President & CEO

Melissa James

A community leader with a proven track record of building highly effective teams and coalitions, Melissa brings a deep background in economic development, public policy, strategic communications and public relations. A Cal Poly graduate, Melissa worked as a capitol director in the state legislature before returning to the Central Coast, where she’s been instrumental in shaping policy and advocacy for several leading organizations. She’s been named to the Pacific Coast Business Times’ Top 50 Women in Business and Top 40 Under 40 as well as the San Luis Obispo Tribune’s Top 20 Under 40.

Vice President / Strategy

Andrew Hackleman

A retired U.S Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Andrew has extensive experience planning and executing mission-critical initiatives. He led efforts to increase the region’s housing supply as executive director of the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast from 2017-2019. Before that he was a logistics and supply chain leader for the USAF, stationed at several bases and the Pentagon. He holds master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. He is a native of Atascadero.

Andrew Hackleman
Director of Strategic Initiatives

Julie Sinton Pruniski

Julie brings more than 20 years of public- and private-sector project management and consulting experience, the last 12 advising philanthropic organizations on strategic planning, organizational development and structural assessments, and implementing multi-year learning collaboratives. She helped launch a women’s fertility preservation start-up that received national press, led development of web and print publications for Fortune 500 clients and worked in human capital consulting at Arthur Andersen. She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Julie Sinton Pruniski
Director of SLO County Programs

Maria Kelly

Maria has applied her collaboration and networking skills to all aspects of education, corporate branding, government affairs and community relations. She has been responsible for building capacity through community engagement, promoting sustainability and strengthening strategic relationships for both public and private organizations. Building community and solving problems are core to her approach. Maria holds an MS in management and leadership from Pepperdine University, a certification in paralegal studies from Cal Poly SLO and a BS from Oregon State University.

Headshot of SLO County Projects Director Maria Kelly
Director of Investor Relations

Heather Muran

Heather brings a rich background in marketing, communications and public relations to her role, including membership director for the SLO Chamber and heading national marketing efforts for Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers. For more than a decade, Heather has been a promoter and advocate for the local wine industry as both a historian for the Wine History Project and executive director for SLO Coast Wine Collective, where she led the charge in strategic marketing efforts and rebranding campaigns and laid the framework for the future SLO Coast AVA. She holds a BA from San Diego State.

Heather Muran
Communications Director

Sally Buffalo

Sally brings sharp communication skills honed over many years as a newsroom leader and journalist on the East and West Coasts. Since leaving the newsroom behind, she’s led the SLO Chamber’s highly popular Good Morning SLO program, devised content strategy for enterprise-level clients, ghostwritten for publications including Forbes and written about beer and wine on the Central Coast. She’s also an adjunct lecturer in journalism and public relations at Cal Poly and occasional freelance writer. She holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University.

Sally Buffalo
Special Advisor

Peter Schuerman

Peter has extensive experience in innovation management, public-private partnerships and launching startups. He serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development at UC Merced, where he founded the Office of Business Development, the Office of Research Development and the UC Merced Venture Lab. He has negotiated more than $70M in research partnerships between industry and academia, primarily at the Texas A&M University System, and founded the UC Berkeley Industry Alliances Office. He holds a doctorate from US Davis and is a USDA Postdoctoral Fellow.