Melissa G. Patrino

Melissa G. Patrino

Melissa G. Patrino has joined the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden as its new director of development. She will become part of the garden’s leadership team in January and report to its executive director Steve Windhager.

“I’m excited to welcome Melissa to the garden as the newest member of our senior leadership team,” said Windhager. “Melissa has demonstrated abilities with community organizing, effective communication, fund raising, and strategic leadership and she is also bilingual.

“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, California, 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 Congressman Mike Thompson, D-5, as a field representative and case worker for seven years. 

“Growing up in El Salvador, I was surrounded by nature — creeks, tropical flowers and plants, and mango and avocado trees. That was my playground and backyard,” said Patrino. “We are so fortunate to have the Botanic Garden as our own backyard, and I am excited to join the team and assist in furthering its mission to protect and conserve native plants.”

Currently, Patrino sits on the Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara County Immigrant Legal Resource 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 George Washington University, and a bachelor’s in politics and anthropology from Brandeis University.

“In addition to her professional skills, I love the fact that Melissa has begun turning her yard into a Monarch butterfly sanctuary during the pandemic. She is already an authentic advocate of the garden’s mission,” Windhager said.

The garden is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9-10 a.m. For more information, visit