Melissa G. Patrino

Melissa oversees fundraising initiatives and community partnerships for the Garden.

Melissa G. Patrino joined Santa Barbara Botanic Garden as its new director of development in January 2022. . 

“Melissa has demonstrated abilities with community organizing, effective communication, fundraising, and strategic leadership, and she is also bilingual,” said Executive Director Steve Windhager, Ph.D. “As the Garden works to introduce native plants to a broader section of our community, I feel fortunate to have a person of her caliber on our team.” 

Patrino previously worked at Just Communities, where she served since 2018, more recently moving into the role as its executive director. 

Before that, Patrino moved to Santa Barbara from Napa, bringing 15 years of experience working with the Latine community. As the executive director of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center, she set the organization’s vision while managing financials, grants, and reports. 

Earlier in her career, she worked for U.S. Representative Mike Thompson as a field representative and case worker for seven years.  

Currently, Patrino sits on the board of directors for the Santa Barbara County Immigrant Legal Defense Center and the Girsh Park Foundation. She is a graduate of the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality Leadership Institute and has a master’s degree in political management from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s in politics and anthropology from Brandeis University. 

Patrino grew up in El Salvador, surrounded by nature as her playground — creeks, tropical flowers and plants, and mango and avocado trees. She feels fortunate to have the Garden as our own backyard here in Santa Barbara and is inspired to further the Garden’s mission to protect and conserve native plants. 


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Director of Development