New City Council Members seated for the first time as three members depart

The new face of the City Council. Photo by Richard Lieberman

by Richard Lieberman

At the last most recent city council meeting, a large crowd gathered to honor three outgoing members whose service spanned nearly seventy years. Attendees also saw Ventura history in the making as the new council members were seated. Never before in Ventura history has the council been composed of such a diverse group.

Outgoing members Jim Monahan and Mike Tracy and Mayor Neal Andrews presided over the council for the last time as elected officials.

The evening was the first-time council members representing Ventura districts were seated. Members Sofia Rubalcava representing District one, Eric Nasarenko in District four, Jim Friedman in District five and Lorrie Brown in District 6.

Lorrie Brown is the first African American to join the council and Rubalcava the first Mexican-American to join in recent years. This is also the first time a majority of the board is female.

After taking their places, the board’s first act was to unanimously choose Matt LaVere to be Mayor. The second vote was to choose Rubalcava as Deputy Mayor. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Ventura are picked by the council rather than a public vote.

“Our job, our duty, is to the city as a whole,” said LaVere after becoming mayor. “What is best for Ventura always has to be our mantra; and I think if we set that example, future councils will follow us” he added. “The council looks different, thinks differently and has members from different backgrounds, and that diversity and collective experience will be the board’s biggest strength.”

Commenting on long term member Jim Monahan LaVere stated “The night Monahan was sworn in for the Ventura City Council in 1977, I was nothing but a sparkle in my mom’s eye.” LaVere, a Ventura native grew up hearing Monahan’s name in his household. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think the two would serve together. Council members spoke of Monahan’s willingness to provide tours of the Westside, where he was raised, and his eagerness to provide historical references.

Mike Tracy never got a tour of the Westside neighborhood but said, “he appreciated Monahan’s support in 2009 when he first ran.” “He told me all the secrets” even though they were running against each other.

Members thanked Tracy for his straightforward and candid style and his humor. “You have kept us laughing while you have kept us thinking.” Said council member Christy Weir.

“Neal is a guiding force when it came to his focus on those less fortunate, including people who were homeless or had mental illness.” Andrews also brought valuable expertise to organizational management.”

Council member Cheryl Heitmann shared memories of the time they served on the county’s advisory board for mental health and thanked him for bringing the Scottish Seaside Highlands games to the city.

Retiring member Neal Andrews said disagreeing was good in that it could lead to a better outcome. He urged the council to work together and to remember they served the people of Ventura.

Monahan said, “the years went by in a flash.” He added that he was sorry for everyone that lost their homes in the Thomas Fire and hoped to see them rebuilt. “It won’t be whole until we get everyone back in their homes again.”

Mike Tracy urged the new council to empower city staff. “Tell them what we want done and then hold them accountable and then get out of the way. Get to know the staff but don’t meddle.”

Nasarenko said serving another term a “privilege” and said he looks forward to working collaboratively on behalf of all residents.

Brown said she planned to focus on the refinement of the city’s general plan, which helps guide growth in the city, and helps spur development off Johnson Drive. “I plan to serve the people of Ventura with the intent to highlight issues ignored in the past on the east side but not them exclusively.”

Returning council member Friedman, who served on the council from 1995 to 2003, said it was like Yogi Berra who once said : “It’s Déjà vu all over again” He said he got a good sense of the pulse of the community from visiting 2500 homes in the district. “I look forward to working with my colleagues collegiately and cooperatively to get some good things done here.”

Rubalcava spoke in Spanish and English. She encouraged people to bring their passions and interests and get involved. “This doesn’t work without you,” she said” There’s seven people up here who are making decisions but we need your input, we need your vision and we also need your work.”

Nearly 73 percent of registered voters casted a ballot on this last election up from 26 percent in 2013. The top vote getter in the election was Brown, who received 3,533 votes. Rubalcava received 1,767 votes.

A new and vibrant time has come to the council. Here at the Breeze we wish our new council members the best of luck in their new positions and congratulations to Ventura voters whom we believe have chosen wisely.

Members emails: They would love to hear from you.

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