Leadership Academy

About Us

EmpowerLA is a service of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. Since its establishment in 1999, the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has grown into the nation’s largest and most innovative initiative in civic engagement and citizen-based government. Through a network of 95 Neighborhood Councils, the City promotes public participation in government and works to improve government responsiveness to local concerns. Learn more about how the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment supports Neighborhood Councils and residents Citywide.

WE ARE HERE FOR YOU

Executive Office

 GRAYCE LIU

Grayce is the General Manager of the Department. Grayce is responsible for the overall management of the department, including development of the budget, strategic planning, programs and services, policies, personnel and constituent services, and City government relations. She has been with the Department for six years and was the Director of Policy and Communications for the Neighborhood Council system before being appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to lead the department in 2012 and reappointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2013. Prior to this, she was the Community Program Director for the Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF) and the co-chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Task Force in the San Gabriel Valley. She continues to teach classes on domestic violence, sexual assault, compassionate communications and self-defense in her free time.

Grayce has been recognized for her work with the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils “Got It” Award, Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council Betty Fisher Award, California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition, California State Senate Certificate of Recognition, Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, and the Garvey School District Certificate of Recognition.

JEFFREY S. BRILL

Jeff is Senior Management Analyst II in charge of Administrative Services and the Neighborhood Council Funding Program. He has worked with the Department for 2 years and the City of Los Angeles for 22 years. For him, the best part of the job is ensuring that vendors get paid so that the Neighborhood Councils can continue their activities in their respective communities. When he is not at the office, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

ARMANDO RUIZ

Armando is the recently appointed Neighborhood Council Funding Program Director. He brings to the Department more than 8 years of experience working with City government managing enforcement and administrative programs. He looks forward to furthering the Department’s goals of streamlining the funding process to ensure that Neighborhood Councils have appropriate access to their funds. Outside of the office, Armando enjoys spending time with his wife and 2 kids, reading novels, and watching movies.

JANET LINDO

Janet is the Executive Administrative Assistant and Commission Executive Assistant and has been with the Department for 5 years. She assists the General Manager and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners. She enjoys supporting the system’s leaders and hearing their stories of how they advance Neighborhood Councils in LA.

Senior Project Coordinators

LEYLA CAMPOS

Leyla is the Director of Field Operations. She oversees the Neighborhood Empowerment Advocates’ work throughout the city. She also co-leads the Councils 4 Councils program and heads the Empower LA Leadership Academy. She has worked with the Department for 10 years, and she most enjoys engaging in problem solving with Neighborhood Council leaders. She finds reward in helping them to find solutions to the issues and challenges facing the Neighborhood Council system. When she is not at work, she enjoys karaoke and being outdoors.

STEPHEN BOX

Stephen is the Acting Senior Project Coordinator, Director of Outreach and Communications, and responsible for Neighborhood Council Elections. Over the last decade, he has worked with Neighborhood Councils throughout the city as a community organizer, as an activist and as an Independent Election Administrator. Stephen is proud of the EmpowerLA’s commitment to moving “Beyond the Ballot Box” in activating candidates and engaging voters. His favorite part of the job is working with his Neighborhood Council friends as they discover their power as individuals, as communities, and as a great city. Stephen is a Confident City Cycling instructor, a writer on Civic Engagement, and he loves to travel and explore new cities with his lovely wife Enci and their son Sydney.

JOSEPH HARI

Joe Hari is a newly appointed Project Coordinator for Policy. He brings to the Department one and a half years of experience working with the Mayor’s Office as an Area Director. He’s enthusiastic about working with Neighborhood Councils and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners to help develop policies that will best support NCs in their mission. Additionally, he facilitates the NC Budget Advocate process, which empowers stakeholders to provide input into the City’s budget process. In his free time, Joe enjoys salsa dancing, karaoke, and exploring LA.

Field Operations: Neighborhood Empowerment Advocates

Our Neighborhood Empowerment Advocates (NEA) provide direct support to Neighborhood Councils in a variety of ways. Whether it’s through capacity building, meeting support, assistance in funding, or advocacy in the city, NEA’s are available to help in person or via the Neighborhood Council Support Help Line.

TOM SOONG

Thomas (Tom) works with Neighborhood Councils in the Harbor, West, and Central regions. He has been with the Department for 10.5 years, and his favorite part of the job is meeting different Neighborhood Council leaders and hearing their stories. He takes pleasure in helping connect them with other leaders and City departments. He enjoys watching sports, exploring new places and events, and spending time with his friends.

LISETTE COVARRUBIAS

Lisette assists Neighborhood Councils in the East region of the City. She has been with the Department for 6.5 years and she finds fulfillment in promoting civic engagement. She is motivated in her work by the belief that she is part of a greater mission to increase civic participation in Los Angeles. Lisette is also an aspiring photographer.

BETTY WONG OYAMA

Betty works on the funding side of Neighborhood Council assistance. She has been with the Department for 12 years and what she likes most about her job is meeting new people and assisting them with their requests. When away from the office, she enjoys volunteering with community organizations.

TANEDA LARIOS

Taneda works with Neighborhood Councils in the South region. She has been with the Department for 12 years and she likes to see Neighborhood Councils progress and make positive and lasting impacts in their communities. In her spare time, she enjoys crafting.

 AMBER MESHACK
BARRY STONE

Barry works with Neighborhood Councils in helping them fulfill their funding needs. He has been at the Department for 5 years, and he finds reward in helping people navigate through the system. In his spare time, he enjoys snowboarding.

Administrative

MAN-QIN HE

Man-Qin is an Accountant II and has been with the Department for 4.5 years. She monitors the Neighborhood Council funding program and makes budget and allotment arrangements. She works to make adjustments when necessary, reconciles the accounts, and approves and processes payments. She finds reward in making sure that the funding process is carried out accurately and in compliance with City funding policy. She takes pride in safeguarding the City’s property. When not on the job, she enjoys watching movies and reading novels.

KIBIBI CONNER

Kibibi is an Accountant Clerk II and has been with the Department for the last 2 years. She is very appreciative when NC’s are consistent in submitting all of the necessary paperwork in their payment requests. In addition to her work for the City, she is active in operating her Mary Kay health and beauty product sales business. She is especially glad to help other women keep their skin healthy. She knows that looking good is feeling good.

MONIQUE COLLINS

Monique is a Clerk Typist with the Department and ensures that the office operations run smoothly. She orders office supplies and equipment, arranges for visitor parking, checks Department inboxes and responds as needed, and assists with answering the phone. As Acting Accounting Clerk, she also cuts checks and keeps records of funding submissions by entering them into the database. She has served the Department for 5 years.

SEVAK PARAMAZIAN

Sevak came to L.A. at the ripe old age of 14. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Los Angeles before becoming the Digital Strategist of the TUX Team at EmpowerLA. He enjoys using his tech skills to empower the people of Los Angeles and bring more innovation into civic engagement. Sevak is currently pursuing his CPA license, but in his free time you’ll find him in the garage working on his 1971 BMW 2002 a.k.a “Doedoe”.

MAXIMO FORTU

Maximo (Macky) is a Senior Accountant II with the Department and has been here for 4 years. He most enjoys his work in budget analysis, reporting, and troubleshooting.

KATHLEEN QUINN

Kathleen is a Project Assistant with the Funding Division and has worked in education, social work and local government. Kathleen currently engages in many of the Funding Team’s core responsibilities such as cutting checks, departmental transfers and check tracker maintenance as well paying Contracts, and completing check research.

She currently engages in several special projects with the intention of modernizing and simplifying the Funding Team and it’s procedures. In her off-time Kathleen enjoys reading and playing video games.

GOLNAZ SHOJAEI
NINGYU ZHOU
HENRY NGUYEN

Outreach, Elections, Communications

JOSE GALDAMEZ

Jose is a local from L.A.
and has been part of
EmpowerLA since 2012.
He worked on the previous
2012 NC Elections and met
a lot of interesting people
around L.A. that had great
stories about their
neighborhoods. Ever since
he is glad to be part of the
TUX Team at EmpowerLA as
the Media Strategist. Jose
studied at California State
University Northridge, majoring in Urban Studies and
Planning. In his internship he worked on transit advocacy
to improve public transit in the San Fernando Valley.
During his free time he enjoys going hiking, camping
and trying outdoor sports. One things he is still fears
is being in high places, but it does not stop him from
trying rock climbing.

GLENN BAILEY
RACHEL HORST

Rachel is new to L.A.
and is happy to join
the TUX Team at
EmpowerLA, where
it’s kind of like meeting
4 million new neighbors
at a giant dinner party.
She’s studying Public
Policy at the Luskin
School at UCLA. Rachel
considers coming into
possession of her first
ever community garden
plot the highlight of living in Los Angeles. Before
coming to L.A., Rachel lived and worked in New
York City, writing speeches for various important
individuals. In addition to working with Neighborhood
Councils on elections and outreach as the Public
Advocacy Coordinator, Rachel has been spotted
on multiple occasions learning new combinations
at the dance studio. Unfortunately, living in
California has not yet cured Rachel of her fear of
flying. But it does allow her to practice her
cooking skills by using avocados in as
many combinations as possible.

FIPE LEILUA

Fipe is a native Angeleno
and is extremely happy
to be a part of the TUX
Team at EmpowerLA as
the Civic Engagement
Strategist.  She is
studying her masters in
City Planning at San
Diego State University.
She was introduced to
City Council while in her
primary school years, and
since then she has been
following her career path in city planning to influence
the city she loves—Los Angeles!  In addition to working
with neighborhood councils and striving towards her
goals, on her spare time she enjoys bowling with her family.

NANCY FUENTES

Nancy is from Los Angeles
and has been residing in
East Hollywood for over
10 years now. She became
involved with EmpowerLA
during the 2012
Neighborhood Council
Elections as a volunteer and
she has participated as a
volunteer for the Major Eric
Garcetti’s inauguration, the
Mayor’s budget plan and other
interesting events with the
TUX Team, which she enjoyed very much. She is now the
Volunteer Coordinator for the TUX Team at EmpowerLA.
She is currently attending Everest College in Culver City.
Her goal is to one day become a detective and be a
good role model for her son. Nancy enjoys outdoor
activities and going to the movies even though she
is afraid of small tight places,  theaters does not keep
her away from enjoying a great movie.

AUSTIN PATRICK
Arin Abedian

Arin has been living in
L.A. since the age of 11
and has enjoyed every
minute of it. He has a
Bachelor of Science
degree in Business
Administration (Marketing
concentrating) from the
University of Southern
California. However, his
work experience comes
mainly from the
entertainment industry.
He has extensive experience in live sound
reinforcement and has passion in photography and
cinematography. Hence, as a Multimedia Marketing
Strategist, he is excited to be part of the TUX team,
where creativity is encouraged. When he’s not
working or messing around with his DSLR, he is
slapping the bass guitar, or getting injured playing
soccer.

History

In July 1999, Los Angeles voters approved a new Charter of the City of Los Angeles. The new Charter contained several provisions designed to improve neighborhood engagement in City policy making. Specifically, Article IX, Section 900 created a citywide system of advisory councils for local neighborhoods.Because Los Angeles is a geographically large city with a diverse population, it was important that the new system of Neighborhood Councils evolve organically from the grass roots. Planning and the development of ordinances related to the system took two years, and the
Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Council was adopted in 2001.

During the years that followed, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment assisted Neighborhood Councils with the development of their own bylaws and the formal certification process. The Department also provided support thorough the election and funding phase. By 2004, a system of certified Neighborhood Councils with elected Boards was largely in place.

In 2006, the Charter required the appointment of a review commission to examine the system’s development and assess the degree to which it had achieved its goals for advancing citizen participation in City government. The review process identified a number of achievements by the Neighborhood Councils and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, as well as reflected on areas of potential improvement for the initiative, outreach and expansion. Building on the strengths of its achievements, the initiative was renamed EmpowerLA in fall of 2009.

Today, there are 95 Neighborhood Councils in neighborhoods that reach from Downtown, to the Westside, the West Valley, South Central and East LA. The EmpowerLA initiative has matured from an ambitious, fledgling experiment in citizen engagement and participation to an exciting citywide movement. EmpowerLA has grown into the nation’s largest and most innovative initiative in civic engagement and citizen-based government. EmpowerLA has recently received national and international recognition at conferences at the University of New Hampshire and in Nagoya, Japan.

As Los Angeles faces fiscal challenges resulting from the economic downturn and reduced City and state budgets, Neighborhood Councils will play an increasingly important role in giving voice to the residents and stakeholders from every neighborhood.

Mission/Vision

The mission of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is to promote increased citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs through the creation of a citywide system of Neighborhood Councils. Our vision is that by 2020, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment will have fostered a robust and empowered Neighbohood Council System that enables meaningful civic participation for all Angelenos, and that serves as an effective voice for improving governmnet responsiveness to local communities.

Neighborhood Councils are meant to include representatives of the many diverse interests in communities and have an advisory role on issues of concern to the neighborhood.

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment believes that citizen engagement in City government is important because no one understands a neighborhood better than the residents, business owners and property owners that make that neighborhood unique. It believes that neighborhood stakeholders can and should have a platform for advocating for the local issues they care about most and a forum for creating programs and events that unify the neighborhood and respond to community needs.

A critical component of this vision is building leadership and capacity of individuals within the community and among Neighborhood Council members. To this end, the EmpowerLA Leadership Academy provides FREE training to residents on how City government works, how to advocate, how to operate Councils effectively, and in-depth workshops about important local issues like crime, streets and roads, gangs, planning and development, and economic development.

The callout to EmpowerLA was created on the simple premise that empowering an individual empowers communities, and ultimately empowers and strengthens us as a City.

What We Do

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment provides three kinds of support to Neighborhood Councils and the communities they serve:

Service

  • Conducts outreach, marketing and communications activities for the Neighborhood Council System
  • Builds strategic partnerships to enhance the effectiveness of Neighborhood Councils
  • Organizes events that promote healthy dialogues and networking opportunities between City agencies and Neighborhood Councils
  • Works with City agencies to promote communication and relationship building with Neighborhood Councils

Training

  • Provides FREE training and workshops to all residents through the EmpowerLA Leadership Academy
  • Works with Neighborhood Council Boards and one-on-one with Board members to educate them on policies, procedures and best practices for Neighborhood Council operations
  • Builds regional participation networks for Neighborhood Councils and other peer learning opportunities to encourage knowledge sharing about what works and what doesn’t work

Support

  • Provides administrative and fiscal oversight for City funds allocated to the local Neighborhood Councils
  • Arranges meeting locations and office leases for Neighborhood Councils
  • Contracts for professional services (e.g., translation, temporary staffing, office and program supplies, outreach support)
  • Manages all Department operations and infrastructure, including executive management, fiscal operations, payroll, contracts, information technology and human resources
We Are Here For You

You can contact us via phone at (213) 978-1551 or via email below

GRAYCE LIUInterim General Manager

JEFF BRILL - Senior Management Analyst II

LEYLA CAMPOS - Director of Field Operations

JANET LINDO - Executive Administrative Assistant
and Commission Executive Assistant

MAXIMO FORTU - Senior Accountant II

 MAN-QIN HE - Accountant II

KIBIBI CONNER - Accountant Clerk II

JOHNGIANG NGUYEN - Systems Analyst

 MONIQUE COLLINS - Clerk Typist

SONYA CALLOWAY - Clerk Typist

AMELIA HERRERA-ROBLES

BARRY STONE

BETTY WONG OYAMA

LISETTE COVARRUBIAS

TANEDA LARIOS

THOMAS SOONG