Director’s Travels

December 13, 2023

 For Immediate Release

Valley Mountain Regional Center Board of Directors Selects Leinani Walter as Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Valley Mountain Regional Center (VMRC) is pleased to announce the selection of Leinani Walter as the next Executive Director of VMRC, effective February 15, 2024

December 13, 2023 – As Executive Director, , Leinani will lead VMRC into the next chapter of its history in service to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout our region. She will become the center’s sixth executive director in its 48-year history and the first woman to lead our ever growing staff of 520 employees. Leinani brings 34 years of experience advocating, educating, and empowering individuals with developmental disabilities to lead inclusive lives.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors for Valley Mountain Regional Center, we would like to welcome Leinani Walter as our new Executive Director. Her regional center experience and work at the state level will be an asset to the VMRC community. We look forward to working together as we collaboratively strengthen our commitment to support people with developmental disabilities as they enrich their lives through choices and inclusion.” – Suzanne Devitt, Ed.D., VMRC Board President.

Leinani comes to VMRC from the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), where she was appointed as the Chief Equity Officer by Governor Newsom in March of 2022, and before that, as the Assistant Deputy Director of the Service Access and Equity Division in March of 2020. Leinani was instrumental in creating an online application process for the grant program to be more accessible to grassroots organizations, regional centers, and other organizations. Leinani has championed taking successful outcome-based grant projects statewide, like the Community Navigator Program, implemented in collaboration with Family Resource Centers. She has led statewide diverse community engagement efforts and the implementation of the regional center language access and cultural competency program.

“Leinani’s work at DDS has greatly promoted our efforts to connect individuals and their families to services and supports. Though she will be missed at DDS, we know Leinani’s expertise, passion, and vision will continue to influence service access, community partnerships, and innovation for Californians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” – Nancy Bargmann, Director of DDS.

Prior to her appointments, Leinani was the Director of Program Operations for the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) working in case management, housing, and employment. Leinani spent 18 years at Disability Rights California in the Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy as the Clients’ Rights Advocate at VMRC. She will be taking over for Tony Anderson, who is moving on to a new position with ARCA.

“I am honored to come home to Valley Mountain Regional Center, leading with compassion, inclusive practices, responsibility, and fostering diverse community partnerships. I do this work because I believe all people with developmental disabilities have the right to lead lives with dignity and access to high-quality care and services. I am excited to rejoin the vibrant VMRC community of people served, former colleagues, and community partners.” – Leinani Walter, incoming Executive Director.

Leinani has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from California State University Long Beach and a Juris Doctor degree from University of Connecticut School of Law. She is a Native Hawaiian and the sister of a person supported by Alta California Regional Center.

For more information, please contact Doug Bonnet, Special Assistant to the Executive Director, at 209-955-3656, email

October 27, 2023

A Letter from the Director

It is with mixed emotions that I write this letter to our Valley Mountain Regional Center Community, but this past Wednesday evening during our closed session of the board meeting I informed the board I will not be renewing my contract as the executive director after January 3, 2024. On one hand I am sad to report that my seven-year tenure at VMRC will be ending but on the other hand I am very excited to report that I will be moving to the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) as the associate director focused on disability public policy for people with developmental disabilities and their families throughout California. This is a wonderful opportunity for me in my career in service to our community throughout the state. My time at VMRC has been life changing for me and I hope I have been able to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve in our region.

To the staff at VMRC I am forever grateful to every one of you, you have shown me what true grace looks like as you remain persistent in service even in the face of surmounting regulatory requirements and occasional criticism.

To the provider community who I have watched strengthen and organize your network and build your own professional development structure admired across the state, I am filled with admiration and hope for the future of our provider network.

To the board of directors who I watched go from bickering and limited prospects for board development to a cohesive board that can ask good and hard questions of each other and who always have about 10 times more board applicants than open positions. Through the leadership of Melinda, Tom, Margaret and now Suzanne, with the stable support of Doug, our board is a shining example for community nonprofits everywhere. We can all feel confident that this transition will be handled with great care and intention.

To all our community partners your willingness to work on dozens of projects for our community every year is forever etched in my memory as the true spirit of community inclusion.

To all my staff in the director’s office who work tirelessly on specific important projects, often alone with little support or direction, I thank you for pushing through for better outcomes for people with disabilities. The work may seem lonely at times but your impact is large scale.

To my own leadership team, whom I work with the most and closest, I am comfortable leaving knowing you are all competent and capable of continuing to achieve great things for our community in this fast paced ever changing environment which has become the new normal for our system. Your dedication is solid and your commitment steadfast.

To our program managers, the most popular staff in the regional center, I have come to learn that you are the key to whether this regional center excels to the highest standards as we meet our caseload ratios by the end of the fiscal year and train all the new service coordinators in the next 12 to 18 months. With your track record of a low turnover rate that is the best throughout the state and being with over these past 7 years I have 100% confidence that VMRC’s best days are ahead.

And to the people we serve and their families, thank you, it has been an absolute honor to serve you. I have learned from so many resilient families about why the regional center is here and how it plays an integral role in their lives. The endless pages of comments from grateful families leaves my heart full of confirmation that the work of VMRC makes a difference every day.

And finally, to the army of self-advocates and those who help their voices become elevated in our public discourse and dialogue, it is a privilege to dedicate my career to you. When you show up, I am inspired. When you speak up, I am awakened. And when you inspire other self-advocates to engage, I am silent, listening for your direction. You make me think, you make me laugh, and you fill me with appreciation.



Monday October 23, 2023

I’ll be participating in audit meeting with our fiscal team and our independent auditor.

Participating in the Coalition of local Agency Service Providers membership meeting.

I’ll be meeting with the Special Asst. to the Executive Director for status updates and support and supervision. 

Tuesday October 24, 2023

I’ll be participating in the 3rd Provider Conference by CLASP all day in Stockton. Thought leaders from across the country and I’ll DDS Director will be attending and presenting to our community: CLASP Conference.

Wednesday October 25, 2023 

Participating in a meeting with DDS and our Wellness Program Team for a status update.

Meeting with the Compliance Manager for status updates and support and supervision.

Meeting with the Cultural Specialist for status updates and support and supervision.

Meeting with the Director of Adult Case Management for status updates and support and supervision.

Attending the board training from 5-6 pm.

Participating in the Board of Directors meeting in hybrid format from 6 pm to 7:30 pm.

Thursday October 26, 2023

I’ll be holding an all staff meeting (virtually) for the staff at VMRC from 10 am to 11 am.

I’ll be presenting at the Supported Life Conference in Sacramento on the DSP Collaborative.

Friday October 27, 2023

I’ll be meeting with the DEI manager for status updates and support and supervision.

I’ll be meeting with the Integrated Community Collaborative to review what’s working and what’s not working in our collaborative efforts.

I’ll be meeting with DDS to review a variety of state initiatives.

Attending the Supported Life Conference in Sacramento.

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