A Warm Welcome for Our New Executive Director, Melissa Stafford Jones

First 5 Association of California announces and warmly welcomes its new Executive Director, Melissa Stafford Jones, who will join the organization on July 6, 2020.

Ms. Stafford Jones will lead the pursuit of First 5’s vision that California’s success be measured by the well-being of its youngest children, along with the overall strategy and direction of the Association, its complementary Foundation, and the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy. She will ensure the Association works in close collaboration with First 5 county commissions and First 5 California, as well as other early childhood partners in Sacramento and beyond, to collectively advance the building of early childhood systems and supports needed to ensure all of California’s young children are safe, healthy and ready to succeed in school and life. Among other things, Ms. Stafford Jones will serve as the primary advocate for the Association and its 58 county commission members, the lead relationship- and coalition-builder within and outside the First 5 network, and a strategic advisor for First 5 county Executive Directors. Ms. Stafford Jones will take over the position from Interim Executive Director John Sims, whom the Association thanks sincerely for his leadership during this transition.

“Melissa is the right leader for the First 5 Association,” said Kim Goll, President of the First 5 Association. “Her experience in policy and advocacy joined with her exceptional ability to build relationships has led to a career of professional successes focused on improving the lives of Californians.”

Ms. Stafford Jones comes to First 5 Association from the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation where, as Executive Director, she developed strategic initiatives for systems change to address the root causes of poverty and inequitable access to opportunity for low-income children and families in Contra Costa County. During her tenure, the foundation developed a new early childhood strategic initiative to improve academic and life outcomes for low-income, underserved children, which included parent support and education, early literacy, community infrastructure-building, family strengthening, and access to support for basic needs.

“I am thrilled to join the First 5 Association of California to lead advancement of holistic policy and partnership efforts grounded in a whole-child, whole-family approach to ensure that every young child—particularly low-income children and children of color that face the most barriers—has the opportunity to thrive and reach their fullest potential,” Ms. Stafford Jones said.

Previously, Ms. Stafford Jones was a Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and President & CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. A California native, she received her Master of Public Health degree from U.C. Berkeley and her Bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Mary’s College in Moraga.  She lives in Walnut Creek with her family.