Looking Back at 2019

Ed and Sandy Fuller celebrated the completion of their home rebuild (first of two) after the Thomas fire devastated their neighborhood and reduced their beloved home to ashes. A ribbon-cutting ceremony by Ventura city officials was held in front of the new home and another across the street at the newly completed residence of Michael and Sandra Gustafson who also lost their home to the Thomas Fire. Newly appointed Mayor Matt LaVere spoke during the event, recalled watching the devastation and wondering how the city could ever recover from the catastrophic event that leveled over 500 homes in Ventura.

The Ventura College Foundation has received a $2 million donation from the Helen Yunker estate.
Honoring Yunker’s request, the donation will establish endowments for the Ventura College Music Department and the Opera and Musical Theatre program. The gift will be split evenly between the two.
Yunker, who died in July at age 96, served on the Ventura College Foundation Board for 18 years.

Jeff Lambert , Community Development Manager for the past ten years is leaving Ventura to take a similar post with the City of Oxnard. As Community Development Director Lambert has managed current and future advanced planning for the city. His responsibilities for the City of Ventura included running Building and Safety, Code Enforcement, planning and economic development.

The Ventura Police Department now has a full-time mental health technician embedded within the Ventura Police Patrol Task Force. The technician will be responsible for case management and outreach for the homeless population suffering from mental health issues. The effort is a partnership with Ventura County Behavioral Health and is funded through a Triage Grant.

Former Ventura Mayor and City Councilman Jim Monahan may no longer serve on the City Council, but his legacy will now live on forever. A newly named street, James Monahan Way is at Poli Street and the City Hall parking lot as well as the gateway to the Ventura Botanical Gardens.

The Board of Education is pleased to announce their unanimous vote to appoint Dr Roger Rice as the new Superintendent of Ventura Unified School District (VUSD). Dr Rice, who currently serves as the Deputy Superintendent of Student Services for the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE), comes to the district with a wealth of knowledge and skills he will use to further VUSD’s commitment “For the Future of Every Student.”

Dr Roger Rice, who has a distinguished career of more than 20 years of service to Ventura County youth, has worked to develop and support innovative programs for Alternative Education, Career and Technical Education (CTE), Special Education, and other programs to meet the needs of At-Risk Youth.

Yolanda Bundy, Chief Building Official City of Ventura has been selected by the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California as the Safer City Building Official of the Year because of her dedication to supporting a safer community and leadership within the building official community.
She is head of the Ventura Building and Safety Division, the office that issues building permits for construction projects in Ventura (Note: She has left Ventura for a position in Malibu).

After serving a distinguished career with the Ventura Port District General Manager Oscar F. Peña officially retired on April 30, 2019.  Peña has been at the helm of Ventura Harbor for 20 years. The Ventura Port District employs 35 full-time employees and generates $8 million in annual revenue.
A Ventura resident for 27 years, Peña cites several key accomplishments during his 20-year employment. With Peña at the helm, the commercial

Venturan Chuck Ceci,l whose radio show “The Swinging Years” had run for more than 50 years has died at age 97. He died on April 30th still broadcasting his syndicated radio show. In 1942 he briefly hosted his first radio show for a small radio station. At the same time, Cecil hosted the “Big Band Countdown” for Armed Forces Radio which spread his love for jazz around the world.

New pedestrian safety light poles designed by artist Michael Davis are being installed on the west side of the California Street Bridge over Highway 101 to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. The improvement project moves into the much-anticipated final stage of construction with the contractor scheduled to complete the installation of eight new pedestrian safety lights in one-week depending on weather conditions.

Congratulations to Detective Michael Acquarelli for being selected as the Office of the Year for the Ventura Police Department. He has served Ventura for 13 years. During that time, he has received the Medal of Valor for his heroic life saving actions during a critical incident and he was selected as the SWAT Team Operator of the Year in 2015 and 2018. As an officer, he has worked patrol, served as a field training officer and served as a detective in the street crimes unit.

The Ventura Police Officers’ Association (VPOA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 16th annual Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship. The scholarships are to honor Sergeant Darlon “Dee” Dowell, who was shot and killed on August 7, 1978. Sergeant Dowell is the only officer in Ventura’s history to die in the line of duty. In selecting scholarship recipients, the VPOA considered academic achievement, school and community service, financial needs, and the following requirements:

1st Place $5,000.00 Annika Kinnaman
2nd Place $3,500.00 Bryce Weinell
3rd Place $2,000.00 Labiba Sardar

Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere has publicly announced his candidacy for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, District 1. With deep roots in both Ventura and the Ojai Valley, an impressive record of leadership on Ventura’s City Council and a lengthy, diverse group of endorsements, Mayor LaVere is excited to kick-off his campaign for County Supervisor.

Neal Andrews long term Ventura councilman and past mayor has died. Neal died on Sunday, August 4, 2019 following a protracted illness. He served his last year on the council as mayor a position he coveted.
Andrews ran and won a seat on the city council in 2001. His election changed the dynamics of the council at that time. His election and subsequent actions led to the changing of city managers in 2004. Neal was a conservative and used his conservative voice for what he believed to be a fiscally conservative approach to city government.

On Wednesday, July 10th, the Ventura Botanical Gardens dedicated the Schwab Entrance Plaza to honor the memory of the late Miriam Schwab and her longstanding support and philanthropy for the Garden and the Arts in Ventura.

On Saturday, July 27th, NBA superstar and Ventura local, James Ennis III, returned to his old stomping grounds and organized a basketball camp for the westside Ventura youth at the Westpark Community Center. Before Ennis was drafted to the NBA, he played for Ventura High School, Ventura College.

The Ventura County Fair closed after another successful Fair. Celebrating the best of the best from throughout Ventura County, the 144th year closed with success. Visitors came from near and far to enjoy the 12-day Fair, July 31 through August 11.

The Ventura County Fair’s mission is to preserve, promote, and showcase agriculture and the traditions of Ventura County.

California Travel Association kindly recognizes what Visit Ventura knows: we’re a special place to work
Visit Ventura was kindly honored once again as a great place to work, this time by the California Travel Association (CalTravel). The California Travel Association is the united voice of the travel and tourism industry in California, advocating on issues and legislation that affect the tourism industry.

The Perfect Firestorm – The Thomas Fire Story will be screened at the Ojai Film Festival on Sunday November 3rd at 1pm and Friday November 8th at 1pm at the Sane Living Center at 316 E Matilija St, Ojai, CA 93023. CAPS Media’s documentary chronicles the extraordinary personal stories of survival and healing during and following the devastating Thomas Fire.

“The Perfect Firestorm is an amazing achievement that has had a tremendous impact on so many people in and around this community.  Being recognized by the Ojai Film Festival is well-deserved.  Thank you to CAPS Media for capturing this historic event in such a meaningful way.”   David Endaya, Ventura City Fire Chief

The Board of Directors of the Ventura Police Community Foundation is pleased to announce the 2019 Heroes Among Us Award Recipients: Ken Sharp, Art Pillado, Jackie Pearce, Jim Duran, Alex Wulff and Sal Flores. These community heroes have displayed selflessness, dedication and compassion, making a positive impact in Ventura and beyond.

Five new City of Ventura Police Officers took the oath of office on October 3. Welcome Officer Monica Danskin, Officer Ash’lee Gray, Officer George Orozco, Officer Mariano Robles and Officer Heather Straup. Their commitment to serve and protect our community is appreciated.

At a recent meeting of the Ventura City Council a plan to make sewage plant output to bring wastewater to drinking level standards was approved. The council approved a $200 million plan to obtain more drinking water for the city and reduce the amount of sewage water released into the Santa Clara River estuary. The $200 million plus plan will be used to build a new plant that will take wastewater once slated to be emptied into the estuary and treat it to drinking water standards.

The Ventura High School Cougars took on the Buena High School Bulldogs on Friday, October 25th at Larrabee Stadium in their annual rivalry football game. The cougars have consistently defeated the bulldogs the past nine years. After Friday night’s win with a 49-28 score, Ventura High accumulated a decade worth of winning streaks against Buena.

The City of Ventura announces an $8 million settlement with Southern California Edison Company to resolve wildfire claims resulting from the 2017 Thomas Fire. The City of Ventura’s $8 million settlement is part of a larger settlement for a group of six public entities, including the 2017 Thomas Fire and 2018 Montecito Debris Flow, but it does not affect the claims of residents, individuals and businesses affected by the fire against Southern California Edison.

After more than 33 years of service with the City of Ventura, Police Chief Ken Corney has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, 2019. In reflecting on his career, Chief Corney said that “it has been a tremendous honor to work alongside the dedicated men and women of the Ventura Police Department, and to serve our community.”

“For more than three decades, Chief Corney has served our community with honor and distinction. He is a model of integrity and professionalism and it has been an honor to work with him,” stated City Manager Alex McIntyre. “He epitomizes the values of teamwork, leadership and public service. He has dedicated his career to improving the quality of life in our community and responding to the significant public safety issues faced by cities throughout our state. The City of Ventura is a safer community thanks to the work of Chief Corney. He has led the Ventura Police Department with heart and humility transforming the service of the agency.”

Chief Ken Corney joined the Ventura Police Department in 1986. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1995, Commander in January 2000, Assistant Chief in December 2003, and appointed as Police Chief in December 2009.

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