Los Angeles native and El Monte resident Rafael González has been selected as Director of the Best Start Communities Department at First 5 LA. As Director, González will lead a department of 28 in First 5 LA’s ongoing work to support young children and their parents in 14 communities across Los Angeles County.

González comes from the Los Angeles Dodgers where he has served as director of community relations since September 2012. Previously, he served as chief service officer and director of Neighborhood & Community Services for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. González led “We Serve LA,” the civic engagement initiative of the city of Los Angeles, and directed the Mayor’s city-wide field operation and community relations personnel.

Prior to his service in city government, González was the catalyst in the community-level change efforts of two non-profit organizations. He served as executive director of public allies – Los Angeles and Collective SPACE (Social Power through Action & Community Education).

“Rafael is a community builder and organizer with deep experience in community change efforts in Los Angeles County,” said First 5 LA Executive Director Kim Belshé. “He will bring to our work an understanding of the strengths and challenges across our county’s diverse communities and strong personal and professional values. I am very excited to have him join the First 5 LA team.”

González was selected from more than 80 candidates identified through an intensive five-month recruitment process in which the leading experts, both practitioners and academics, in the field of place-based community work nationally were consulted for recommendations. First 5 LA also sought out and received input from many of its Los Angeles-based partners in serving children and families.

“I am excited to begin the challenging work of leading First 5 LA’s community change effort, Best Start, into its next phase,” said González. “I look forward to working with my new First 5 LA colleagues and the parents, residents and others who have partnered with us in each Best Start community over the past three years.”

In his first step to solidify his senior leadership team, González has selected First 5 LA Senior Research Analyst, Antoinette Andrews, Ph.D., to serve as assistant director of planning and implementation. Andrews returned to First 5 LA in 2013 after an earlier stint with the agency from 2001 to 2007. González and Andrews will provide management oversight for the implementation of Best Start’s “Building Stronger Families” framework and community capacity building efforts to strengthen families and promote family-supporting communities that contribute to better outcomes for children.

“Antoinette’s experience with the development of Best Start’s logic model and change framework along with her deep understanding of the importance of both data and community wisdom to guide community based work will make her invaluable in our work going forward,” said González. “I believe her addition to my leadership team helps ensure we maintain Best Start’s positive momentum in the months and years ahead.”

González is a graduate of California State University Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in Chicano Studies. Andrews holds master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from State University of New York-Stony Brook and a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Loyola Marymount University.

First 5 LA oversees the L.A. County allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds raised help pay for health care, education and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age five and their families. First 5 LA’s mission is to increase the number of young children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe, and ready to learn. For more information, please visit www.first5la.org.

Best Start is First 5 LA’s place-based effort designed to strengthen families and build communities that support families so that children can be healthy, protected and ready to succeed in school. Best Start communities are located in Central Long Beach, Compton/East Compton, East Los Angeles, El Monte, South El Monte, Lancaster, Metro LA, Pacoima, Palmdale, Panorama City, South Los Angeles/Broadway-Manchester, South Los Angeles/West Athens, Southeast L.A. County, Watts/Willowbrook and Wilmington.

For more information visit www.beststartla.org.