Pictured: Districts 1 and 3 in the City of Simi Valley. Interactive Simi Valley District map is online HERE. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Simi Valley City Council, District 1

Dist. 1, like Simi’s mayoral race, is falling in along political party lines, but it also continues the trend of challenging the incumbent status quo. Incumbents have to convince voters they deserve to stay, and newcomers are working to kick up some dust to invigorate the debate. 

Dist. 1 is the north side of Simi Valley, stretching the length of the city. The incumbent, Dee Dee Cavanaugh, is challenged by Phil Loos. 

Candidate history and background

Dee Dee Cavanaugh. Photo submitted.

Dee Dee Cavanaugh: 60 years old, Senior Vice President, Operations Administrator Branch Administration/Pacific Western Bank. I love Simi Valley and I loved growing up here. Becoming a single working mom when my daughter was 3 years old was very difficult, but being able to raise her in this safe and family-oriented community helped make it so much better. I want to ensure that Simi Valley remains a safe, caring and wonderful community to live, work and raise our families. Campaign website: www.votefordeedee.com

 

 

Phil Loos. Photo submitted.

Phil Loos: I’m a 36-year-old husband and a father of two daughters, ages 8 and 5. My wife grew up here in Simi Valley (I’m from Moorpark), and we made Simi Valley our permanent home in 2011. I’ve volunteered my time throughout the community as a youth sports coach, Sunday school teacher, youth group leader, advocate for the homeless, and founding board member of LULAC de Simi Valley.

My professional career has been dedicated to helping hospitals deliver safe, high-quality care to patients by utilizing my extensive experience in process improvement, change management, strategic planning and data analysis. I have a bachelor’s from UC Davis in International Relations and a master’s in Business Administration from Pepperdine.

Throughout my campaign, I have worked tirelessly, creating and leading service opportunities that met the needs of Simi residents. I have opened myself up to hard questions from the public by holding bi-weekly town halls for months. I have engaged voters through multiple mediums to stay in-touch with them throughout COVID-19. I do all this because I believe being proactive, engaging and transparent with the public is essential for anyone seeking office. Shouldn’t we expect the same and more of our elected officials? Campaign website: www.philloos.com

Why are you running for this office now? If you are serving in office now, or have run before, what made you seek elected office?  

Dee Dee Cavanaugh: I believe in giving back to my community as shown by my 30-plus years of volunteering with multiple nonprofits and foundations here in Simi Valley.  I was also an avid softball player – both on women’s and co-ed teams.  Visiting other cities for softball tournaments showed me how fortunate we were to have such beautiful parks and sports fields here in Simi Valley. When an opening became available for the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District Board of Directors in March of 2010, I wanted to contribute, so I applied and was appointed to fill the remaining term.  I then went on to be elected in November 2010 and re-elected in 2014.  While I loved being a part of our park district, when a seat became open for the city council in 2016, I chose to run for it.  I wanted to do even more for our community and being on the city council would allow me to do that.

Phil Loos: I’m running because many Simi residents and businesses are hurting. COVID-19 exacerbated the problem, but Simi Valley had been trending in this direction for some time, and I am concerned that I see little urgency or action from my opponent to address looming problems that will affect our quality of life.

In four years on the council, my opponent has agendized only one item, and seems unbothered by the fact that our mall is a depressing mess, that many of our businesses are fighting to keep their doors open, that we have a looming budget crisis because of mounting pension obligations and flat city revenues, or that our residents are struggling under the burden of soaring rent costs.

Simi still has a chance at a bright future, but we must prioritize 1) developing a fun, vibrant, walkable, family-friendly, mixed-use downtown area to serve as an economic driver for the city, 2) addressing our looming budget crisis to ensure we can continue to pay for essential city services and support our hard-working city employees and 3) ensuring we have city leaders that are proactively addressing our problems, seeking specific and measurable solutions, and making themselves available and accountable to the people.

What is one issue in Simi Valley that is a priority for you? Why is that a priority and what is one of the first things you would do if elected to start to address that issue? 

Dee Dee Cavanaugh: Public safety has always been my top priority and I am not in favor of defunding our police department.  Today though, navigating the effects of the pandemic on our business community, unemployment and city revenues are very concerning to me. We are in uncharted territory and we are having to figure it out as we go.  Fortunately the city was able to put aside $6 million dollars into a COVID Fund to help mitigate the loss of revenues in 2020.  

My 36 years as a banker have given me insight to businesses and their financial needs, which will be beneficial to the city council at this time. I sit on the executive board of the Economic Development Collaborative for Ventura County, which offers free services to our business communities such as business plan assistance, financial advice, tenant/landlord assistance, as well as loans for businesses who are unable to qualify at a financial institution.  Both the county and the city are also offering grants to our business community to help during this difficult time.  Ensuring our businesses are aware of and utilize these services and being innovative in looking for ways to help them survive will be key to their success. 

Phil Loos: There is no more important issue to the future of Simi Valley than finding a way to jumpstart our local economy. Nearly every other issue we face is a direct result of our lack of economic growth. Every great idea that could improve our city requires money, and this money is generated from sales taxes. If we want to keep our sales tax low — and I do — then we need to increase the number of people paying the tax, and that means we need to grow.

The solution to this is we need to create a modern, vibrant, walkable, attractive downtown area for the city that will serve as the city’s economic engine. We need mixed-use developments with an aesthetic that incorporates our local character and history so that our commercial, residential and retail space can all be in close proximity to benefit one another. We have to understand that planning the city in the way we have is not a viable model for us going forward, and is not the type of environment that is attractive to the young, diverse workforce that is so essential to startups and companies who are seeking a city in which to do business.

What is one thing you have accomplished that you had a leadership role in — how did it impact you and your community?  

Dee Dee Cavanaugh: About 25 years ago my co-ed softball team started a charity softball tournament called “Play for A Cure” in order to raise money for the Histiocytosis Foundation.  One of our players had a son who was diagnosed with the disorder and we all wanted to help.  Each team member was in charge of a different aspect of the tournament, and it was a huge success. That first year we made around $5,000.  In each of the following years the amount increased until we were making $20,000 a year. At the time, this tournament was the largest annual fundraiser for the Histiocytosis Foundation. Even though my team itself is no longer involved with the tournament, it continues to this day, and a lot of us have our grown kids now playing on a team each year. I am still proud of what we started, and I believe our tournament encouraged others to host charity softball tournaments here in Simi Valley.  

Phil Loos: I have worked in various volunteer roles in this community over the years, usually in children’s and youth ministry at church. In 2018 I switched it up a bit and began volunteering on Thursday nights at the Stillwaters Café — an outreach ministry through a local church that provides meals to the homeless and those experiencing economic hardship. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, I could no longer serve in person, but knew that the need in the community had to be greater than ever.

After discussing with my team, we decided to contribute to the ministry in a new way — by coordinating with local businesses, residents and a local church to conduct weekly drives for food and essential items that would be collected and donated to the church. Over the course of several months, the community has come through, and we have collected over 1,000 bags worth of groceries and essential items, in addition to clothing and bedding, to be donated to Stillwaters Café, at a time they have needed it more than ever. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, and I look forward to finding new and creative ways to serve this community going forward.

What is one thing that you have not been asked about that voters should know about you? 

Dee Dee Cavanaugh: I became a single mom in 1989, when my daughter was 3 years old.  I worked full time, raised my daughter and volunteered within the community. It wasn’t easy — in the beginning I shared a house with a roommate until I could afford to rent a condo on my own.  I rented that condo for nine years, and then ultimately I was able to buy my first house in 2002, just in time for my daughter’s senior year at Royal. I worked my way up from a part-time teller to a senior vice president in banking. I have a very strong work ethic which has helped me to accomplish my goals, and I apply the same determination and loyalty to my work on the city council.

Phil Loos: I have been endorsed by a variety of local leaders such as California State Senator Henry Stern, Ventura County College Board Trustee Bernardo Perez, and Simi Valley Planning Commissioner John Casselberry. I have also been endorsed by many of the local labor organizations such as the those who represent our city employees, carpenters, operating engineers, brick layers, laborers, iron workers and food service workers, because they all know I care about working class families, that I understand the need to grow our economy to continue to invest in our infrastructure, and that I will prioritize hiring locally to keep good paying jobs here in Simi.


Simi Valley City Council, District 3 

District 3, the northwest portion of the city, has three candidates: incumbent Elaine Litster, who was appointed to the seat in 2019, and two newcomers vying for the seat. 

Candidate history and background

Elaine Litster. Photo submitted.

Elaine Litster: 57 years old. A small business owner for 24 years and professional harpist with the Channel Island Chamber Orchestra. Holds a master’s in Arts-Urban Planning, emphasis in Social Policy Analysis from UCLA and a bachelor’s of science in Economics from Brigham Young University. Served 1.5 years in office so far after being appointed to fill the seat left open by Councilmember Keith Mashburn, who was elected mayor. 

If something is important, I believe in being part of the solution and not shying away from responsibility.  I liked my children’s school, but there wasn’t a music program.  So, I provided the music program.  

I’m hard working, inquisitive and dig for answers. On the city council I research, I ask questions, I try to read all the material; I don’t shy away from any discussion.  I recall reading a waste management contract while sitting in an airport.  As I read through it carefully, I was convinced we had satisfied one of the requirements for additional payments. I was delighted to have earned the city an additional $100,000 by my inquiry. Campaign website: www.electelaine2020.com

Tim McInturff. Photo submitted.

Tim McInturff: Simi Valley is our home. My amazing wife and I are both third generation residents. I am son to a Vietnam veteran, father to three beautiful children, former class presidents at Sequoia Junior High and Simi Valley High School. My wife attended Royal; we are a Pioneer/Highlander household! Campaign social media page: www.facebook.com/SimiStrongMcInturff

I bring substantial business experience from many sides: over 20 years in the entertainment industry as an actor and in legal product; 10 years working in the financial industry working for two large financial institutions; a small business owner; and licensed in securities and insurance. My business knowledge is a much-needed resource for our council. I have a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with an emphasis in law and have taken many classes in city planning and urban development.

Ryan Valencia. Photo submitted.

Ryan Valencia: I’m 25 years old, and serve as Assembly District Director, for the 38th District. After graduating from Penn State University I am serving as Assembly District Director for California’s 38th District. 

Some of by background accomplishments include: Former Simi Valley Youth Councilmember, Member, Simi Valley Youth Employment Service (YES) Advisory Board, co-founding member of the Simi Valley Business Incubator Committee, former boardmember with the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, boardmember of the Simi Valley Historical Society, member with Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, member of the Simi Valley Community Council, graduate of Leadership Simi Valley and graduate of the Simi Valley Community Emergency Response Training (CERT). 

I began my community service to my hometown when I was only 16 years old and was appointed to the Simi Valley Youth Council. This isn’t about politics, this is personal. Our campaign is about how we preserve the promise of what Simi Valley is, not just for the residents of today, but the generations of residents to come. Campaign website: www.ryanvalencia.org

Why are you running for this office now? If you are serving in office now, or have run before, what made you seek elected office? 

Elaine Litster: I have always wanted to make a difference in my community. When I was a teenager I campaigned for local politicians. In college I interned with a state senator and interned with the Los Angeles City Economic Development Office. I selected my graduate program with a desire to someday use that knowledge in my community.

When my children were in SVUSD secondary schools, I perceived curriculum problems. I ran for the school board to effect positive change. The experience of running for office is a daunting process. I was less than 300 votes away from being elected.

I turned my attention to my broader community.  When Mayor Mashburn’s city council seat was vacated and the decision was made to make an appointment, I recognized this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  This was a possible chance to effect change, and the “election” process could be accomplished in three short weeks.

Why did I run?  I perceived issues that I wanted to tackle; an empty mall, businesses shutting down, dilapidated store fronts, inequity in water pricing among residents, development and housing needs, safety and resident health issues, community arts opportunities, budgetary concerns and, yes, even potholes.

T.J. McInturff: Dist. 3 of Simi Valley deserves a representative they can TRUST and one that LISTENS. As YOUR representative, I pledge to listen and serve YOU with integrity.

Ryan Valencia: It’s rooted in the fact that I love my hometown and when you love something, you fight to preserve it and better it. My parents left Los Angeles to raise me here for a reason — great schools, safe streets, green hillsides, mom-and-pop shops, involved neighbors and a sense of community. Part of what made the wheels start to turn for me are the conversations with former classmates of mine from Royal who want to return to Simi Valley but simply find it too hard to do so. It is a reality many are facing today. When I look at the council as it is, I don’t believe it has everyone at the table and I believe that I’ll provide a fresh perspective and be a bridge to the future of our community. What I ask voters to do is to take a look at the makeup of the city council, what each member brings, and vote based on what perspective we are missing. The best decisions, whether it be the boardroom or a council chamber, are made when a multitude of ideas, backgrounds and opinions are present to critically think about the long term consequences of our decisions.

What is one issue in Simi Valley that is a priority for you? Why is that a priority and what is one of the first things you would do if elected to start to address that issue? 

REGISTER TO VOTE You can register to vote through election day on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Call the Ventura County Clerk-Recorder’s office at 805-654-2664 or visit www.registertovote.ca.gov. WHAT IS THE DEADLINE TO REGISTER? To vote at an In-Person Voting Location on Election Day, or to receive your ballot in the mail, you must register no less than 15 days before the election, or Oct. 19. After Oct. 19, eligible voters who have not registered may still vote by registering and casting a Conditional Voter Registration (CVR) ballot at the Elections Division located downstairs at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration,  800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, CA  93009.

Elaine Litster: Since March our country has been in the grips of a COVID shutdown. I believe the most critical issue is helping ALL businesses reopen in a safe and profitable manner, and allow all residents to return to full employment. It is not right that state decisions have caused people to lose their livelihoods, their businesses and their life savings. It bothers me that the terms essential and non-essential are used. Any job is “essential” to maintain one’s livelihood.  And further, it bothers me that the state has Ventura County placed on the most restrictive status. Why? Our case rate per 100,000 is just above the minimum threshold. (This is due to our diligence with testing and exceeding those testing targets.)

The city should be working to find creative solutions and help fix problems, not issue citations and make things difficult for businesses.We should explore solutions such as enterprise zones, or low interest rate loans for façade improvements and work directly with the new owners of the mall to brainstorm strategic directions. The city needs to designate an employee as an economic development person to work with existing businesses to recognize the struggles that the city can help alleviate. 

T.J. McInturff: It’s important to me to ensure that ALL Simi residents have a space to share knowledge and ideas. This is why I created Simi Strong to help foster community and support our small businesses. Simi Strong has grown to over 22K resident members. We have raised money for families in need, brought awareness to struggling businesses, promoted school fundraisers and nonprofits, connected residents with job opportunities and created polls to gather data for city projects.

Fiscal responsibility is critical. I will reduce spending and eliminate unnecessary spending. I will also focus on ways to increase revenue, such as renewed strategic outreach to the film industry. I am also focused on encouraging new business formation by reducing red tape and more support for existing businesses.

Ryan Valencia: One issue that is a top priority for me is economic development because it is a critical piece to the road ahead for our community. Our economic sustainability is directly tied to our fiscal sustainability and our budgetary challenges. We have, for years now, focused on making our budget as lean as possible. At a certain point, we have to realize that spurring economic growth is key to long-term solutions. The very first action we must take is formulate and set out a vision for the next generation of economic development through 2040. We need to present why Simi Valley is a great investment to our community members and potential businesses to demonstrate that we are thinking ahead. This means setting a plan that includes a business incubator to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, focusing on workforce development in the trades and manufacturing through career pathways, active engagement with small businesses and neighbors in specific planning of key economic development corridors, revitalizing our town center, and prioritizing workforce housing.

What is one thing you have accomplished that you had a leadership role in? How did it impact you and your community? 

Elaine Litster: Last year the Simi Valley Police Chief brought the city council a request to authorize a body camera program. Over five years the program would be paid for with forfeited assets funds. I strongly supported body cameras. I personally had a child that was falsely accused of an action that placed him in custody for several weeks. It was body camera footage that reopened the case and led to his finding of innocence.  

When this item came before the council, it was very clear in the initial discussions that three were in opposition, and two were in favor.  My leadership role was captured in a recent Letter to the Editor by Daniel Wiener, in the Simi Valley Acorn Newspaper.

“Last September, the City Council narrowly voted to approve the purchase and use of those body cameras, and Elaine was the deciding voice. When the proposal was on the verge of failing, she managed to amend the motion to attract the third vote in its favor. Without her ‘Yes’ vote and her persuasive arguments, Simi Valley wouldn’t have those cameras today. And we’ve all learned over the past months just how vital they are, to protect both citizens and police officers.”

T.J. McInturff: I have also been involved in building Simi Valley into a great place to live, from serving as executive board member on numerous committees, renovating our VFW Post 10049 building, volunteering for over 500 hours at charity events, coaching youth sports, and working on the All Serve project. I will fight to ensure that public safety, crime reduction and programs for our youth and seniors are prioritized. I support our police!

Ryan Valencia: During my time as district director for the 38th Assembly District, I was proud to work with our assemblymember to secure $700,000 from the state budget for the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, which provides healthcare, dental care, counseling and legal services to our neighbors regardless of their ability to pay. The new multiservices center is a treasure for our community and will house multiple nonprofits that benefit Simi Valley. I believe my experience in working for the legislature, actively volunteering in the community and building coalitions with nonprofits and other organizations will be an asset to the city council and to the residents of the Third District.

What is one thing that you have not been asked about that voters should know about you? 

Elaine Litster: I am extremely patriotic. I was born on the 4th of July, and my grandfather and uncle occasionally affectionately refer to me as “Betsy Ross.” I always stand and sing the national anthem when given the opportunity, and it saddens me when I see others choose not to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

This past summer, I desired our community to find a way of celebrating our freedoms in the midst of this pandemic. I was a strong proponent for safely celebrating the 4th of July.  I worked with several parties to find a way to have a fireworks display at the Simi Town Center, while residents watched from their cars and at a distance. (I wasn’t successful in persuading my fellow council members to approve the plan.)

We live in a tremendous land of opportunity. I love my country. My father, three brothers and two brothers-in-law have served in, or are still actively serving in, the military. I celebrate our freedoms and recognize the many that have fought to protect our freedoms.  

T.J. McInturff: City council should be held to a high standard and work for OUR community. My knowledge, history, and background show I can bring people together for solutions. I fight for what I love and I love Simi Valley!

Ryan Valencia: What I like to do in my free time! Between running for a local government position and working for the state, I actually like to cut the political chatter once I get home by backpacking, hiking and surfing on the weekends. One of my first jobs was with the National Park Service and it’s been love ever since. In Ventura County, we are blessed to have the Santa Monica Mountains and that’s why I’m so passionate about the Rim of the Valley Corridor, protection of our natural resources,and climate change. These are growing concerns as wildfire season turns into wildfires year-round. This is also why I’m proud to be endorsed by the Ventura County Professional Firefighters’ Association.