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Meet Team Napa County

Hi guys! Miss Napa County, Hazel Payne here again! So I was thinking what to write about in my second guest blog. I was thinking, typing, deleting, while texting my Executive Director, Sarah (also while submitting my last item of Miss California paperwork). Then it hit me! What better blog to do than to give you guys some insight of those that have helped get me to where I am now. There has truly been an army behind me in these few years of my pageant career, and I am so blessed to have such an amazing team behind me this year! I want you guys to learn a little about a couple of people that are more than just mentors to me. Meet the Lopez’s!!!!

photo 1Everyone meet Sarah Lopez (formally Sarah Rutan), she is currently the executive director of the Miss Napa County Scholarship Organization. Sarah is not only my fabulous Executive Director, one of my truest friends, but also is my Miss Napa County sister! Sarah was Miss Napa County in 2008! It was the first title she held in the Miss America Organization. It’s pretty great having a director who holds such passion for the title I wear across my heart this year, as it holds a special place in her heart as well. Sarah was also Miss Northern California Regional in 2009, and Miss Marin County 2011. That’s right guys, she hit the hat trick! As I prepare for Miss California in just as few months I am so lucky to have an executive director who has been through it all, a few times. We all have those who are giving us such valuable advice about those 10 days in June, but I also feel so very blessed to have a mentor who has experienced the craziness herself. She has made me feel so ready and excited to represent the wine country on that Miss California stage.

photo 5Sarah is also married to Gabino Lopez. Some of you may know Gabino as he is a certified judge with The Miss California Organization. Gabino was also the Executive Director of the Miss Solano Scholarship Organization up until just this year. He recently passed the Organization down to Sarah Portugal, Miss Solano 2010! Gabino has always been in my corner, ever since I began competing. He has continued to support me in my pursuit to be up on the Miss California stage. Not to mention, Gabino makes the most delicious food! He keeps me well fed in our weekly meetings. Gabino holds a very special title too! He was recently crowned a forever ‘Mr. Solano’ at this year’s pageant. We thank him so much for all that he has done with the Miss Solano Scholarship Organization over the years. Having Gabino there for interview prep has also been so rewarding. It is nice to have the help of someone who is not only intelligent, but also holds knowledge from a judge’s point of view. Although he is no longer an Executive Director, I think of him as my honorary other Miss Napa County Executive Director.

photo 4I credit my decision to choose my platform regarding ending child sexual abuse to these two. I can remember sitting in their kitchen and just getting to the core of why I would speak up about the issue. As you guys may remember from my last blog, I am a survivor. I remember being scared to speak of the issue that many were not wanting to hear, but they gave me the confidence to stand in my truth, and stand up for others. I wouldn’t be where I am in my platform if it wasn’t for them giving me the initial courage.

photo 1(1)As the years have gone by, we have truly become lifelong friends. I was even blessed enough to witness the two of them finally say ‘I do’ this past summer. I couldn’t imagine a better team behind me as I head to Miss California for the first time this year. I know that I am in the best hands! No matter what happens, I have already walked away with so much more than a sash and a crown. I truly have made lifelong friends and memories to cherish for a lifetime. To Sarah and Gabino, thank you! Thank you for never doubting me, and knowing one day it would be my time!

Hazel Payne
Miss Napa County