Executive director at the Center for Well-Being in Santa Rosa since 2007, Alena Wall grew up “just east of Forestville on 30 acres of vineyard and redwoods.” She attended Forestville Elementary and El Molino High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in health science from CSU Chico and a master’s in holistic health education from John F. Kennedy University. “I’ve always had a passion for protecting the health of our community,” she says. “To me, health access includes living in a place that’s safe for physical activity, where nutrient-rich foods are accessible and policies are in place that protect the health of our most vulnerable residents.” Prior to joining the Center, she worked for City of Berkeley Health and Human Services.
What got you interested in public health?
I’ve always had an interest in community health. As a high school student, I thought I wanted to be a nurse because I desired a career in health care where I could make an impact. I took pre-nursing courses in college and then selected health science as my major when I learned from an upperclassman about the field of health education and community health. My first job out of college was working in HIV/AIDS for the Butte County Department of Public Health.
How long have you been in business?
The Center for Well-Being is celebrating its 20th year as an independent health care nonprofit focused on defeating chronic disease in the North Bay. Our primary focus is diabetes and heart disease.
Are you married?
I’ve been married to John “Matt” Wall for 11 years (we’ve been together for 18). My husband has been a great life partner and so supportive. We have two children, ages 6 and 1 ½. As the chief executive of a health care nonprofit and having two small children, my plate is pretty full. I really couldn’t pull it all off without him.
What do you love to do outside of work?
I love spending time with my family. On the weekends you can usually find me working in our garden. I love to be outdoors—hiking, jogging, camping, barbequing or just hanging out in the backyard with my boys. Their favorite thing to play right now is “tickle tackle.”
Describe one of your happiest life moments.
The birth of our boys for sure. I love watching them learn new things and getting to experience life through their lens.
Ever fantasize about chucking it all and doing something else?
My husband and I talk about someday buying a little piece of property where we can do some light farming and run a part-time bed and breakfast with a beer tasting room. He’s been brewing for fun for about 15 years and we grow our own hops.
How has your birth order affected you?
I have a younger brother, Colby Ritch, who lives in Santa Rosa with his wife and two children. I’m the oldest so I was the boss. In all seriousness, my parents had more rules for me as the first-born and the only girl. I felt a little more pressure to be responsible and be a role model.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
When I was hired as executive director of the Center for Well-Being in 2007, the organization was struggling (It had $5,000 in the bank and $40,000 owed on its line of credit). I worked hard to redesign the business model and created a sustainable infrastructure to support our high-quality diabetes and heart disease programs. Today, we have a fresh new brand, a new location downtown and have tripled our operating budget while serving more than 20,000 community members each year.
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