FG3) Executive Office, where she served as a staff officer. Previously, she was OERJ’s first Management Fellow. Alejandra has a Master of Public Policy from the UC San Diego, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Before the County, Alejandra worked for community-based organizations and universities in research, data analysis, and program evaluation. She has also worked with the California state legislature and international treaty bodies. 
Born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico until the age of 14, her binational experience has inspired her to work on improving opportunities for communities along the border region. Her research and policy interests include mental health and well-being, disability rights, transnational and immigration issues, and bilingual education.
During her free time, Alejandra enjoys spending time with her family and visiting new places and restaurants in San Diego and Tijuana.


Brandon Lewis, Equity Impact Manager 

  • Primary focus: Social Equity Program for Commercial Cannabis, Human Relations Commission
  • “You have a responsibility to make inclusion a daily thought, so we can get rid of the word 'inclusion.'” – Theodore Melfi

Brandon (he/him) previously worked for the California Asian Chamber of Commerce Foundation, managing the City of Sacramento’s Cannabis Opportunity, Reinvestment and Equity program for nearly four years. He also managed the City of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation social equity program for a year and a half before joining OERJ. Prior to working in the social equity space, he worked for the State Controller’s Office in Sacramento on various tax programs related to local municipalities. He holds a master’s degree in business management from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree in government from California State University, Sacramento.


Chiara Leroy, Equity Impact Manager

  • Primary focus: Gender Equity, Anti-Racism, Community Engagement
  • “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Chiara (she/her) joins OERJ after more than seven years with the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). During her time with HHSA, she held several roles, including with the County’s Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) program, the Healthcare Sector COVID-19 response, Black Infant Health programming, and communications lead for the Hepatitis A local health emergency.Chiara is a first-generation Haitian-American who moved to San Diego from Anaheim to attend San Diego State University (SDSU). She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from SDSU and began working in stem cell research. She later achieved her Master of Public Health from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and began working as a grant writer for a San Diego-based federally qualified health center. She continues to build on her years of local community work, including promoting S.T.E.M. to students of all ages, providing mentorship to youth, conducting global health research, and promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion.


Janie Regier, Equity Impact Manager

  • Primary focus: JEDI Teams, Public Safety
  • “Necesitamos mujeres en la vida cívica. Necesitamos mujeres para postularse para cargos públicos, para ocupar cargos políticos. Necesitamos que una feminista esté en la mesa cuando se toman decisiones para que se tomen las decisiones correctas.”  – Dolores Huerta

Until recently, Janie (she/her) led the development of the Social Equity Program for Commercial Cannabis. Moving forward, she will focus on supporting the operationalization of the Office's mission and vision by supporting San Diego County departments in advancing equity. She also provides staff support to the County's Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission's Public Safety and Youth Subcommittees. Aside from her County work, Janie is currently pursuing a master's degree in Public Administration. 


Cassidy Castiglione, Administrative Analyst

  • Primary focus: Equity Impact Grant, Equity Indicators, Organizational Equity Assesment

Cassidy (she/her) joined OERJ as a Management Fellow in June of 2023 and transitioned into an Administrative Analyst upon completion of her fellowship. Cassidy contributes to programs such as the County’s annual Equity Indicator Report, the pilot Equity Impact Grant Program, and the County-wide Organizational Equity Assessment. 

Prior to OERJ, she spent years as a researcher in the Sociology department at Rice University in Houston studying racism and population health. She got her Master of Arts in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with an emphasis in Critical Race Studies from California State University San Marcos.