With every election comes opportunity for newbies in the political arena to make their way onto the dais to represent their communities as best they see fit. In Ventura County, however, advocacy groups in 2017 felt certain neighborhoods of Oxnard and Ventura as well as minority groups were severely underrepresented for too long and legally pushed for more equitable representation under threats of lawsuits, and both cities changed to district-based elections.
In Ventura, most election cycles in the last decade or so would bring a new face, but for the most part, incumbents, including Jim Monahan who was first elected in 1977, dominated the discussions and the majority vote. It was rare for any incumbent to serve less than two terms and there was no ethnic diversity. The new district elections in November brought the goal of diversity to fruition, with Sofia Rubalcava from the Westside and Lorrie Brown on the East End for District 6, which included a new additional seat to the City Council. Jim Friedman, former City Councilman and Mayor, won District 5 and Erik Nasarenko was re-elected for District 4.
On Monday, Dec. 10, the old guard — Monahan, Mike Tracy (elected in 2009) and Neal Andrews (elected in 2001) — were bid farewell after choosing not to run again, along with the installment of the newly elected. Andrews, who for the majority of his tenure had a bristly relationship with his council colleagues, finished his last council term as mayor, which started with the Thomas Fire.
In Oxnard, incumbents Mayor Tim Flynn, Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez and Councilman Bert Perello were re-elected in November. The addition of two more district seats to the City Council brought Gabriela Basua and Vianey Lopez, who were both installed Dec. 11, increasing Hispanic diversity on the City Council to three of seven seats, up from one. The Oxnard Chamber of Commerce demographic report shows that Latinos make up nearly 74 percent of the population.
It’s an exciting time for both cities that have endured equally difficult but different burdens. Both cities have fairly new city managers, making it a great time to establish enduring and trustworthy leadership and creating an opportunity for both city managers to take direction and work with their elected bosses to better meet the needs of all residents. That includes affordable housing, job growth, environmental issues, transportation concerns, employee pensions, infrastructure and more. If there was ever a time to see a dynamic shift for the betterment of both cities, 2019 is it. We look forward to seeing how the newly elected put their best foot forward.