National Board of Directors

Phyllis Currie, Chair

Phyllis Currie is on the board of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the regional transmission organization for a number of Midwest and southern states. She also serves on the Electricity Advisory Committee for the US Department of Energy, and consults on strategic issues for public power and water agencies.  Phyllis spent 14 years as general manager of the Pasadena Water and Power Department, retiring in 2015. During her career in the City of Los Angeles, she held positions which included chief financial officer of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, assistant city administrative officer and director of the city’s rent control program.  She has been board chair of the American Public Power Association, president of the California Municipal Utilities Association and president of the Southern California Public Power Association. Phyllis received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in business administration degree from UCLA.  She also completed the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Orson Aguilar, Vice Chair

Orson Aguilar is the President of the Greenlining Institute, one of the nation’s largest and most successful multi-ethnic, advocacy and leadership development nonprofits.  Greenlining envisions a nation where race is never a barrier to economic opportunity and communities of color thrive.  Because people of color will be the majority of our nation’s population by 2040, Greenlining believes that America will prosper only if communities of color prosper. Under Orson’s leadership, Greenlining has become a leading voice in the movement to fight redlining by advocating for greenlining policies, particularly in the areas of the economy, the environment, health, energy, voting, and telecommunications.

Portrait of GRID board member Pilar Thomas

Pilar Thomas, Treasurer

Pilar Thomas (Pascua Yaqui) is of counsel at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in Tucson Arizona, where she provides strategic legal advice to tribal governments and tribal enterprises on energy planning and policy, renewable energy project development and finance; federal and state energy regulatory, programs and policy efforts.  Ms. Thomas previously served as the Deputy Director, Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs at the U.S. Department of Energy. Ms. Thomas is also the former Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, interim attorney general and chief of staff of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Trial Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Prior to her law practice, Ms. Thomas worked for fifteen years in the financial services industry for a Fortune 250 company.  Ms. Thomas received her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law, magna cum laude, with a certificate in Indian law, and her B.A. in economics from Stanford University.

Robert Robinson

Mr. Robinson currently works as Special Assistant to the President at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, he was trained by the Institute of Cultural Affairs to do Strategic Planning and Goal Setting, and by San Diego Mediation Center to do community mediations. Mr. Robinson has served on numerous Boards and Commissions for the City of San Diego. During the Civil Rights Movement, he had the opportunity to march with great names like Dr. King, Jesse Jackson and others along with the NAACP Youth Leaders. He rode on the Freedom Train from Florida to Washington D.C. for the “March on Washington” with his Dad, who was one of the 1st black conductorson the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad.

Brad Sparks

Brad Sparks is Executive Director, Global Corporate Citizenship for KPMG.  In this role, he focuses on integrating corporate citizenship across the KPMG network, including KPMG’s Lifelong Learning priority and KPMG’s environmental sustainability program.   He also serves as KPMG’s Liaison Delegate for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  Prior to Brad’s current position, he served as Director with the Forensic practice of KPMG LLP, assisting clients with a variety of corporate responsibility initiatives such as internal investigations, sustainability reporting, and supply chain integrity.  Other professional experiences include serving as a labor standards monitor in Thailand, a sustainability advisor with KPMG in South Africa, and as an internal auditor with Gateway.  Brad earned a MBA degree in Sustainable Enterprise from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Masters of Accounting from Appalachian State University. 

Portrait of Ben Passer, smiling young Black man in a crisp suit in an office environment

Ben Passer

Ben Passer is the Lead Director of Energy Access and Equity at Fresh Energy, an energy policy nonprofit in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he directs Fresh Energy’s work to advance equitable outcomes across Minnesota’s energy system. A licensed attorney and member of the Minnesota Bar, Ben leads Fresh Energy in securing regulatory results at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, policy change at the State Capitol, and collaborative efforts with diverse partners and allies to move Minnesota toward a just, carbon-neutral economy by mid-century. Ben represents Fresh Energy in key regional and national forums and serves as a recognized thought leader and public speaker on the intersection of energy and equity. Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law (now known as Mitchell Hamline School of Law).

Nolan Highbaugh poses in front of blue lockers

Nolan Highbaugh

As General Counsel for the KIPP Foundation, Nolan provides legal counsel to the KIPP Foundation on a wide range of issues including strategic decisions, corporate transactions, human resources, governance, and real and intellectual property.  Prior to joining KIPP, Nolan worked as an Associate in the Public Finance Department of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP.  Before entering law school, Nolan was a Budget and Policy Analyst for both the Chief Administrative Office of Los Angeles County and the Office of Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. in the City and County of San Francisco.  Nolan attended U.C. Berkeley where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Political Economy and a Master’s in Public Policy. He earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School and is a member of the California State Bar Association.  He is a former board member of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation – Oakland, St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, Huckleberry Youth Programs in San Francisco, CA, and The Berkeley School.  His all-time favorite movie is The Godfather Part II.