Rick Vaccari, a retired executive at Sempra Energy, is taking over the board chair on an interim basis at San Diego Workforce Partnership.
Vaccari will fill in for Sammy Totah, COO of Kaiser Permanente, who is moving to Riverside to take a new position as Kaiser’s senior vice president, area manager.
Totah, who has been with Kaiser for more than 30 years, has served as chair of San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Workforce Development Board since 2018.
San Diego Workforce Partnership funds job training programs to empower job seekers to meet the current and future workforce needs of San Diego County employers.
As a social enterprise, San Diego Workforce Partnership is committed to supporting the entire region with a robust workforce. Its mission is to ensure job seekers have the supports and training needed to acquire the career that they desire and to help employers create the talented workforce needed to meet their needs.
The organization also prepares children and young adults for the world of work with innovative K-12 partnerships.
“After five-plus years on the board, I am very proud of what we have accomplished for our region’s job seekers and employers,” Totah said. “We have diversified and grown our budget, been awarded millions in new funding, more than doubled our staff, launched new programs, and most importantly, served tens of thousands of workers and employers.”
San Diego Workforce Partnership President and CEO Peter Callstrom called Totah’s leadership “invaluable” and said the collaborative, nonjudgmental efforts he brought to SDWP have set him apart.
As chair, Totah has run the group’s board meetings, chaired additional executive committee meetings, attended the group’s JPA meetings and had one-on-one meetings with Callstrom where the two have been able to work through many challenges through the years.
“Sammy has been a great colleague, mentor and supporter of our entire team,” Callstrom said. “He has helped us navigate through challenges and opportunities. His positivity, wisdom, and kind nature have made us all better. I can’t thank Sammy enough for his many contributions to our team and mission. He’s been a person to lean on who has made us all better. He’s someone who gets things in a bigger way and that’s very rare in a board chair.”
Totah said it was an honor for him to serve on the SDWP board and partner with and support Callstrom and the staff.
“I am very proud of all that we have accomplished together,” Totah said. “I am very thankful to my fellow board members for their service and collaboration through the years.”
Former Chair Calls New Chair ‘Great Partner’
Totah said that Vaccari “has been a great partner and I know that he and the entire board will carry on SDWP’s important mission.”
Vaccari, 69, was raised in northwest Connecticut and now lives in La Jolla. He worked on Wall Street for several decades with Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, and then was at Sempra for 16 years, holding a variety of positions before retiring in 2018.
He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania – where he also played defensive back for the Penn football team – and earned his MBA at the University of Chicago.
“Rick is a gem, too,” Callstrom said. “He is an important part of this board, which is a high-level group of people from all walks of life, from all around the county.”
The San Diego Workforce Partnership has 30 board members and will be actively seeking a permanent board chair in the coming months.
“I think whoever runs this board will do an excellent job,” Vaccari said. “I am happy to do it until they’re able to find someone. I think the board chair should be somebody who is still active in the workforce, someone who is at a big company who can help others.”
Vaccari said that his focus will be something he feels is “sorely missing” – help for single parents.
“They need help so they can go back to work and their children can go back to school,” Vaccari said. “It’s more about the single mothers but there might be some single fathers out there, too, who need help looking for work and getting jobs. The need for childcare is a big deal.”
Vaccari also said he was interested in making sure SDWP stays abreast of income sharing agreements, which he said is “a real burgeoning field… it’s going to be a real game changer.”
During Totah’s tenure, SDWP received the “Trailblazer Award” from the National Association of Workforce Boards, recognizing it above more than 570 other similar entities as the most innovative board in the country.
SDWP was also presented with the “Kaleidoscope” award from the University of San Diego in recognition of excellent board governance.
Designated by the city and county of San Diego, San Diego Workforce Partnership is also the Workforce Development Policy Board for the region, working with San Diego County Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Joel Anderson and San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe.
SD Workforce Partnership
PRESIDENT & CEO: Peter Callstrom
HEADQUARTERS: Kearny Mesa, San Diego
BUSINESS: Nonprofit and JPA social enterprise
BUDGET: $40 million
CONTACT: (619) 319-WORK
SOCIAL IMPACT: SD Workforce Partnership works with job seekers across the county, focusing on underserved and underrepresented communities, reaching people where they are to help them achieve their vocational aspirations.
NOTABLE: SD Workforce Partnership serves all job seekers and all job employers to develop talent upskilling and reskilling to support workforce needs.