Renee Brinks

October 1, 2013

As CEO of the Cort Companies, Dan Cort has been actively involved in the preservation and renovation of historic real estate in Northern California for the past 30 years, including National Historic Landmarks. Cort Companies has purchased, restored, and created over a million square feet of mixed-use environments in which office, retail, and affordable housing are combined for quality living ( Mr. Cort and his team have helped communities nationwide restore and revitalize neighborhoods and downtown districts, with the emphasis on creating the urban village. Cort Companies has been a major force in reversing the trend from urban sprawl to the infill of our recovering central urban areas.

Dan Cort originally came to Stockton, California as a student at the University of the Pacific and holds a graduate degree in education with a lifetime teaching credential and an undergraduate degree in history and sociology, both from University of the Pacific. After leaving his teaching career, he began his real estate/development interest with the restoration of landmark Victorian homes; Cort was instrumental in establishing the mid-town Magnolia National Historic District in Stockton. He developed Eden Square, an urban village with apartments, adult and child day care centers, Italian-style cafes, schools and shops. He then became fascinated with downtown historic commercial buildings. Cort was a founding member of The Children’s Museum and Vice-Chair and founding member of the Downtown Stockton Alliance, a property based improvement district.

Cort lectures throughout the United States on the preservation of our inner cities, housing, job creation, and public/private partnerships. As a consultant for public agencies revitalizing their downtowns, Mr. Cort offers practical and innovative approaches to the renewal of our cities.

Dan Cort was the Mayor of Pacific Grove, California. During his tenure he actively led the city in green and sustainable practices. Mr. Cort and his wife Beth founded "Trees for PG," a pioneering program in which 2,000 trees were planted in the urban forest. He is cofounder of "Sustainable PG."

Mr. Cort resides in San Francisco and Pacific Grove with his wife and son. He is the author of Downtown Turnaround: Lessons for a New Urban Landscape, which was published in 2010 ( He is currently working on his second book, The Do-It-Yourself Nation.

Michael Hemp

Cannery Row History/ Western Flyer

October 15, 2013

Dan Cort

The Future of Peninsula Cities

November 12, 2013

LEROY W. BLANKENSHIP (“Lee”) Lee has been a member of the Salinas Steinbeck Rotary Club since November, 1982 and served as Club President in 1988-89.  He holds the classification of County Counsel.  In his Club, Lee has served as “Corporal-at-Arms”, pre-technology weekly bulletin editor of the “East of Reason”, Club Service Chair, The Rotary Foundation Chair, and Youth Exchange Officer.  He has been active with Rotary Youth Exchange (hosted 5 students), Interact, Group Study Exchange, Ambassadorial Scholars, and the Club’s relationship with Alisal High School.  In 2002, Lee was awarded the Four Avenues of Service Citation.  In 2012, Lee was inducted as an Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Fresno and is a Fresno Foundation Fellow.

Lee has served in numerous District-level positions, including Area Representative, District Conference Chair, GSE Chair, District Secretary, Assistant Governor, District Youth Services Director, Finance Committee Chair, Annual Business Meeting Chair, District Parliamentarian, District Conference Treasurer, and member of the Nominating Committee, Youth Exchange Committee, and GSE Committee.  He was GSE Team Leader to District 1020 (southeast Scotland) in 1993.  Most recently, Lee served as Assistant Governor for New Generations in 2011-12 and District Director of New Generations in 2012-13.

Lee is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow, Major Donor, Benefactor, member of the Paul Harris Society, and Foundation Alumnus.  Lee’s wife Susie is a Paul Harris Fellow, Major Donor, and Benefactor.

Lee retired in July, 2011, as Assistant County Counsel from the Office of the Monterey County Counsel after 30 years of service.  Lee graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. in U.S. History and from the University of Southern California Law Center with a J.D.  He served as a regular line officer in the U.S. Navy, including service in Vietnam on a patrol gunboat.

Lee is married to the light of his life, Susan Rutherford Paoli, a retired elementary school teacher, and they reside in Fresno.  Lee has one son, Philip, and one daughter, Jennifer; Susie has two adult sons, Steve and Greg.  Lee’s two grandchildren, Kylee and Aidan, are both Paul Harris Fellows.  Lee enjoys reading Swedish mysteries, traveling, and serving his local Episcopal parish.  Susie enjoys gardening, reading everything but Swedish mysteries, and traveling.

Lee Blankenship

October 22, 2013

John’s background includes forty-five years of human resource development and operations experience in the hospitality industry. He has been Vice President of Human Resources for Marriott Corporation, The Rainbow Room and Windows on the World. He was also the Human Resource Director at the 2002 Olympics for all food service facilities. He also worked for the Cleveland Browns Stadium to open their upscale food facilities in 1999 and has been the Director of Human Resources for the US Tennis Open food facilities. John has also been president of Human Resource Concepts, a management and organizational development consulting firm. Some of his clients included: Marriott Corporation, Restaurant Associates, Hilton Hotels, Culinary Institute of America, to name a few.  

John is presently the Director of the Hospitality Management Program at Cal State University at Monterey Bay. He worked on developing an “Ambassador” program for Monterey County. He is also President of EQ International Perspectives (New York and Monterey) their clients include: Coca Cola, Toyota, New Jersey Restaurant Association, Sony Pictures, and Metro-North Railways to mention a few. He has a Doctoral degree from Columbia University, with a concentration in Adult and Organizational Learning. His research focuses on the application of Emotional Intelligence to Guest service training. He has developed a training/behavior change process that creates Guest/Staff Loyalty and enhances emotional competence. Dr. Avella has spoken nationally and internationally about the application of Emotional Intelligence to Customer loyalty and leadership. John is also a Master Trainer for the EQi 2.0 and 360, the most validated assessment instrument that measures Emotional Intelligence skills. In his own practice John has interpreted over 600 EQi’s. John has also coached senior executives from several national organizations. The start of all his coaching assignments involved using the EQi 2.0 or 360 to identify development/coaching opportunities for those individuals. . John has also competed nationally and internationally in Triathlons for the past 24 years.  

John Avella Ed.D

October 8, 2013


Renee Brincks is an accomplished writer whose 13-year career includes travel, lifestyle and wellness features for major publications, as well as copywriting and editing work for clients nationwide. Along the way, she's interviewed Sir Richard Branson, Donna Karan, Martin Short and Eva LaRue, among others, and covered destinations from Alaska to San Diego to Amsterdam.

Before launching her freelance career, Renee worked as communications manager for the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. In addition to writing press releases, web content and promotional copy featuring more than 600 member businesses, she coordinated media visits and directed bureau promotions. Renee also shaped university recruitment publications as director of research for Brainworks Design Group and covered community topics while with the Des Moines Register.

Renee earned a master's degree in mass communications as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at Australia's Bond University, and she holds a bachelor's in English and Spanish from Central College. Between projects, she has crossed the Netherlands on inline skates, worked for a helicopter glacier tour company in Alaska and learned to dance Sevillanas in Spain. Renee currently splits her time between San Francisco and Iowa.

"CANNERY ROW, The History of John Steinbeck’s Old Ocean View Avenue" in an archival photographic PowerPoint presentation.

Born and raised in Berkeley, California. Valedictorian, St. Mary’s College High School, Berkeley. Lower division Liberal Arts at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington. Sophomore Class President; head cheerleader.

UC Berkeley grad in Political Science/International Relations. Captain, USAF Special Intelligence Briefing Officer to three Commanders of the Strategic Air Command (Nazarro, Compton, Holloway); veteran of Special Operations in Laos, Cambodia and the Vietnams.

Writer, photographer for Monterey Life Magazine; writer, photographer, Director of Marketing for Kauai Magazine. Created the non-profit Cannery Row Foundation in 1983. Researcher, writer, publisher of the history of Cannery Row. Currently President of the Cannery Row Foundation Board of Directors.

Historian, writer, publisher, book-builder, lecturer and owner of The History Company. Member of the Editorial Board of the "Steinbeck Review" and member of the Advisory Board of the Martha Heasley Cox Steinbeck Studies Center at San Jose State University. Adjunct Lecturer at Monterey Peninsula College and California State University Monterey Bay.

WWII Veterans advocate;, 4-1/2 years as "Capt. Mike" of BOMBARDIER'S LOUNGE WWII Big Band Jazz broadcasts on KRML radio and internet (Clint Eastwood's "Play Misty for Me" station); 3 year host of monthly Wave Street Authors Show internet (and YouTube) book show.

Author of "The Nadjik Pheromone" (an 5-star), a sci-tech novel posing the future of GC-MS forensic breath analysis biochemical lie detection.

"SUR, Legend of The last Otter Hunter" (Amazon Kindle) is a recent novel of historical fiction based on Cannery Row related research.

Developer of iTunes & Droid travel apps for CARMEL and CARMEL VALLEY (& Big Sur), and CANNERY ROW & Waterfront.

Michael resides in Carmel Valley Village with his wife, interior designer Terri Wolfson, and a staff of two Standard Poodles. His daughter and son are raising families in the Santa Cruz Bay area.