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Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel to Retire

Search Underway for Successor

SAN DIEGO, Calif., Nov. 3, 2015 – Donate Life California, the state-authorized organ, eye and tissue donor registry, today announced that Charlene Zettel, Donate Life California’s CEO, will retire on January 15, 2016. The Donate Life California board of directors has begun the search for a successor.

“Charlene has provided tremendous leadership and direction to Donate Life California,” said Cindy Siljestrom, Donate Life California board president. “Her efforts have given hope to the thousands who wait for life-healing transplants. The search for her successor will be extensive and we are committed to finding the right person to fill this very important role.”

“It has indeed been an honor to lead this organization and work side-by-side with so many compassionate individuals who help to grow the registry and who make the miracles of organ donation and transplantation possible,” said Charlene. “My retirement is bittersweet – I look forward to new adventures but my heart will remain devoted to the life-saving mission of Donate Life California, our dedicated board of directors and staff.”

Charlene joined Donate Life California as CEO October 3, 2011. Under her leadership, the registry has grown from 8.5 million registered organ, eye and tissue donors to nearly 13 million. In addition, Charlene led several successful legislative efforts including the passage of two key bills: AB 1967 (J. Pérez, 2012), Organ Donation Education, and AB 2399 (J. Pérez, 2014), eRegistration. AB 1967 ensures that the health and science education frameworks include the subject of organ procurement and tissue donation, as appropriate. The goal is to educate California students about the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation so they are able to make informed decisions about registering as organ, eye and tissue donors when asked this mandatory question on their DMV driver license/ID card application form. AB 2399, or eRegistration, is the first law in the nation to allow a Donate Life organization to securely and electronically read encrypted information from a driver license/ID card via a mobile device for the purpose of registering individuals as organ, eye and tissue donors.

Charlene will continue to serve as a gubernatorial appointee on the Board of Regents of the University of California.

Charlene began her career in public service in 1992 when she was elected to the Poway Unified School District Board of Education. In 1998, she became the first Republican Latina to be elected to the state legislature. In addition to elected state service, Charlene has served as the director of the San Diego Office of the Governor, as a public interest director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, as the director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and as an executive board member of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

Individuals interested in the CEO position may learn more at

Californians can register to be donors by checking “YES!” at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or by signing up at

Fast Facts from Donate Life California:

  • One in five on the national organ transplant waiting list (122,640) lives in California.
  • More than 29,000 people in the U.S. begin new lives each year thanks to organ transplants (about 81 transplants every day).
  • 22 people die each day because the life-saving organ they needed did not become available in time.

About Donate Life California:

Donate Life California is the nonprofit, state-authorized organ, eye and tissue donor registry. Individuals can add their name to the registry by checking “YES!” every time they renew/apply for their driver license or ID card at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This ensures their desire to donate life will be carried out. A pink “DONOR” dot is added to their driver license or ID as a symbol of their decision. Individuals can also sign up online at or As a public service, the registry ensures all personal information is kept confidential and stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel at the time of an actual donation opportunity. The registry is administered by Donate Life California and California’s four nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organizations (OPOs): Donor Network West, Lifesharing, OneLegacy and Sierra Donor Services.

Contact: Brianne Mundy Page, 858-220-8351,

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