Cheryl Heitmann

Cheryl Heitmann

Cheryl Heitmann

Ventura Council member, 2011-2016; mayor, 2013-15; board member, Ventura County Community College District, 2002-2010; former executive director, Ventura Music Festival; small-business owner for 25 years; current board member of several local nonprofit. Married, three children, three grandchildren. 

What achievements are you most proud of in the past four years?

In my role as mayor and on City Council committees I have led a number of efforts and worked tirelessly to bring additional resources to our community to tackle our most difficult challenges such as homelessness and the local economy. Working with Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, we have secured land to build housing and supportive services for our homeless veterans. The Park Ambassador program I championed is, for example, a public/private partnership made possible through city leadership and cooperation with county agencies, VPD, local nonprofits, businesses and others. These partnerships provide a more comprehensive, compassionate approach and have successfully transitioned more than 100 people off the streets and into supportive environments at minimal cost.

I led the effort to establish the new Ventura Council for Seniors to advise the Council on issues important to seniors.

 As the chair of the sub-committee on economic development, I helped draft the five-year economic strategy for the city and am pushing for concrete, measurable results.

And I have been proud to have represented the city at numerous community events, hosting coffee with the mayor regularly for my two years as mayor and listening and responding to residents.

What are major issues of concern to you in the future?

My priorities are creating additional local jobs, enhancing public safety, expanding services to seniors, assuring our local water supply and developing regional solutions to homelessness.

What are your thoughts on the state of local businesses in the city?

We have some great local success stories that we need to share. Both the Trade Desk and Patagonia have been growing rapidly and adding hundred of new employees. Kaiser Permanente is under construction on a new administrative facility helping our goal to be the wellness center for the county. The new hotel on Seaward and the 101 is about to start construction.

To assist our local businesses, Ventura needs to ensure our permitting and licensing requirements are business-friendly and support the development of a skilled workforce. We need to find a way to expedite job-creating business permits. The city can work with the Work Force Development Board, the VUSD’s Ventura Adult and Continuing Education and our community college to develop training for the workforce needed by our local employers.  In addition, the tech incubator space, supported by the city, is a place for start-ups and a way to grow our own businesses.

What are your thoughts on current public safety issues?

Ventura has one of the finest police and fire professionals anywhere. However, our police force is the same size it was in 1999.  The population has increased, more of the city has been developed, and we are asking more of our officers with the same-size force.  One of our six fire stations was closed during the recession.  The city was able to reopen it with the help of a grant.  I am working to find sustainable funding to increase public safety now and to protect our future.

What are your thoughts on the housing shortage in the city?

Housing is a matter of supply and demand.  The lower supply keeps the prices higher, and that makes it harder for business to attract and retain workers.  We all want our children to stay here but with a housing shortage, that is becoming harder.   Also, if there are not enough units for empty-nesters to downsize to, they will stay in their homes, further reducing available housing for families.

The city currently has around 1,000 units in construction or in the final planning stages.  We need to absorb those units, understand the impacts and then focus on future housing needs. And although we need more housing, we must continue to match that need with our supply of water on a continuing basis.  And we must ensure the types of housing being built fit the need identified by the community.

Does the city need lower-cost housing?  Does it need executive housing?

The city needs more housing of all types.  In coastal California there will always be greater demand and higher costs. We have approved a large number of subsidized apartments but we need to get creative.  A healthy economy demands adequate workforce housing at every level.

How important are the city’s natural resources to you and what are you doing about it?

The natural resources that surround our city are our greatest asset and make it a very desirable place to live.  Future generations and the health of our community are depending on good stewardship and vision today. I support the botanical gardens as well as the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy and, of course, the SOAR initiative.  I am advocating for the protection and enhancement of our beaches at the local and state level.  One of my top priorities is to protect and expand our water supply. 

How do you feel about changes to the City’s charter, election of a mayor, council by district and term limits?

The Charter committee appointed by the Council last year worked tirelessly to make recommendations to the Council on changes to the city’s charter.  I agree with the Charter committee recommendations to continue the election of the mayor by the Council, to continue to elect council members at large and to set term limits of 12 years for council members.