Board of Directors & Executive Staff

The California Exposition & State Fair is an independent state agency established by law in Food and Agriculture Code

Governed by an appointed Board of Directors, daily operations are managed by the Chief Executive Officer and permanent staff of approximately 55. Each year more than 2,000 temporary employees are hired by Cal Expo or key business partners to operate the annual 17-day State Fair. Cal Expo is a self–sufficient State agency that receives no government general or special fund support.

The governing body of the California Exposition & State Fair is an 11–member Board of Directors, that must all be residents of California. Nine (9) directors are appointed by the Governor, one director by the Speaker of the Assembly and one director by Senate Rules Committee.

Director Salinas Che

Che Salinas (Chair) of Sacramento, has been appointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors. Che has been Special Counsel and Senior Legislative Advisor at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP since 2021. He was Senior Advisor at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development from 2020 to 2021, Chief Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs for Operations in the Office of the Governor from 2019 to 2020 and Counsel at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP in 2011. Salinas was Counsel in the Office of State Senator Ed Hernandez from 2010 to 2011, Counsel for the Office of Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez from 2009 to 2010 and Consultant for the California State Senate Committee on Judiciary from 2006 to 2009. He was a Legislative Aide in the Office of President Pro Tempore Don Perata from 2004 to 2006. Salinas is a member of the Improve Your Tomorrow Board of Directors. Salinas earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law.

Hannah Gbeh Portrait

Hannah Gbeh (Vice-Chair) of Bonsall, has been appointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors. Gbeh has been Executive Director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau and Administrator of the San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group since 2019. She was Senior Environmental Science Project Manager at REC Consultants Inc. from 2012 to 2019 and an Environmental Scientist at Atkins Global from 2007 to 2011. Gbeh is chair of the Cuyamaca College Ornamental Horticulture Advisory Committee.

Rima Barkett Profile

Rima Barkett (Member) of Stockton, has been reappointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors, where she has served since 2012. Barkett has been president and founder at A Tavola Together since 2007. She was an international relations officer for the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates from 2006 to 2007, owner at Café Luna Spaghetteria from 2002 to 2006 and an Italian language instructor at the University of the Pacific from 1996 to 2002. Barkett is founder of the Architects of Peace Foundation and of Stockton Community Kitchen.

Sonney Chong Profile

Sonney Chong (Member) of Sacramento, has been a practicing dentist in Sacramento for the past 30 years. He was previously on the Cal Expo & State Fair Board of Directors from 2001 to 2005. Then appointed again to the Board of Directors in 2011 to 2014 by Senate Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, and was reappointed by Senate Pro Temp Kevin De Leon for 2015-2018. Chong has been recently appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. Sonney is Chair of CAPITAL (Council of Asian Pacific Islanders Together for Advocacy and Leadership) and on CSUS University Foundation, Chair of Board of Director for Asian Resources Inc, Chair of the SOCAB (Sheriff Outreach Community Advisory Board) for Sheriff Scott Jones, Fellow member of American Leadership Forum (Class II), member of the Sacramento FBI Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association and lifetime member of CACS (Chinese American Council of Sacramento) and SCCF (Sacramento Chinese Cultural Foundation).

Kim Craig profile photo

Kim Craig (Member) of Sacramento, has been appointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors. Craig has been a Full Partner at Arc Strategies since 2018. She was Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. from 2016 to 2018. Craig held several roles from 2010 to 2015 in the office of then-Assembly Speaker, Majority Leader, and Assemblymember Toni Atkins, including Special Assistant and Chief of Staff. Craig was a Lobbyist at KP Public Affairs from 2012 to 2014 and Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny from 2005 to 2010. She was a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of San Diego City Councilmember Toni Atkins from 2000 to 2005. Craig was a Field Representative in the Office of State Assemblymember Denise Moreno Ducheny from 1996 to 2000. She is a member of Inter-Governmental Advocates. Craig earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of California, San Diego and a Master of Public Administration degree from San Diego State University. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Craig is registered without party preference.

Jess Durfee Profile Photo

Jess Durfee (Member) of San Diego, is a volunteer community organizer focusing on LGBT issues and political engagement. He was first appointed to the Board of Directors in 2016 by then Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. He was reappointed by Senate President Pro tem Toni Atkins in 2019 and 2023. Jess had an early career as a high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. During his tenure as a teacher he served as president of his local union and was actively involved at the state and national level as a member lobbyist. Durfee was a mayoral appointee to the the City of San Diego’s Stadium Advisory Board. Prior to that he served on the San Diego Community Forest Advisory Board.

David Mallel Portrait

David Mallel (Member) of Los Angeles, has been reappointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors, where he has served since 2012. Mallel has been an account executive at Redwood Mortgage since 2018. He was senior vice president of commercial lending at Patch of Land from 2014 to 2016, vice president of operations at Rodeo Capital from 2010 to 2014 and president at LCC Investments since 1996. He was regional manager at Moore Maintenance and Property Management from 1994 to 1996.

Brian May

Brian May (Member) of Sacramento, has been appointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors. May has been a retired annuitant at the California Department of Food and Agriculture since 2013. He was vice president of operations for Sacramento Republic FC from 2014 to 2019. May held multiple positions at the California Exposition and State Fair from 1989 to 2012, including deputy general manager, assistant general manager and assistant to the general manager.

Willie Pelote posing Infront of the California state capitol

Willie Pelote (Member) of Sacramento, has been appointed to the California Exposition and State Fair Board of Directors. Pelote has been Principal at Pelote Strategic Advisors since 2016. He was Chief Principal Consultant at the California State Assembly from 2015 to 2016. Pelote was Political and Legislative Director at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees from 1995 to 2015. He was a Consultant to the California State Assembly from 1987 to 1995. Pelote is a member of the National Board of Advisors at the University of California, Davis Health. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from California State University, Sacramento. This position requires Senate confirmation and there is no compensation. Pelote is a Democrat.

In Memory of Rex Hime

Rex Hime

For nearly 28 years, Rex Hime has been a powerful voice on the Cal Expo Board of Directors. He was continuously re-appointed by Governors on both sides of the aisle and was our longest serving board member. While most people love the State Fair, Rex had a special affinity for the yearly event. We will miss his infectious smile, his staple Hawaiian shirts, and the hours he would spend greeting patrons and partners throughout the fairgrounds. On behalf of everyone at Cal Expo and the State Fair, we send our deepest condolences to Rex’s family and many friends.

His family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Friends of the California State Fair Scholarship Program.

Friends of the California State Fair
P.O. Box 15649
Sacramento, CA 95852

Tax ID #94-2722656

Click here to learn more

In addition to appointed members, the Board of Directors includes five Ex-Officio Members:

  • Governor Gavin Newsom
  • Senator Angelique Ashby
  • Assemblymember Kevin McCarty
  • Assemblymember Robert Rivas

All California Exposition & State Fair board, sub-committee, and advisory board meetings are open to the public and are subject to a 10 day notice period. Agendas and pertinent materials are available on our Public Meeting Notices page.

Executive Staff

  • Tom Martinez, Chief Executive Officer
  • Marcia Shell, Deputy General Manager
  • Matt Cranford, Deputy General Manager
  • Mitchell (Mitch) Pryor, Chief of Plant Operations
  • Craig Walton, Chief of Police
  • Sue O’Brien, Executive Secretary

Tom Martinez is currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer of California Exposition & State Fair after being appointed by Governor Brown in April 2016. Since his appointment, Tom has brought about a dynamic transformation to the events organized by the state agency. He has introduced innovative concepts such as a youth mariachi competition, a farm laborer showcase, and even collaborated with High Times Magazine to organize the inaugural Cannabis Competition and Exhibit. Tom’s vision revolves around enriching Cal Expo’s mission to highlight California’s finest offerings.

With an eye on California’s promising future, Tom is dedicated to diversifying Cal Expo’s events to captivate new audiences while expanding the horizons for the regulars. He’s passionate about showcasing sectors and innovations where Californians are paving the way and positively impacting society.

Before leading Cal Expo, Tom held a pivotal role as the state government relations manager at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. His diverse career has seen him in roles including communications director for the California State Senate Democratic Caucus, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Don Perata, and director of external affairs at the San Mateo County Recorder’s Office. Notably, during the COVID-19 crisis, Tom was Cal Expo’s frontline coordinator for pandemic-related initiatives, including vaccination drives, testing, and collaborative housing solutions for those affected by the virus in Sacramento.