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Meet the Office of Civic Innovation

The City of Long Beach has assembled a team of local, regional and national talent with a unique and comprehensive set of skills to advance its innovation projects. 

Tracy Colunga is the Director for the City of Long Beach Office of Civic Innovation. Under her leadership, the Office of Civic Innovation worked closely with the Long Beach Police Department to understand trends and patterns of people cycling in and out of the justice system. The City of Long Beach recently launched the Long Beach Justice Lab as a culmination of recommendations stemming from that research. Currently, the Office of Civic Innovation is partnering with departments on several projects including Smart Cities, the Long Beach Airport user experience, police recruitment, and reducing illegal dumping and blight. She has focused her career around community improvement. She holds a master’s degree from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Luskin School of Public Policy and a bachelor’s Degree from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN. She is a part-time lecturer at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). Tracy and her family reside in Long Beach, CA.

Lauren Vargas is the Director of Innovation Delivery & Special Projects for Mayor Robert Garcia. Previously, Lauren served as a Presidential Appointee in the Obama Administration at the Department of Defense. She was a Special Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, where she focused on the rapid acquisition of defense capabilities. Prior to this position, Lauren worked as a Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano in Washington, DC for over four years, focusing on immigration and homeland security policy. Lauren is from Montebello, California. She holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Whittier College. Lauren presently resides in Long Beach, California.

Heather Barker  is our Design Lead. Heather works with interdisciplinary teams developing design strategies that leverage existing competencies and assets into innovative, systemic solutions. She consults, holds workshops, publishes, teaches, and advises internationally on this work. As a scholar and practitioner, Ms. Barker combines theory and practice through an innovation methodology that synthesizes design thinking, gamification, data-analysis andphenomenology. Her design+deliver collaborative process leverages the tools of both physical and virtual space while generating customized, human-centered, technology-augmented, solutions to complex problems. This path to innovation supports both business and civic organizations in efforts to develop novel solutions to personal interface, space, sustainable architectural and urban challenges.

Adelita Lopez recently graduated from the USC Masters in Business Administration for Veterans program. She is a first-generation immigrant. Her parents worked as farm laborers, picking grapes and various other fruits and vegetables in Weedpatch, CA. Adelita understood at an early age the importance of sacrifice, determination, and resilience. She enlisted in the United States Navy as Logistics Specialist for the United States Ship Pearl Harbor. After her four-year term, Adelita pursued her BA degree from UC Santa Barbara. She majored in Accounting and Economics. She also attended DiQiuCun Global Village School in Beijing, China. Through her life experiences, Adelita worked hard to achieve her goals. She became a tax consultant for top accounting firms in the country. She worked at PwC as a Corporate Tax Associate and at KPMG as a Corporate Tax Consultant.

Alma has been part of the Long Beach Innovation Team (i-team) since its inception. She has worked with various departments the last three years on economic development, public safety, the Mayor’s Clean Long Beach priority, and the Bloomberg Harvard Initiative. As Deputy Director of the i-team, she worked closely with the City’s Police Department, Health, Fire, City Prosecutor’s Office, and County service providers to better coordinate services aimed at reducing recidivism rates of Long Beach residents who frequently interact with Law Enforcement.  Additionally, she played a key role in developing and implementing the city’s Inter-Departmental Data Sharing Administrative Regulation and third party agreements aimed at integrating critical administrative data sets together. She has now transitioned into her new role managing the Data-Driven Justice Lab full-time. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Administration in 2011 from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University (NYU). She is passionate about building vibrant and equitable cities.

Jennifer Neal holds a B.A. in Psychology, and she will complete her Master of Social Work degree from CSULB in May, 2019.   She currently works in Long Beach as an Outreach Coordinator for a behavioral health group with the goal of helping individuals and families use their skills and strengths to achieve positive change, resiliency, and lasting wellbeing.  Most recently, Jennifer was the Legislative Graduate Intern for Councilmember Rex Richardson of Council District 9.  Her work encompassed policy research, writing policy analyses, coordinating special projects, community field work, and partnership outreach.

Nishchal is a multidisciplinary data scientist with several years of engineering experience designing and developing complex systems in corporate, non-profit and startup environments. He complements his technology experience with strategic problem solving, and product management skills through the lens of human centered design”. His past experiences include Co-Founder at Give a Day Global and at Xper, Staff engineer at Qualcomm-Atheros, and Engineer at Arraycomm. Nishchal holds a post master’s certificate in Entrepreneurship from Stanford graduate school of business, A Master’s degree in engineering science from university of Mississippi, and  a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from Madhav Institute of Technology in India.