(Photo by Glynns Thomas)

Women in Leadership: Katrina Salazar

Our annual salute to women at the top of their field

Back Article Mar 11, 2024 By Cathy Cassinos

This story is part of our March 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Katrina Salazar

CFO, California Correctional Peace Officers Association 

One chat with Katrina Salazar, and the word “dynamo” comes to mind. Along with her day gig as CFO of a major nonprofit, she leads numerous boards and committees, goes skiing and off-roading, runs marathons and scuba dives. A recent dive at Iceland’s Silfra fissure even found her touching two continents at once.

Yet despite her many achievements, Salazar’s career path began with uncertainty. After graduating from the University of Redlands with a double major in business administration and economics, “I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she says. “None.”

But this much she knew: She wanted to use her financial know-how to help others and figured becoming a CPA might be the way. It was. After working as a public accountant and volunteering on boards, Salazar found her niche as a CFO for nonprofits. In January of this year, Salazar — who also holds a master of business administration degree and a chartered global management accountant certification— celebrated her nine-year anniversary as CFO of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a role that earned her a CFO of the Year award from the Sacramento Business Journal. She’s also been a CFO for other nonprofits, including American Red Cross and the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.

“I love the mission of helping people, and I like giving back.”

What draws her to the nonprofit world? “I love the mission of helping people, and I like giving back,” says Salazar, who also enjoys a good oat milk latte, her beverage of choice during an interview at Temple Coffee on Fair Oaks Boulevard. “It’s a way to work toward benefiting something as opposed to just a bottom line.” 

At CCPOA, one of California’s largest labor unions, Salazar serves as financial watchdog over a more than $35 million operating budget. But as she’s quick to point out, it’s more than just a numbers game. “There’s often a perception that it’s just a bunch of numbers, but that’s not the case,” Salazar says. “What’s important is being able to tell the story behind the numbers to those who have to use that information to make decisions. It’s a people profession and a communications profession. You’re helping businesses make good decisions by giving them the information they need.”

The “helping” part is important to Salazar, whose passion for service-oriented work took root early in life. Born in San Francisco and raised by her mom, she was a high schooler in El Cajon when she joined Key Club, sparking a lifelong love affair with volunteerism. (Her other lifelong love affair is with her husband Roger, her college sweetheart, who is president of ALZA Strategies, a political consulting firm.)

Of her current volunteer work, she singles out the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy as especially close to her heart. “It’s exciting to be part of that conversation, engaging at the national level, because the accounting profession is undergoing so much change right now,” says Salazar, a director-at-large for the nonprofit. Whether managing her “small but mighty” team at CCPOA or exercising her leadership skills elsewhere, Salazar believes a collaborative approach works best. 

“I think empowering and engaging your team is really going to give you the best outcome,” Salazar says. “Bringing people along with you as you go through change is the best way to do it, rather than declaring what will happen or just stating a course of action that everyone must adhere to.”  

Cathy Cassinos is a freelance writer specializing primarily in music and health, but any good story will do. More at www.cathycassinos.com.

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