Dan Pittman, Chairman
Dan Pittman, president of Dan Pittman & Associates, Inc., is an award-winning public relations and marketing professional with more than 40 years of experience who is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America. Prior to establishing his own practice in 1999, Dan has held senior posts at BSMG Worldwide Public Relations and Bozell Worldwide; Salvati Montgomery Sakoda; Cochrane Chase, Livingston; and Cunningham & Walsh. His corporate background includes PR roles with Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., National Hot Rod Association, and California Dental Association. He began career at the Associated Press (Chicago/Los Angeles bureaus). He holds a B.A. Degree in English from ASU and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from USC.
Judy Cole, Co-Chair
Judy Cole is a retired administrator from the Social Security Administration. As District Manager for 38 years, she joined the Board of Project Independence to assure that adults with developmental disabilities had a voice in Sacramento and the services to build independent lives. Judy is a former Board Chairman. It has been her greatest reward to be a Board Member for over 20 years.
Del Hart, Treasurer
Del Hart is a practicing financial consultant with Crown Capital Securities, L.P. He has served as Chairman of the Board of Project Independence and Chairman of the Finance Committee. His financial expertise continues to aid Project Independence in securing independent lives for over 600 adults throughout Orange County living with developmental disabilities.
David Blankenhorn, Member
David Blankenhorn is a member of the Executive Coaches of Orange County and Score which works with small businesses and nonprofits. He spent over 45 years in banking, 25 of which were as a CEO of various independent banks. During his banking career he served on various nonprofit boards including Second Harvest Food bank of Orange County, the Boy Scouts of Orange County, South Coast Repertory, The Pacific Club and on various trade association boards such as the Community Bankers of California. He and his wife have lived in Orange County since 1973.
Raad Ghantous, Member
Raad Ghantous is a seasoned multi-disciplined interior designer and influential community leader. As the principal of Raad Ghantous & Associates (RG&A), his wide-ranging career experience includes working with 5-star hospitality, spas, wellness centers, restaurants, retail and general commercial properties, plus high-end residential and yacht design. He is currently Board Chair of the Arab American Civic Council in Anaheim and is an incoming board member of American Society of Interior Designers – OC Chapter. He is the host of the long-running Internet radio program, The Raad Life, which originates from OC Talk Radio. A graduate of the MBA Program at Claremont Graduate School, he also earned undergraduate degrees in interior design from Interior Designers Institute of Newport Beach, and in Economics from the American College of Switzerland in Leysin, Switzerland.
Jami Countryman, Member
Jami Countryman has been an educator for over 27 years. She has a Masters Degree in special education and is a mother to two boys with developmental disabilities. She has spent years in the community volunteering for both her church in San Clemente as well as for many causes that serve those living with developmental disabilities. She is honored to bring both her personal and professional experience to the Board of Directors to Project Independence serve its population as they build their lives of independence and inclusion.
Steve Gostin, Member
Steve Gostin is an accomplished educator and hospitality industry leader. He has managed multi-million dollar operations from independent startups to nightclubs and California gaming. Steve is affiliated with the Culinary Networking Group and is also the founder and instructor for the Intelliserve Responsible Beverage Service training program. He has opened several independent restaurants and nightclubs and worked with a variety of concepts to develop training and management programs by providing coaching strategies, skills and education for the management and leadership teams. He was program chair and professor for The Art Institute of California-Orange County, where he provided management and leadership training to students in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Programs. He has also been an instructor in Food & Beverage Operations Management, Management & Supervision, HR Management, Purchasing & Costs Controls, and Intro to Hospitality Accounting. Steve has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management and a Master of Arts Degree in Education. He is also a Board member with nonprofit Bracken’s Kitchen.
Debbie Miller, Member
Debbie Miller is the president of Social Hospitality, a boutique digital marketing agency that helps brands develop their online identities, create engaging content, and build their social media presences. Primary services offered include digital strategy consulting, social media, SEO, as well as copywriting and editing for websites, blogs, and email marketing campaigns. The Social Hospitality blog is a leading industry resource, too. Miller is active in numerous social, business, volunteering, and networking groups in Orange County. She is also on the board of the UCI Alumni Council, president of her Toastmaster’s club, member of the Greater Irvine Chamber, and a “Big Sis” with Big Brothers Big Sisters of OC. She regularly speaks at industry events and has been featured in various business publications. Miller is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine.
Shane Pase, Ph.D. , Member
Shane Pase, Ph.D. is the founding partner at Reality Science, and a co-founder and executive producer at MediaX LLC new media technologies group. He is also an adjunct professor, media psychology at Fielding Graduate University. He is an award-winning conceptual designer and pioneer, currently authoring a groundbreaking book on the psychology of augmented reality. He has had significant success in leveraging theories from user experience, cognitive, neural, media, behavioral and social psychology, in providing valuable insights into the effects of media technologies in generating enhanced successful immersive and media experiences. Pase earned a Doctorate Degree and a Master of Arts Degree from Fielding Graduate University and a Master of Social Work Degree at California State University, Long Beach.
Diane Pritchett, Member
Diane Pritchett is the executive director of the South Coast Metro Alliance. She is also a member of the Board of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce. Prior to her leadership role with the Alliance, Diane was the national sales manager at The Westin South Coast Plaza. Her other work experience includes serving as sales manager of Char Tours of San Francisco and as a public relations professional with Fredrick Chusid & Company, an international consulting firm. She previously served on the Boards of the Girl Scout Council of Orange County, Girls Inc., South Coast Symphony, YMCA of Orange County and the Southland Economic Development Corporation. She was the Costa Mesa Woman of the Year in 1989. Diane has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Ohio State University and holds a California Real Estate License.
Robert Spitzberg, Member
Bobby Spitzberg is both a board member and a client of Project Independence. He began his career with the Marriott hotel chain at Boston Marriott Newtown, where he spent seven years before working for over 10 years at Orlando Marriott. He has been with the Irvine Marriott for 21 years. He has earned many honors and awards, including the coveted J.W. Marriott Award of Excellence in 1999, two nominations for the Orange County Tourism Council’s Service Excellence Award, several Employee of the Month or Employee of the Year awards at three different Marriott hotels, and the Regional Center of Orange County’s Spotlight Award.
Harry Stahl, Member
Harry Stahl is a corporate attorney and businessman. He has been a member of the Project Independence Board of Directors for over 25 years. Previously he served as the President of the Orange County Food Bank. A Vietnam era veteran, he is also a proud member of American Legion Post 291 in Newport Beach. He and his wife reside in Irvine, California.
Kurt Yeager, Member
Kurt Yeager retired in 2018 from Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth where he practiced public law since 1978. While still practicing law, he joined the Board of Project Independence to guide them through the merger with Vantage in 1977. He continues to proudly serve the mission of Project Independence. He retains an interest in Stradling as principal shareholder.
Debra Marsteller, President and Chief Executive Officer
Advocate, trainer, mentor and enthusiastic supporter of people with developmental disabilities, Debra Marsteller has worked for 38 years with and for people with disabilities. A graduate of University of Northern Colorado with a teaching credential in Special Education, Debra continued on to get her Masters in Education from San Diego State. In 2007 after 26 years leading Vantage Foundation and building the first integrated work supports for people with the most complex lives, Debra led the merger with Project Independence. Combining the Positive Behavioral Support expertise of Vantage with the Independent Living and Supported Employment capacities of Project Independence, the two organizations look to our next 40 years making our community a better place for everyone to live, work and recreate. Debra grew up in Orange County and continues to make the area her home.
Robert Watson, Associate Director
In 1991 Bob Watson began working in the field of serving people with developmental disabilities. He began his career with Vantage Foundation in April 1994 as a job coach in the Behavior Management Program. Bob was then promoted to an Area Manager, then Regional Director and finally Associate Director and Director of Community Day Services. With the merge of Vantage and Project Independence in 2007, Bob remained in both positions. Prior to working with Project Independence Bob worked as a Junior High School Teacher, an administrator in the Federal Government, as well as in hospitality, entertainment, and real estate. Bob has always maintained a personal priority of serving those in need including working with the Orange Police Department Crisis Unit.
Bernard Uy, Controller
Bernard is the Controller for Project Independence. Bernard started his journey with Project Independence in October 1999. Bernard, a former Administrator for an Adult Residential Facility, manages Payroll and Accounting and oversees the IT functions of the organization. Bernard, not only brings administrative skills but also hands on experience as well.
Meka Green, Director of Human Resources
Meka Green has worked at Project Independence, initially in direct support of the clients directly and now in her current role as the Director of Human Resources. Meka works diligently to assure that Project Independence recruits, trains and supports staff that will go the extra mile to serve those who need us most. Meka takes great pride in the strong relationships she maintains with both field staff and management. Meka maintains a strong commitment to always having an open door for questions, concerns or any other issue that needs a supportive and constructive response.
Tim Chervenak, Director of Employment Services
Tim Chervenak is the Director of Employment Services for Project Independence. Tim has worked in the field for over 20 years, and has worked at Project Independence since 2003. Tim oversees the Supported Employment program, serving almost 200 people employed in jobs throughout Orange County. In addition, Tim also manages the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance project, a cooperative agreement with Social Security, a project that gives beneficiaries the tools to make informed decisions about returning to work and achieving independence from government benefits. As chair of the Habilitation subcommittee, Tim has served on the Regional Center of Orange County Vendor Advisory Committee for 8 years. Tim taught political science at several community colleges in Orange County for over 10 years. Tim has served on the board of directors for the California Disability Services Association for the past six years, and is currently serving as Board President.
Mike Voegele, Director of Independent Living and Supported Living
Mike Voegele is the Director of Independent Living and Supported Living at Project Independence. Independent Living services teach the skills needed for consumers to live independently in their own apartments. Supported Living services provide the needed in-home support and care that consumers may need in order remain successfully living in their own apartments. Mike began his career at Project independence as in Psychology intern from Cal-State Fullerton in February of 1994. He was hired as a full-time Independent Living direct staff in May of 1994. Mike later became an Area Manager in October of 1997, where he managed a caseload of about 35 consumers and was responsible for assigning and supervising the direct staff. In November of 2004, Mike was promoted to Director of our Independent and Supported Living departments.
Todd Eckert, Director of Development
Todd Eckert is the Director of Development for Project Independence. Todd serves as the leader responsible for creating a rigorous development program in support of Project Independence and for expanding on the current donor base. In partnership with the Chief Executive Officer, Todd works each day to raise awareness and support of PI. Prior to joining Project Independence in 2015, Todd worked for a hospital foundation in Annapolis, Maryland. He was recruited from a decade in commercial real estate due to his ability to naturally cultivate and solidify community relationships. His diverse background including business ownership, entertainment and non-profits, helped Todd develop his inherent talent to speak to a broad-ranging audience. He lives in Newport Beach with his wife and his two daughters.