Meet Our Team



Virginia Varela, President & CEO

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Virginia Varela joined Golden Pacific Bank as Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors for both the Bank and Golden Pacific Bancorp in December 2013.  Virginia holds more than 25 years of experience within the banking industry, both as a community bank executive and as a former regulator. Most recently, Ms. Varela served as Chief Operating Officer of Bank of the Orient as CEO/President and Director of Bank of Rio Vista, and President/COO and Director of San Luis Trust Bank. 

Previously, Ms. Varela held various positions of authority with regulatory agencies including the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.

Ms. Varela has consulted with financial institutions and government agencies both on a national and global scale. She has succeeded in overseas missions with the Financial Services Volunteer Corporation assisting developing and transition countries. She also served as a member of the Interagency Hurricane Katrina Task Force "Banks Helping Banks," and was an active Consultant to the national "Elder Financial Protection Network."

Ms. Varela serves as a member of the California Bankers Association Board of Directors, as well as being active with the American Bankers Association.


Brad Lyon, Chief Financial Officer

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Mr. Bradley J. Lyon is the EVP/Chief Financial Officer of Golden Pacific Bank, and EVP/CFO of Golden Pacific Bancorp. Brad has been a veteran in the financial services industry for more than 29 years and is well known and respected for his intelligence and experience with all aspects of community banking.  Brad previously worked as a consultant with RLR Management Consulting, Inc. Brad is also rooted in the thrift industry at San Luis Trust Bank where he served as CEO, President and/or CFO for more than a decade.  In the 1990s Brad worked his way up from Assistant Controller to CFO at First Bank of San Luis Obispo over several years, and in the 1980s he was an Assistant National Bank Examiner with the OCC. 

In addition to traditional CFO reporting and analysis activities, Brad’s expertise includes asset liability management, investments and risk controls, ALLL modeling and validations, all aspects of credit administration, vendor management and audits, internal controls, TRID, loan compliance, loan servicing, CRA, fair lending, corporate activities, and policies and procedures.  

Brad and his family plan to reside in the Sacramento area, moving from their home of many years in San Luis Obispo, California.


Heather Luzzi, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of SBA Lending

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Heather Luzzi is the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of SBA LendingMs. Luzzi joined Golden Pacific Bank in November 2014, to manage our SBA lending division. Ms. Luzzi successfully held positions at various financial services organizations through her career such as Senior Account Executive, Branch Manager, and Regional Production Manager. Most recently, Ms. Luzzi was the Lender Relations Specialist and District International Trade Officer for SBA's Sacramento District Office. Prior to that, she was a Senior Analyst for SBA in the 7a Loan Guaranty Processing Center located in Citrus Heights. Heather is passionate about small business as both her parents were self-employed entrepreneurs and her husband owns a small construction company.

Board of Directors


Richard Claussen, Chairman of the Board

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Mr. Claussen is a founding partner of Redwood Pacific Public Affairs a public affairs and issue advocacy consulting firm based in Sacramento. Mr. Claussen has been involved in public affairs for more than thirty years, beginning his career as a staff member to Idaho Senator Frank Church. Mr. Claussen has managed many of the firm's major ballot issue and public affairs campaigns on behalf of high-tech and venture capital firms, insurers, education reform supporters, taxpayer and business groups and tort reform groups. The firm represents numerous national and state trade and business associations as well as a number of major public corporations. Mr. Claussen is widely recognized as an exceptional political strategist and most recently was recognized as "Number 32" in the Capital Weekly's Top 100 list of influential people. 

Mr. Claussen served as an organizing director of Silverado Bank, Roseville, California, and continued in that capacity until Silverado was merged into Capitol Valley Bank in 2000. Following the merger he served on the Board of Directors of Capitol Valley Bank from 2000 through May 2002, and served on its audit committee. In 2002 he became a director and member of the governance committee of Humboldt Bancorp when Capitol Valley Bank was acquired by Humboldt in 2002. He remained on the Humboldt Bancorp Board of Directors until its 2004 merger with Umpqua Bank. Mr. Claussen is a founding Director of Golden Pacific Bancorp, and has recently been elected interim Bank Chairman of the Board.


Rick Fowler, Vice Chairman of the Board

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Mr. Fowler serves as President of the SCERS Board as an appointed Trustee, governing that $8 billion fund. He is currently Chief Operating Officer of the Kronik, Moskovitz, Tiedemann, and Girard law firm and a director of The Community College Foundation. He is a founder and Vice Chairman of Golden Pacific Bancorp, and a founding board member for Expanesthetics, a UC Davis-related biotech startup. He is a board member of the CalChamber, serving on its Audit, Water and Fundraising Committees, and chairing its Workers Compensation Committee. He is a past president of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, and has chaired boards in the Sacramento region including the American Leadership Forum of the UC Davis Health System Leadership Council. Other nonprofit board service has included United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs and Urban League.

Prior to this, Mr. Fowler was a senior officer for USAA, a fortune 200 diversified financial services company, after his U.S. Air Force career that included serving as the Deputy Inspector General of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon and commanding the military's global medical airlift wing. A command pilot and space systems operations officer, his military decorations include the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a dozen Air Medals. He is a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the National War College.

Mr. Fowler's education includes a BS degree in Physics from the University of Maryland and an MS in Political Science from Southern Illinois University. He was a distinguished graduate of the School of Mortgage Banking, earned the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters designation and completed executive education programs at the Darden, Wharton, and Andersen Graduate Schools of Management. He continues his executive and financial services education by completing courses in banking and retirement funds through ABA, CBA and CalAPRS.


Robert Aguallo

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Mr. Aguallo holds over 33 years of investment management, benefits administration, and state and local government experience, including leading the investment activities of one of the largest public pension funds in the United States. More recently, he was the Managing Partner of Cardinal Americas private equity fund in Los Angeles. He is now an independent consultant advising clients on public pension fund investment management operations.

Mr. Aguallo served as the General Manager of the Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System and was responsible for management of the funds trust assets of $11 billion and the administration of benefits for its 40,000 members. Mr. Aguallo was associated with California state government for more than 28 years, including 18 years in executive appointments. For 14 years, Mr. Aguallo worked for CalPERS, as the Assistant Executive Officer of Investment Operations and as the Assistant Executive Officer for financial and administrative services. Prior to joining CalPERS, Mr. Aguallo served in executive management positions with the California Department of Finance and Department of Aging.

In October 2004, Hispanic Business Magazine selected Mr. Aguallo as one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics". Mr. Aguallo holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, from the University of California at Davis.


Patricia Fong Kushida

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Patricia Fong Kushida is the President/CEO of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, joining the organization as Executive Director in 1998 after a highly successful career as an executive in merchandise management. Most recently, as a senior buyer for Federated Department Stores, Macy's division, she was responsible for a select group of businesses with annual sales of $14 million.

She has served as a member of the Sacramento Children and Families Commission, and on the boards of the United Way, California Capital Region, Hemispheres Art Academy, and the Broadway Downtown Partnership. She is currently serving as the Chair of the community benefits committee for Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, and was recently appointed to the board of Sutter Hospitals for the Sacramento region. She also serves on the Wells Fargo Community Advisory Board and was appointed to the California Utilities Diversity Council for the California Public Utilities Commission. She is a senior fellow and board member with the American Leadership Forum, Mountain Valley Chapter, and serves as one of the two business liaisons for the Council of Asian-Pacific Islanders Together for Advocacy and Leadership.

Ms. Fong Kushida holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration, with a Minor in Communications, from California State University, Sacramento.


Kelly Wong

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Kelly Wong has over 28 years in the financial industry. He started his experience in 1987 as a bank examiner with the California State Department for six years and as an associate national bank examiner with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency for three years. He then helped a specialized CPA firm develop an internal auditing/consulting business that had the largest clientele of credit unions in the nation. He was with O'Rourke, Sacher & Moulton, CPA's for three years.

Mr. Wong was a CFO for two credit unions from 1999 through 2007 where he was responsible for planning, directing, and organizing all aspects of financial activities, as well as running the subsidiary of one of the credit unions and assisting in facility management. Following that, Mr. Wong joined BankVision, Inc., as a bank consultant and auditor. He then joined United Labor Bank (ULB) as EVP/Chief Financial Officer in 2008 through April 2014.  From April 2014 through December 2015, Mr. Wong served as ULB’s EVP/CFO and director; and, from January 2015 to May 2017 served as the President of First ULB Corporation, the Bank's holding company. Presently, Mr. Wong continues to serve as a director for First ULB Corporation.  Since August 2016, Mr. Wong serves as VP FG&A of ConnectSolutions, Inc., a software managed services company. He earned his BS degree in Business Administration from the University of California at Davis and holds an MBA in Finance from Cal State University, Hayward.


David Roche

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After serving in the US Navy and graduating with a BA in Accounting and Finance from University of Washington in 1972, David Roche began his audit practice with Touche Ross & Co (later merged into Deloitte & Touche in 1989), making partner by the time he was transferred from Seattle to Portland office in 1986, leading the West Coast Enterprise Risk Management Practice from 1999 on until his retirement in 2002. Mr. Roche then served as VP of Global Audit Services with McAfee, Inc. until his retirement in February 2010. In 2006, Mr. Roche and six others founded Lewis & Clark Bank, a state chartered FDIC insured institution headquartered in Oregon City, Oregon. Mr. Roche continues to serve as non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chairman of its Audit Committee.

In 2010, David was invited to join the Board of Directors of EthicsPoint, Inc., a privately owned Oregon-based software company, which was sold in 2012 in a private equity transaction and merged with two complementary companies to form NAVEX. In 2011, Mr. Roche and two colleagues founded MiddleGate, Inc., a SAAS company focused on immediate detection of fraud, waste and abuse in the healthcare space. David serves as MiddleGate's Chairman and its acting CFO. David holds CPA Licenses in WA, OR, CA and ID (currently inactive).


Anthony Russo

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Anthony Russo, a partner at Russo McGarty & Associates, has a 26 year track record in government relations, political strategy and public policy. He specializes in providing strategic consulting to major corporations, professional associations, and initiative campaigns. Anthony previously was Group Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for the Irvine Company, one of the nation's largest private real estate companies, known for its best-of-class portfolio of premier office, apartment, retail, resort and new community properties. There, he had responsibility for government affairs, political action, branding and communications.

Anthony participated in several successful political efforts including the successful 2006 Newport Beach general plan update and a 20-year extension of Measure M (Orange County's transportation half cent sales tax). Anthony also provided leadership to the successful 2006 statewide infrastructure bond campaign – providing billions in funding to schools, transportation and housing. Prior to joining the Irvine Company in 2003, Anthony managed several successful candidate and initiative campaigns as a sole proprietor and partner at McNally Temple Associates. These campaigns included two statewide school bonds, Linda Lingle for Governor of Hawaii in 2002, Ron George to the California Supreme Court, and over a dozen California legislators and members of congress.

Anthony graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in political science. He also is a graduate of the California State Assembly Fellowship Program. Anthony and his wife, Jenifer Russo, were married in 1989. They have two sons, Ethan and Colin Russo.

Advisory Directors

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John F. Shirey

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John Shirey, former City Manager of the City of Sacramento, was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the City including a total annual budget of $940 million and a workforce of 4,300 employees.  Mr. Shirey focused his attention on stabilizing the City’s finances, increasing the city’s economic development opportunities, and addressing public safety needs. His accomplishments include streamlining business functions to make it easier to do business with the City, developing a new $557 million downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings which spurred many new investments in surrounding properties, and completing infrastructure for the downtown Railyards development, the largest urban infill project in the western United States.

Prior to his appointment as City Manager, Mr. Shirey was the Executive Director of the California Redevelopment Association. He has also served in senior executive positions as City Manager of Cincinnati, Assistant City Manager of Long Beach, and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer of Los Angeles County. He is active in professional organizations including the International City/County Management Association, International Economic Development Council, and Urban Land Institute.

He is a Fellow in the National Academy of Public Administration and was honored with the National Public Service Award in 2014. He was presented the Wes McClure Award of Distinction from the League of California Cities in 2015 and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence from the International Economic Development Council in 2010.

Mr. Shirey earned his bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University and his master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.