Zaneta Encarnacion was born and raised in San Diego County and settled in Chula Vista from San Ysidro in 2004 with her husband, Myke and son Matthew. She quickly realized that Chula Vista embodied the spirit of community. Community is all about the people you know, share life experiences with and who support and care for one another. This is the community she didn’t have growing up and the one she wanted her son to experience. 

Zaneta has 17 years of experience advocating for Chula Vista, from securing childcare for struggling working families to expanding local programs that serve the most resilient members of our community. She is the Past President of Chula Vista Rotary Club and serves on the board of Child Development Associates and the San Diego LGBT Community Center. Zaneta is also a long-standing member of the Chula Vista Community Foundation and PFLAG San Diego (South County Chapter) and has served on the city’s Growth Management Oversight Commission.

Zaneta believes the answers to some of our toughest challenges are within our community and is committed to bringing people together while elevating our voice and influence in the region. 

Zaneta began her career in public service working for UCSD, advocating to decrease violence against women and tobacco use among Asian communities across the state of California.  As the Chula Vista Mayor & Council Constituent Services Manager she worked directly with individuals, groups and businesses to address emerging needs in the community. She then worked at the County Office of Education managing a legislative advisory board addressing childcare and early education needs, specifically for low-income families. At The San Diego Foundation, Zaneta organized Chula Vista community engagement efforts to align philanthropic investment with community-identified needs. Currently, Zaneta serves as the Chief of Staff to Southwestern College’s Superintendent/President and is a member of the Executive Leadership Team, working on special projects that include COVID-19 response and reopening and developing university partnerships to bring more four-year degree opportunities to Chula Vista. 

Like so many in San Diego County, Zaneta’s story started with the military. She was raised by a single father who was a Vietnam combat veteran and member of the graphics communications international union. However, her family struggled financially and relied on the generosity of others for childcare and other support. . With a lack of resources, supervision and role models, like other kids with similar life circumstances, Zaneta grew into a troubled teen who eventually dropped out of high school. However, throughout her life, she was fortunate to have many people see her potential and give her opportunities to be more than she could have imagined on her own. She went from a high school dropout to a community college graduate leading to a master’s degree in Public Administration and is now a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California (USC).

 Zaneta’s successful career in public service is a result of her ability to bring together nonprofit, business and civic leaders to create positive change, always with a focus on ideas and solutions that are driven by the people most affected.