Long Beach Public Library Foundation

Welcome to Our Newest Board Member, John Mathews II

John Mathews II currently serves as Director of Community Engagement and Senior Legal Counsel for The Justice Collaborative (“TJC”), which is an independent, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization devoted to reforming the criminal justice system and building healthier and safer communities. In addition to advocacy and policy work at TJC, John also serves on the Harvard Law School Black Alumni Association Board, the LA District Attorney Accountability Coalition Steering Committee, and was recently appointed to the Long Beach Citizen Police Complaint Commission by the Mayor of Long Beach.

Prior to joining The Justice Collaborative, John served as an Assistant United States Attorney in President Obama’s Justice Department. In that capacity, John represented the United States in federal appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He has briefed over 100 appeals and argued 10 appeals before the First Circuit. As an AUSA, he also investigated and prosecuted international and domestic narcotics, firearms and money laundering violations. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, John
coordinated hurricane relief efforts and provided food and supplies to orphanages and community-based organizations.

John previously worked as a Litigation Associate at Latham & Watkins LLP in Washington D.C. and served as a law clerk for the Honorable Raymond Jackson in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. During the 2012 Presidential Campaign, John served as a Voter Protection Outreach Coordinator for Obama For America – DC, and was a Regional Lead for the Generation 44 Mid-Atlantic Finance Committee. John was also an inaugural member of the Young Lawyers Network for the D.C. Bar Foundation, the leading private funder of civil legal services for the District’s underserved.

John received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the Harvard Black Law Students Association and an editor for the Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review.

John currently lives in the Wrigley neighborhood in Long Beach. He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and is a member of 100 Black Men of Long Beach and Rotary Long Beach. He is bilingual (Spanish) and has mentored students at Cabrillo High School and at Camp Agape.

Welcome To Our Newest Board Member, Theresa Morrison

Theresa has spent more than 36 years in the professional accounting industry with almost 13 years of her career in the for-profit, public accounting and private industry areas. The balance of her time has been spent in the non-for-profit arena, with 10 of those years as one of two CPAs on staff with the international GRAMMY organization. She served in the financial leadership capacity as their Director of Business Affairs and successfully grew 6 of their companies, including the Latin GRAMMY’s.

Theresa is adept at handling multiple projects simultaneously and efficiently. As the CFO with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles (LFLA) since November 2011, Theresa has served as part of the senior leadership team, advising and implementing many nonprofit business strategies.

Theresa is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in California and is a long-time member of the California Society of CPA’s (CSCPA) and the American Institute of CPAs. In CSCPA, she serves as part of the advisory team on California financial literacy and ethics. 

In a financial capacity, Ms. Morrison has served on various boards and committees. She has been an instructor in the small business certificate program at CSULB. At the recommendation of a Windes partner, she served at the pleasure of two Long Beach Mayors (Ernie Bell and Beverly O’Neill) as their Treasurer for the Long Beach Public Corporation for the Arts (PCA): a prominent regional arts council.

Prior to joining The LFLA, Theresa’s career included working for Arthur Andersen & Co., McDonnell Douglas, Hughes Aircraft Company, The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and Compton Unified School District. These experiences have fashioned Theresa as a proven and reliable strategic thinking executive whose pecuniary insight has served many employers well. 

She is an active member of her Women’s Ministry Life Group, and has sung for about a decade in a choir. Theresa enjoys reading, skiing, sailing, white water rafting, and family time with her two adult children as well as cooking and traveling.  Her son is a graduate of Southern Methodist University; in four years he earned dual degrees in computer engineering and applied math. Her daughter received her master’s in Psychology from Santa Clara University before gaining her undergrad degree from Baylor University.

Welcome To Our Newest Board Member, Carmen O. Perez

Carmen O. Perez has served Long Beach for over 30 years and is best known as the Port of Long Beach’s first Latina Harbor Commissioner, significantly helping to increase trade at the Port during her 12 years on the commission.

Carmen first began her service to the city as a teacher’s aid at Long Beach Unified School District while raising her four children. She became a PTA president and volunteered with several local nonprofit organizations including the Girl Scouts Council, Public Corporation for the Arts, Parents Against Cancer, and United Way while working as patient support services director for the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. She also served on the Board of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Carmen served as vice chair for the National Democratic Party and as the Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman for California. She is a founding member of the Long Beach Chapter of the American Diabetes Association, the Long Beach Mujeres Coalition, and the Long Beach Chicano Political Caucus. Carmen served as Assistant Chief Deputy to the Honorable Kenny Hahn for many years and was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the Narcotics Authority Parole Board.

During her time as Harbor Commissioner, trade at the port tripled and she helped open the port to the public through free harbor cruises so citizens could get a close-up look at port operations. She was also appointed by Governor Gray Davis to the California World Trade Commission.

In honor of her service, Mayor Robert Garcia awarded Carmen the Key to the City in 2018. She is a proud grandmother and great grandmother.

Sharon L. Weissman Appointed to the Harbor Commission

Congratulations to Library Foundation 2020 Board President Sharon L. Weissman on her appointment to the Harbor Commission! 

Sharon has served as senior advisor and transportation deputy to Mayor Robert Garcia since 2014. She also served as chief of staff to Garcia when he was vice mayor of Long Beach and to the late California State Senator Jenny Oropeza. Prior to her work with elected officials, Sharon was the director of the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, the station manager of KLON-FM (now KKJZ) a jazz radio station, and an instructor in the field of radio, TV, and film at CSULB.

We are honored to have Sharon’s support and leadership and wish her the best on this new appointment. Her term will begin on July 1, 2020.

Champion of Literacy, Nancy Merrill

Nancy and Charles Merrill at the 2017 Grape Expectations gala.

For nearly a decade, Nancy Merrill has supported the Long Beach Public Library Foundation’s mission at all 12 of the city’s public libraries as a Board member.

Nancy has served on the Board during a time of great evolution for the Library. On October 25, 2014, Nancy attended and helped break ground on a much needed new library in North Long Beach. The Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library opened on that site on September 10, 2016 and is the largest and most visited neighborhood library in Long Beach. Nancy joined the Library Foundation Board of Directors in raising $1 million for technology, programs, and resources that continue to create learning opportunities at the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library.

Nancy Merrill (far left) with Library Foundation Board members and staff and Mayor Robert Garcia (center) at the ground breaking ceremony for what would become the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library.

Nancy also served on the Board as the plans for what became the Billie Jean King Main Library first materialized. The new central hub of the Long Beach Public Library system opened on September 21, 2019 at a ceremony in which the Library Foundation presented a check for over $2 million to support enhancements at the new library.

Together with her husband, Charles, Nancy has been a great supporter of the Grape Expectations gala, the Library Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser. Nancy and Charles Merrill have served as gala sponsors multiple times and donated generously to the gala auction.

During her tenure, Nancy took on several roles including Secretary and positions in the Executive, Endowment, Programs, Librarian Outreach, and Advocacy Committees. The Library Foundation is forever grateful for her support.

Welcome To Our Newest Board Member, Greg Zinberg

As Vice President at the Clark Construction Group, Greg Zinberg leads teams in the procurement, pre-construction, and construction of complex high profile projects. He is an instructor for Clark’s Corporate University and Strategic Partnership Program, and is active in the development of Lean culture and processes.  During more than 20 years with Clark Construction, Greg has had the opportunity to work on some of Clark’s most iconic projects including LA Live!, the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice, and Disney’s Cars Land.

Greg has consistently promoted Clark’s support of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation and other local causes.  He has been a judge for the Associated Schools of Construction District 6 & 7 Student Competition since 2014.  Greg served as Chairman of the 2017 LCI Congress in Anaheim, and was a Charter Board Member and Secretary for Rebuilding Together – Greater Los Angeles. 

Greg received a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.  He and his wife Tracy have lived in Long Beach since 2006 with their two boys, who attend Long Beach public schools.  

Welcome To Our Newest Board Member, Liz Munzer

Liz Munzer has three children, ages 10, 9, and 7. Liz currently resides in Mission Viejo. Despite her home being in south Orange County, she spends most of her time in Long Beach. Liz works as a realtor for First Team/Christies in Bixby Knolls.

Liz also dedicates a substantial amount of time participating as a board member for the Munzer Foundation. This is one of her greatest joys in life. As a board member she is responsible for reviewing grant proposals, going on site visits, and working together with her other family members to continue her grandparents’ strong commitment to philanthropy in Long Beach. Currently, Liz is on the board for the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach as a member of the executive committee and the chair for the 2020 gala.

Liz looks forward to having the opportunity to participate as a board member for the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, allowing even more chances to serve the city she loves so dearly.

Champion of Literacy, Renee Simon

Renee Simon with Mayor Robert Garcia at the last City Council meeting at the previous City Hall on July 23, 2019.

National Friends of Libraries week gives us the opportunity to celebrate some of the most dedicated volunteers and supporters of our country’s public libraries. As the 14th annual celebration begins on October 20, we would like to take the opportunity to recognize a founder of the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library and member of our Library Foundation Board of Directors, Renee Simon, for her incredible service to the City of Long Beach and devotion to the Library.

Renee’s work in Long Beach is one that has made a difference for so many who rely on city services. Renee and her husband Harry first moved to Long Beach in 1950 after Renee earned her master’s degree in science from Stanford University. Although she worked as a chemist, Renee has always had a deep love of literature and writing that guided her and her family to the Long Beach Public Library. She would go on to become one of the founders of the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library during a trying fight against censorship.

In 1962, The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis was challenged at the Long Beach Public Library. The Director of Library Services at the time, Blanche Collins, spoke before the City Council of the importance of not censoring the Library’s collection. Literacy supporters, including Renee, joined Blanche at this meeting and the book was not removed from shelves. These library supporters mobilized and on December 8, 1963, the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library held their first formal meeting. The Friends have grown exponentially since then and continue to advocate and fundraise for important Library programs to this day.

Renee earned her master’s degree in library science at UCLA in 1966 while continuing to support the Library. She also chaired the El Dorado Park Development Committee and played a big role in the creation of the park as it exists today. The committee worked with several organizations to place a tax on the ballot to develop the park. Voters approved a small increase in their property tax for ten years to fund the development of the park, golf course, and the Nature Center.

Renee’s next move in service to the City of Long Beach would be her election to the City Council in 1972 representing the 3rd District. Renee was only the second woman elected to the Council and the only woman on the Council during her terms. As a Councilmember, Renee’s work in land use helped shape how our city developed in many different areas.

At the last City Council meeting in the previous City Hall on July 23, 2019, Mayor Robert Garcia recognized Renee saying, “(She) is an incredible advocate to this day of education and our libraries. And (she) is always, not just here, but behind the dais speaking to those of us who have built friendships and mentorships with Renee.”

After her City Council service, Renee accepted a teaching post in Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach and then served as Deputy Director for Transportation Planning for the Southern California Association of Governments. She has been involved with several nonprofit organizations besides the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library, including the Long Beach Arts Council, the Long Beach Symphony and International City Theater. One her most dedicated roles as a volunteer is her services since 1991 on the Archstone Foundation Board of Directors. Renee was instrumental in the process of that Foundation changing its focus to meeting the needs of the aging population and helping elders live safe, independent lives.

Renee has also authored the following books, all available at the Long Beach Public Library: Destination Long Beach: The Queen Mary Story, The Long Beach Water Department: A Historic Perspective, 1945-2000, Music Looks Forward: The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, 1934-2009, Long Beach Transit: 50 Years Of Moving Our Community Forward, and her latest book, Our Own Big City: Long Beach And Its Decade Of The 1970s.

Forever a friend to our libraries, we thank Renee for her nine years of service to the Library Foundation Board of Directors and the difference she has made in the lives of countless Long Beach residents.

Learn more about the Friends of the Long Beach Public Library at

Welcome To Our Newest Board Member, Joan Van Hooten

Joan Van Hooten has 35 years of experience in nonprofit arts management and fund development at visual and performing arts organizations throughout Southern California and at the University of Southern California. She was Director of Development at Long Beach Museum of Art and Orange County Museum of Art and Director of Major and Planned Giving at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As USC’s Director of Development for San Diego County, she established the first development effort in that region. Joan has been Executive Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach and Long Beach Playhouse and, as senior advisor for The Third Sector Company, assisted several nonprofits in transition as Interim Executive Director.

Joan has served on boards of directors of Historical Society of Long Beach, Art Exchange, Rosie the Riveter Park and Salvation Army. Besides a career in K-12 education, she taught art history at area colleges. Her most rewarding volunteer endeavor was founding a library at her sons’ school.  She curated an exhibition, Lorser Feitelson: Artist-Teacher, at Long Beach City College Art Gallery and was author of Antique Shopping in Southern California, a 250-page guidebook for collectors.    

Joan earned a BA from University of Redlands, a MA in California history from Occidental College, and a second MA in art history from CSULB.  

Welcome To Our Newest Board Member, Charlyn Bender

Charlyn Bender is a graduate of Loyola Law School, where she earned her JD in 2003. She also holds a MA in Multi Cultural Education from CSU Dominguez Hills, and a BA in History with a Minor in Biology from the University of California, San Diego. Most recently she completed the Ross Minority Program in Real Estate Development at the University of Southern California. 

Charlyn has been a practicing attorney for the last 16 years, serving as a criminal prosecutor in Orange County.  She also served as Vice President and general counsel for her family business, Madison Paving Inc.  Charlyn is also a budding real estate investor, managing properties throughout Long Beach and the Los Angeles area.

Having long harbored a desire to increase her engagement in her community and the process of public policy decision making, Charlyn completed the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute in 2011. Shortly after completion of the program, she was appointed to the Medical Marijuana Task Force for the City of Long Beach. In this role, she served as the chair of the committee responsible for advising the City Council about proposed legislation for the development and regulation of cannabis farms and dispensaries in the City.

While her roles as an attorney, wife, and Mom to a spirited toddler keep her busy, Charlyn still finds time to volunteer in the community.  She regularly speaks in 5th grade classrooms teaching students the dangers of gangs and drugs as a part of the GRIP program. She is also active at Loyola Law School, volunteering as a 1L law student mentor.