September 26, 2023
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Museum of Ventura County replaces board with 11 new members


Updated at 10:20 a.m. Sept. 29:

The Museum of Ventura County has replaced its board of directors and elected 11 new board members, it announced in a news release Sept. 28.

The museum has faced financial woes and possible closure in the past few years. It streamlined its budget to $1.1 million as of May 2017, nearly half its fiscal 2015 budget, according to Interim Executive Director Elena Brokaw.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors awarded the museum a $250,000 grant recently in support of the museum’s “reinvention” plan.

As part of the plan, the previous 10 board members — four of whom were already at their term limits — selected a nominating committee to choose new directors. The previous board then unanimously resigned, after a six-week process to approve the next board.

The new board will be responsible for directing the museum’s fundraising, exhibits and programming, according to the news release. They will also fund some of the museum’s costs.

The new directors were selected for diversity, whether geographically, by gender, by age or by industry. The Board of Supervisors said that the previous board was “too Ventura-centric,” Brokaw said.

She added that the new board will take a “no holds barred, no third rails” approach — in other words, no part of the museum is off limits for them to change.

Among the new board members are Gordon Kimball, director of Limoneira and president of Kimball Engineering; Peter Zierhut, a senior executive at Haas Automation; and Richard Rush, former president of CSU Channel Islands.

Many come from agricultural industry backgrounds, including Yissel Barajas, chief human resources officer at Reiter Affiliated Companies, the world’s largest fresh multi-berry producer; and Leslie Leavens, vice president of finance and operations at her family’s farming company, Leaven Ranches LLC.

Other board members include Betsy Chess, owner of Blanchard/Chess Associates; William Kearney, an investment adviser at Merrill Lynch; Al Lowe, president of Al Lowe Construction; Kate McLean, former president of the Ventura County Community Foundation; Mike Sedell, former city manager of Simi Valley; and Jim Scanlon, area president for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

 Brokaw said that the museum is “fortunate to have these leaders at the helm.”

• Contact Katie Swalm at