Pictured: Candidates for Ventura City Council, District 7. Photos submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
District 7 in Ventura includes the coastal neighborhoods, Pierpont, Surfer’s Point and stretches east to the city’s boundary. The district line zigzags to include areas south east of Arundell Ave. to Victoria Ave. It includes the Montalvo area and Auto Center Drive.
Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann announced in August her decision not to seek reelection and four candidates are vying for the seat.
Candidate history and background
Heather May Ellinger: I am a 25-year resident of Ventura. I raised my children here and actively participated in their schooling and community activities as a class mom, team mom, PTA parent and board member. As a mortgage field inspector for 10 years, I have traveled throughout the neighborhoods of our city from the east end to the west end and everywhere in between. I know where the potholes are, where the homeless congregate, and the best vantage points for viewing sunsets over the ocean. In speaking to so many residents and business owners over the years, I know your frustrations and concerns related to our city. From day one I will bring efficiency, cooperation and common sense to the Ventura City Council by addressing concerns that affect our daily lives. I am open to discuss all matters big and small pertaining to our current situation, short-term strategies and the future aspirations of Ventura. Campaign Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HeatherMayDistrict7/.
Michael Nolan: I received my bachelor’s degree in marketing from CSUN. I started my career at Kraft General Foods and led the team that brought Breyer’s Ice Cream to the West Coast along with Tombstone Pizza. At Kraft we had many struggles as you can imagine but we accomplished great things along the way. Next I joined a major wireless carrier in the early ’90s. I led many teams on the way to many accomplishments throughout my 23 years in telecom. Throughout my career I have always embraced challenges, sharpened my business acumen, lived in multiple cities and more often than not overcame major obstacles. I am currently a realtor with Century 21 Everest and have learned so much about our city. Living here now for the last 13 years I can bring the good from my life in other successful cities and I am more than ready to face the challenges Ventura faces now. Campaign Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MJNCC2020/.
Nancy Pedersen: I’m 61 years old and a California native. I hold a BS in business administration and JD from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I have 40+ years of business and legal experience including serving as vice president of operations for Bon Appetit Magazine in Los Angeles, and in-house counsel for the parent company of Gulf States Toyota in Houston. I am a licensed attorney in Texas and California.
When moving to Ventura in 2010, I had the opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream and open a bakery – I opened Sunflowers on the Square on Main Street in Ventura, had a retail storefront for four years, and still hold a cottage food license.
I have served the community on the board of the Ventura Visitors Center and Convention Bureau, including the past six years as board chair, and by co-chairing Best Day Foundation. My personal style is collaborative, direct and honest, and I have proven myself to be an effective facilitator and organizational leader. Campaign website: www.pedersen4ventura.com.
Joe Schroeder: I recently retired as the president/CEO of the Ventura County Credit Union. My educational background includes an undergraduate and an MBA from Cal Poly Pomona. My significant leadership experience, local involvement and financial expertise gained from decades of service in the credit union industry leave me well equipped to represent our community. I’ve managed a $1 billion organization with over 200 employees and can better understand the issues facing the city of Ventura. My financial experience during these difficult economic times will be invaluable. Campaign website: www.joeschroederforcitycouncil.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?
Heather May Ellinger: Since the murder of Anthony Mele, I have actively been following the city’s policies in handling the vagrant population. I attended monthly council meetings regarding the homeless and spoke with some council members directly. I found their policies and attitudes completely ineffective. I made the decision to run after a series of ill-advised unanimous resolutions were recently passed by our current city council. The removal of the Father Serra statue being one of them. I am acutely aware of the many challenges before us. Ventura needs improved roads, critical water infrastructure and the continued support of fire and police services. To assure these needs are met, we must attract, retain and foster thriving local businesses to generate the necessary funds to meet Ventura’s operational needs. Thriving businesses offer greater local opportunities for ALL residents. Additionally, we must finally address the real humanitarian issue that is the homeless crisis on our streets.
Michael Nolan: After joining the HOA board at The Cape in Ventura, I have become familiar with helping run a small community and doing what is best financially and esthetically for both the current owners and future owners. There are many challenges and you can’t make everyone happy but if you are honest and true in your desire and act with integrity to do what is best for all and the future, you can’t go wrong. I am very concerned about the state of this city and what we plan to leave our children. I believe in constant improvement both in community relations and the physical aspects of Ventura. We have streets without sidewalks and buildings that used to be restaurants and businesses vacant for years (before COVID). I find this unacceptable for us and our children. We need new decision makers to lure new business and family to Ventura.
Nancy Pedersen: I have spent the past number of years serving the community through running my small business, serving as co-chair of the local chapter of the Best Day Foundation, and working toward the economic viability of the community through my service on the board of the visitor’s center and with a local business start-up. In this year 2020, my personal perfect storm has presented itself whereby my heart for the community has aligned with the election cycle for my district of residency (District 3) and my personal availability (Lauren, Jackson and Neal are launched, so to speak, and I have “pushed pause” from consuming roles in the business world). I’m ready to take the next step in service to Ventura, and while I have not ever run for or held public office, I believe my skills and style can add value to the current discussions and issue, and continue to move the mark toward a better Ventura.
Joe Schroeder: I was born and raised in So. California by parents who believed that you need to help your neighbors and community. Community service is a big part of my personal and professional life. I was on the board of FOOD Share for nine years and chair for several and helped FOOD Share through difficult financial times. We need leaders that are community driven, fiscally responsible, dedicated to protection of our coastline and can balance growth within our community. Many of us have grown so tired of the polarized political environment. Therefore, I have decided to jump in and be a part of the solution at the local level. It is time for me to give back more to our community.
What is one issue in Ventura 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?
Heather May Ellinger: Prior to the pandemic, I would have said the homeless crisis is my number one priority. It will still be a priority for me, but the COVID-19 restrictions have devastated many of our local businesses. This terrible crisis has not only greatly jeopardized our local businesses’ survival but also caused many residents to lose jobs or have had work opportunities greatly curtailed. According to the CDC, 40 percent of the adult American population is currently struggling with depression and substance abuse as a direct result of the lockdowns. We must advocate on behalf of our residents to the county and state to quickly and safely reopen businesses to full service. We should once again enjoy our beautiful city and all the wonderful aspects of living here in Ventura. There is a balance between protecting public health and protecting people’s livelihoods and mental wellbeing. The numbers provided by the city and county do not justify the continued shutdown and mandates.
Michael Nolan: The top issue for me is crime. Ventura city currently ranks highest in crime for all of Ventura county. I cannot walk in my neighborhood after sunset and feel safe. It has been that way for 13 years. My daughters do not feel safe anywhere in public in Ventura. Right now in these disruptive times we need bold leaders to redevelop the Pacific View Mall blight, pier boardwalk area, connect a sidewalk from the east end on Foothill all the way to downtown and the boardwalk. Don’t accept excuses, this all came about before COVID. Another group asked me how we can keep Patagonia in Ventura and get them to grow. Simple, get rid of the crime so new families feel safe moving here and working here in town. Just think about going to the Collection mall . . . safe, going to Thousand Oaks mall . . . safe, Westlake . . . safe, Santa Barbara . . . safe. The first thing I would do is meet with the chief of police, review his finished strategic plan and roll it out quickly.
Nancy Pedersen: The last few years have dished up challenges for Ventura. With challenge comes opportunity to take a fresh look at why we do what we do and how we operate — making sure our governing efforts support the needs of Ventura today and lay the foundation for tomorrow. While there are many priorities to focus on immediately with the start of the new term, a priority for me is to work with my fellow councilmembers and the city management team to create and foster a culture of shared partnership with our residents and business constituents. I believe this culture is the underpinning to put in place so that we can effectively address our budget, housing, water, homeless and safety issues and needs throughout all segments and areas of our community. A first step in working toward this improved culture will be to engage the council and management staff in an honest assessment of what is and isn’t working, and identifying areas that need improvement or change.
Joe Schroeder: Effectively balancing the diverse priorities of our city is one of my top issues. These include facilitating economic growth; supporting safety; protecting our natural resources, particularly our coastline and water resources; and ensuring we have well-maintained streets, parks and trails. Until we stabilize the revenue coming into the city, it will be difficult to add new multimillion dollar programs or add significantly to staff. I have a history of growing businesses and that expertise is essential to help businesses grow their way out of these challenging times. People talk about growth…I have done it.
What is one thing you have accomplished that you had a leadership role in? How did it impact you and your community?
Heather May Ellinger: As a mortgage field inspector, I interacted with thousands of homeowners and their contractors over the years. Early on it became apparent that the majority of people going through the process of rebuilding and renovations due to damage to their property (fire, water, wind, mold, vandalism, etc.) had very limited knowledge on how the process worked and how many entities were involved. Even planned renovations are stressful and generally don’t go as anticipated. Dealing with an unexpected disaster is overwhelming. I became a quasi therapist and a shoulder to cry on in many cases. I also became an ally for homeowners who needed answers and didn’t get them by providing them with an understanding of what was required to move them effectively through the process of renovations and rebuilding.
Michael Nolan: I have 10 brothers and sisters, I am from a very humble background. My parents struggled to raise us all. My mother taught me how to be frugal and my father taught me how to be disciplined. I started mowing lawns at 10, delivering papers at 12 and have never stopped working my entire life. I am familiar with the struggle. I don’t live at the beach and I am not trying to fill my social calendar. I’ve managed over 250 retail stores and led them to award winning performance year after year. Professionally, running all those stores with honesty and integrity and gaining loyal community customers is my greatest accomplishment. Raising my two beautiful, respectful and intelligent daughters is my greatest personal accomplishment.
Nancy Pedersen: One of the opportunities that opened up to me when I moved to Ventura 10 years ago was to get involved with Best Day Foundation. Early upon my arrival in Ventura, I met Chipper Bro Bell — Chipper is the founder of the Ventura Chapter and basically said I was “going to be an angel” and help him further organize the chapter. The Best Day Foundation, hosts beach days for kids with special needs. They have been active in Ventura since 2007, hosting 6-8 beach events here every year.
Over the course of the last 10 years, I have served as co-chair of this organization, putting structure around the administrative aspect of the local chapter, working to form a core leadership team for the chapter, and leading over 50 “Best Days” on our beaches. Each event is supported by local food sponsors (shout out to Spencer Makenzies, Trader Joe’s and the Harbor Starbucks for years of donations and support) and engages close to 100 volunteers from across the city. At the end of every event, not only did 40 kids have a “best day,” all of the volunteers did, too. Magic on the beach — every time!
Joe Schroeder: My greatest satisfaction may have come from the work on the board of FOOD Share, our regional food bank. When I started on their board we were delivering seven million pounds of food to those that were going hungry. Today, FOOD Share will deliver over 18 million pounds of food this year. I consider the mission of FOOD Share to keep those that are hungry, an invaluable asset to the entire county. FOOD Share’s spectacular growth and dedication to those in need is a great example of how leadership can make a difference. In addition, as the CEO of VCCU, I started a program that gave all employees 40 hours of paid time off to help Ventura County nonprofits. I also launched the Foundation of Ventura County Credit Union which distributes funds to nonprofits serving the underserved.
What is one thing that you have not been asked about that voters should know about you?
Heather May Ellinger: The city council is a nonpartisan position, however political leanings are evident in decisions being made by council. There is a lack of balance of representation in all levels of government in the state of California. Two days prior to the deadline, I made the decision to run for city council. In less than 48 hours, I had the required signatures and paperwork to qualify as a candidate. I assembled a team of highly qualified volunteers who have been active in our local politics for decades. They and many local residents have stepped up to volunteer and support my candidacy because we all believe in representative government. If you have been following my campaign, you will see what I am capable of achieving in a short period of time. My online presence is double and triple that of other candidates, largely due to the support I have received from local residents. As your next city councilmember, I will bring that collaborative energy to the governing of our city in the form of balanced leadership.
Michael Nolan: The homeless situation in Ventura. I believe in feeding the hungry and sheltering those that do not have shelter. I believe that street camping and panhandling should be outlawed. You don’t see these kinds of problems we have in any other Ventura County city. I believe we can learn from those cities and how they handle those issues and make corrective action to resolve. We can’t expect to lure businesses or new families to Ventura until we resolve the issue. I am pro police and pro fire dept. I would work with the Caruso company or other to make the Pacific View Mall a 2,000-3,000-seat performing arts center and housing development for all income families. Maybe use the fairgrounds for a Double-A baseball team and entertainment venue. Ventura is the gateway to the Gold Coast of California and should be a highly desirable place to live
Please vote for me for District 7 city council and the future of Ventura.
Nancy Pedersen: I’m sure there are many things voters have not asked about me or that I haven’t shared in my campaign and marketing materials — 61 years is a long time and there are lots of chapters to my story (and hopefully still many more to come). Particularly relevant to me but also relevant to the role I am seeking on council is my 2017 walk on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. I started this 500-mile walk solo but along the way developed an amazing community of fellow travelers who I now call friends — many visiting me in Ventura, and some cheering me on from down-under or Canada, Arkansas and Florida, but all still sharing life and community three years later. As I look at the opportunity to serve the city of Ventura, I am hopeful that I can work with others to be a part of similarly strengthening the fabric of community in Ventura, building a culture of partnership and respect while we share the journey, and an excitement and anticipation for what comes next.
Joe Schroeder: It’s important for today’s leaders to do good and do well. While the financial bottom line is important, it is also necessary to be a compassionate and collaborative leader. Listening and understanding the issues and concerns presented by those in our community is essential. FINALLY…Extensive financial experience and committed community service will allow me to help resolve the challenges that face us.