Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 5:12 pm | Fair 68º


Museum of Ventura County Elects New Board

The Museum of Ventura County has elected a new board of directors that will direct the museum’s fundraising, exhibits and programming, connecting the community with the history and culture.

“We have a past, present and future that make us a celebrated place to live or visit,” said Elena Brokaw, the museum's interim executive director.

“Our mission is to present the history, events, activities and art that have created the culture of Ventura County, and we are fortunate to have these leaders at the helm,” she said.

New board members are: Yissel Barajas, Betsy Chess, William Kearney, Gordon Kimball, Leslie Leavens, Al Lowe, Kate McLean, Richard Rush, Mike Sedell, Jim Scanlon and Peter T. Zierhut

Barajas is the chief human resources officer for Reiter Affiliated Companies (RAC) , the world’s largest fresh multi-berry producer. Barajas leads RAC’s talent, culture and leadership strategies, ensuring the human resources strategy is aligned with business objectives.

Born into a pioneer Santa Paula ranching family, Betsy Blanchard Chess grew up with a desire to understand and preserve Ventura County agriculture. She has a keen awareness and respect for the contributions of the past as they enrich the future.

She continues her family’s commitment to community involvement and support. She has written extensively on Ventura County agricultural and business history and in 1988 became editor and publisher of The Broadcaster Magazine for the Farm Bureau of Ventura County.

A native Californian, Kearney joined Merrill Lynch in 1975 following a four-year managerial position with a paper recycling plant. During his career with Merrill Lynch, Kearney enjoyed an advancing career and in 2004 was honored with the Merrill Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to serving on nonprofit boards, he has served as the president of six Ventura County charitable groups: Casa Pacifica, Ventura County Taxpayers Association, Rubicon Theatre Company, Ventura Rotary Club, CSU Channel Islands Foundation Board and the Foundation Board for the Community Memorial Health System.

Kimball has served as a director of the Limoneira company since 1995 and has been president of Kimball Engineering, Inc., which provides race car design and production services, since 1992. He is managing partner of Kimball Ranches, a 110-acre avocado ranch near Santa Paula.

Earlier, he designed Formula One race cars in England and Italy for McLaren International, Ferrari and Benetton Racing, (1984-91). He also designed Indianapolis race cars for Parnelli Jones, Chaparral and Patrick Racing teams, (1976-83).

Kimball is a director of Rincon Investment Company.

Leavens is vice president of finance and operations for her family’s farming company, Leavens Ranches LLC, growers of lemons and avocados in Ventura and Monterey counties, and wine grapes in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County.

She serves on a number of ag industry-related boards including Saticoy Lemon Association, House Farm Workers, Farmers Irrigation and Alta Mutual Water Company. She is a past president of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, a graduate of the California Ag Leadership Program and UCLA.

Lowe has lived and worked in Camarillo for more tha 40 years. He has been a general contractor for some 38 years and is founder/president of Al Lowe Construction.

He has served on the board of directors for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, Food Share and the Alliance for the Arts Board of Directors. He now serves on the Camarillo Health Care District Advisory Panel and Camarillo Hospice Advisory Panel.

Lowe is a member and past president of the Camarillo Rotary Club and founded and co-chaired the Care for Kids Golf Classic, raising $1.4 million to benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.

McLean provides consulting services to nonprofit organizations and foundations in the areas of executive coaching, feasibility studies, strategic planning, community assessment, board development and program design. She has a history in starting and growing nonprofit programs and organizations.

She helped create Interface Children, Family Services where she served as executive director for 18 years. She was president of the Ventura County Community Foundation where she increased assets from $300,000 to more than $70 million in current and future planned gifts.

McLean served on the inaugural boards of the Ventura County AIDS Partnership; League of California Community Foundations; Ventura County Leadership Academy, KCLU-Ventura County’s NPR station; California Child, Youth, Family Coalition; and the Social Justice Fund for Ventura County.

She served on the boards for California Lutheran University, The Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Foundation, Ventura County Civic Alliance and Interface. She is on the board of a national women’s health organization and chairs the board for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.

Rush served as president of California State University, Channel Islands, June 2001-August 2016.

Rush serves or has served on boards of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, Community Memorial Hospital, Casa Pacifica, California Campus Compact and American Association of State Colleges and Universities Council of State Representatives.

He is chair of the P-20 Regional Council for the Improvement of College Attendance and Success which focuses on improving the college-going rates of students, particularly from communities with historically low participation.
Sedell retired in 2012 as city manager of Simi Valley, a postsition he had held for 17 years. Before that, he had served as Simi Valley’s assistant city manager, deputy city manager and other city administrative positions for a total of 37 years with the city.

Sedell also served as chief of staff to Rep. (and former Simi Valley Mayor) Elton Gallegly in Washington, D.C., and in California from 1986-90.

Sedell has donated significant time to nonprofit organizations that were under severe financial stress and assisted in turning them around.

He assisted two cities that were on the verge of insolvency to stabilize their finances, and continues to assist the county, the cities, and special districts on a number of financially difficult projects.

In 2013, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed Sedell to a trustee position on the county’s Retirement Association Board, overseeing $4.2 billion of retirement funds on behalf of the county and its employees.

Scanlon is area president for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Gallagher, which operates in some 120 countries and has revenues exceeding $5 billion. Prior to that he was the chairman and CEO of SGB-NIA Insurance Brokers for the past 31 years culminating in the sale of the firm to Gallagher in 2014.

Scanlon has served on the board of governors of Legatus, board of regents of Thomas Aquinas College and at Holy Cross College. He is currently a board member of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Board. He was also a Vistage member and a member of the local Legatus Chapter.

He is a member of the board of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County and was a board member of the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.

Zierhut is a senior-level manager at Haas Automation, Inc., responsible for oversight of Haas Automation’s HTEC-branded education program comprising more than 2000 institutions around the world that use Haas machine tools for educational purposes.

Additional responsibilities include government relations, working with local, state and federal lawmakers, and industry associations. He is a member of the management committee at Windshear, Inc., a high-technology automotive wind tunnel owned by Haas Automation, in Concord, N.C.

His volunteer roles include board member/manager of Gene Haas Foundation, board member of Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, member of Workforce Development Board of Ventura County and board member of National Institute for Metalworking Skills in Fairfax, Va.

For more information, visit or call 653-0323.

— Mary DiCesare for Museum of Ventura County.

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