Jon Schmid, President and CEO
Jon has more than 25 years of experience in communications, both as a journalist and a public relations and marketing professional. At Cook + Schmid Jon develops strategic and integrated campaigns for clients that include public agencies, private and public companies and nonprofits. Jon has worked on some of the most important projects in the Southern California region, including public education and outreach around moving the San Diego County Regional Airport, the vision and guiding principles for the Port of San Diego’s new 50-year master plan update, and the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan. In the private sector he has supported technology, biotechnology and life sciences clients for more than a decade. His work includes launching Illumina’s consumer sequencing service and GE’s first line of digital cameras. Jon’s work has been honored with four Silver Anvils, the Public Relations Society of America’s highest national honor for strategic programs. His prior experience includes more than a decade of work as a professional journalist at a number of publications, including the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the nation’s largest metropolitan daily newspapers. As a journalist, Jon was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Jon grew up in San Diego and he is active with a number of local civic and industry organizations. He is a member of the boards of directors of the San Diego Maritime Museum and the San Diego Bay Holiday Parade of Lights. Previous board service includes the San Diego Natural History Museum and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Jon is a 2004 graduate of LEAD San Diego. Jon earned an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Christopher Alexander, Director of Strategic Communications
Christopher uses his deep experience in strategic communication planning and research to plan and oversee programs for government clients. A decorated combat veteran, he pioneered the use of anthropological and sociological research in designing and implementing successful advertising efforts for the U.S. Army and was instrumental in developing programs to measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Christopher finished his distinguished military career working in Public Affairs and as an Information Operations Planner. He has extensive experience in government contracting and has worked on communication and research programs with Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi, KBZ Bank and MAI Airlines of Myanmar, Play It Again Sports and the Coca Cola Company, among other notable clients. With Cook + Schmid, he has planned and directed strategic communications programs for the Department of Fish & Wildlife and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. He has provided instruction on strategic communication planning at the Long Term Strategy Project at Harvard University, the Naval War College, the National Defense University, the Army Science Board, and U.S. Army Command and General Staff School. He also served as a senior mentor for strategic communication at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and General Staff College.
David Kodama, Director
David plans and directs Cook + Schmid public engagement, community outreach and media relations programs for corporate, nonprofit and government clients. He has conducted programs for the County of San Diego Environmental Health Services, the County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services; City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency, Port of San Diego, San Bernardino County Office of Administration, Santa Fe Irrigation, Intelimedix, Allylix, and others. Certified by the International Association for Public Participation (iap2), David played a critical role in planning and implementing an extensive outreach program to build community support and gain California Coastal Commission approval for the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan, a joint plan to develop 556 acres of underused industrial bayfront property. In this role, he manages internal and external resources to understand and achieve clients’ goals, oversees budgets and ensures a high level of service. He is an excellent communicator, responsible, detail-oriented, motivated, professional and ethical. In short, he partners with clients to determine clients’ needs and directs the development of products and services to meet those needs. Based on results, his outreach programs have earned awards from the PRSA, Society of Marketing Professional Services and the Health Care Communicators of San Diego. David is also an award-winning former journalist with more than 20 years experience creating compelling content for business, trade, technical and consumer publications. His background is ideally suited for creating meaningful relationships with the media as well as creating copy for a variety of uses. With a background in technology, web development and a creative mind, he also plays a key role in generating fresh, innovative projects for agency clients.
Debbie Robertson, Ph.D., Director of Science Strategy
Debra Robertson, Ph.D., is a specialist in the strategic assessment of technologies and products for startup, high growth and established research, commercial and hospital environments. She helps clients define the competitive landscapes for their technologies, evaluate product development and intellectual property strategies to ensure pathways to commercialization, and position these assets positively to key audiences and the marketplace. Robertson has more than 15 years postgraduate expertise in antibody development, enzyme and cytokine development, protein and genomic engineering and proteomic technologies. As a former director of intellectual property for several biotechnology companies, she is also experienced in licensing, strategic planning and early stage fund raising. In addition to her scientific and business background, Robertson is especially skilled at effectively communicating detailed scientific principles to the non-scientific community, including investors, analysts and the media. She has been a contributing writer to Nature Biotechnology for more than a dozen years. Clients include a major cancer research center, start-up and midsize biotechnology companies and investment bankers. In 2003 she was recognized as the San Diego Business Journal’s “outstanding woman in business.” Robertson has a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a B.A. in biology from the University of California, San Diego.
Celeste Sotomayor Schmid, J.D., M.P.A., Ph.D., Public Affairs Strategist
Celeste has worked with a variety of public and private sector organizations to develop outreach strategies to successfully achieve public awareness and participation. Most recently, she has worked on outreach programs to increase parental participation in education, to promote homeless awareness, in addition to developing strategies to promote water conservation. Celeste has also worked as a consultant with the electrical utility industry. Her experience and dissertation research assessed safety compliance and work-place risk, and the role of communication and knowledge systems, and management practices, to improve compliance and performance. Her prior experience includes developing and improving manufacturing processes for the Department of Defense in the field aviation refurbishment, and environmental and safety compliance. As an Adjunct Professor with the School of Business and Management at National University, her most recent research explores recruitment, satisfaction, and retention of Gen Y employees in public sector employment. Celeste earned a Ph.D. from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
Genevieve DePerio Fong, Senior Account Executive
Genevieve is a public relations and outreach professional with more than 14 years of experience working with communities, city municipalities and public agencies throughout the region. With an urban studies and planning background, Genevieve uses her skills in project management and communications to help achieve the goals of various public programs and initiatives. On behalf of SANDAG and Caltrans, she conducted public outreach for freeway closures, rail improvements and other infrastructure projects. She has worked with the City of San Diego and City of Chula Vista to carry out various redevelopment initiatives, including the implementation of a street median project. Working with the San Diego County Water Authority, she has supported both the capital improvement program and Emergency Storage Project. Genevieve has served as a Council Representative for two City of San Diego Councilmembers as well as a Policy and Community Advisor for the Mayor of San Diego in 2005. Genevieve also plans and oversees milestone events for multi-million dollar infrastructure projects. Her event-planning experience includes ribbon-cuttings, community fairs, workshops, tours, and open houses. She brings her understanding of public programs and initiatives to execute effective public outreach strategies. Genevieve earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and Planning with Provost’s Honors and Department Honors from University of California, San Diego and received a Certificate in Real Estate: Design, Development and Entitlement through a scholarship at University of San Diego.
Katie Schaa, Senior Account Coordinator
Katie develops social media, marketing materials and provides outstanding client support for a number of clients including the Port of San Diego, the San Diego County Water Authority, International Bipolar Foundation, the Baumann family of restaurants, City Tree Christian School and others. She also plays an important role in coordinating events. Katie is very organized and detail oriented, and has a passion for public relations, marketing and community outreach. A graduate of Gonzaga University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Public Relations, Katie developed media kits, promoted special events, conducted social media programs and created collateral to increase event attendance as well as donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.