Museum of Ventura County Elects New Board

The Museum of Ventura County recently announced that it has elected a new board of directors who will direct the museum’s fundraising, exhibits and programming, connecting the community with the history and culture. “We have a past, present and future that make us a celebrated place to live or visit,” said Elena Brokaw, interim executive director of the museum. “Our mission is to present the history, events, activities and art that have created the culture of Ventura County, and we are fortunate to have these leaders at the helm.”

In alphabetical order, the new board members are:

Yissel Barajas

Yissel Barajas is the chief human resources officer (CHRO) for Reiter Affiliated Companies (RAC), the world’s largest fresh multi-berry producer. Yissel leads RAC’s talent, culture and leadership strategies, ensuring the human resources strategy is aligned with business objectives.

Betsy Chess

Born into a pioneer Santa Paula ranching family, Betsy Blanchard Chess grew up with a desire to understand and preserve Ventura County agriculture. She has a keen awareness and respect for the contributions of the past as they enrich the future. She continues her family’s deep commitment to community involvement and support. She has written extensively on Ventura County agricultural and business history and in 1988 became editor and publisher of The Broadcaster Magazine for the Farm Bureau of Ventura County.

William Kearney

A native Californian, Kearney joined Merrill Lynch in 1975 following a four year managerial position with a paper recycling plant. During his career with Merrill Lynch, Kearney enjoyed an advancing career and in 2004 was honored with the Merrill Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to serving on many non-profit boards, he has served as the president of six different Ventura County charitable organizations: Casa Pacifica, Ventura County Taxpayers Association, Rubicon Theatre Company, Ventura Rotary Club, the CSU Channel Islands Foundation Board and the Foundation Board for the Community Memorial Health System.

Gordon Kimball

Kimball has served as a director of the Limoneira company since 1995 and has been president of Kimball Engineering, Inc., which provides race car design and production services, since 1992. He is also managing partner of Kimball Ranches, a 110 acre avocado ranch near Santa Paula, California. Prior to that, he designed Formula One race cars in England and Italy for McLaren International, Ferrari and Benetton Racing, from 1984 to 1991. Prior to that, he designed Indianapolis race cars for Parnelli Jones, Chaparral and Patrick Racing teams, from 1976 to 1983. Mr. Kimball is a director of Rincon Investment Company.

Leslie Leavens

Leavens is vice president of finance and operations for her family’s farming company, Leavens Ranches LLC, growers of lemons and avocados in Ventura and Monterey Counties, and wine grapes in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey County. She serves on a number of ag industry-related boards including Saticoy Lemon Association, House Farm Workers, Farmers Irrigation and Alta Mutual Water Company. She is a past president of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, a graduate of the California Ag Leadership Program (Class 34) and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Al Lowe

Lowe has lived and worked in Camarillo for over 40 years. He has been a general contractor for over 38 years and is founder/president of Al Lowe Construction. He has served on the board of directors for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, Food Share and the Alliance for the Arts Board of Directors. He currently serves on the Camarillo Health Care District Advisory Panel and the Camarillo Hospice Advisory Panel. Lowe is a member and past president of the Camarillo Rotary Club and founded and co-chaired the Care for Kids Golf Classic, raising over 1.4 million dollars to benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.

Kate McLean

McLean provides consulting services to nonprofit organizations and foundations in areas of executive coaching, feasibility studies, strategic planning, community assessment, board development and program design. Kate has a deep history in starting and growing nonprofit programs and organizations. She helped create Interface Children, Family Services where she served as executive director for 18 years and she was the president of the Ventura County Community Foundation where she increased assets from $300,000 to more than $70 million in current and future planned gifts. She served on the inaugural boards of the Ventura County AIDS Partnership; the League of California Community Foundations; Ventura County Leadership Academy, KCLU-Ventura County’s National Public Radio station; California Child, Youth, Family Coalition, the Social Justice Fund for Ventura County and many others. She served on the boards for California Lutheran University, The Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Foundation, the Ventura County Civic Alliance and Interface. She currently is on the board of a national women’s health organization and she chairs the board for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.

Richard Rush

Rush served as president of California State University, Channel Islands, from June 2001 to August 2016. Rush serves or has served on the boards of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, Community Memorial Hospital, Casa Pacifica, California Campus Compact and American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Council of State Representatives, among others. In addition, he serves as chair of the P-20 Regional Council for the Improvement of College Attendance and Success which focuses on improving the college-going rates of students, particularly from communities with historically low participation.

Mike Sedell

Sedell retired in 2012 from the position of city manager with the City of Simi Valley, a position he had held with the unanimous support of his city councils for 17 years. Prior to that Sedell had served as Simi Valley’s assistant city manager, deputy city manager and various other city administrative positions for a total of 37 years with the City. He also served as chief of staff to Congressman (and former Simi Valley Mayor) Elton Gallegly in Washington D.C. and in California from 1986-1990. Sedell has donated significant time to many nonprofit organizations that were under severe financial stress and assisted in successfully turning them around. He has also assisted two cities that were on the verge of insolvency to stabilize their finances, and continues to assist the county, the cities, and special districts on a number of financially difficult projects. In 2013, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed him to a trustee position on the County’s Retirement Association Board, overseeing $4.2 billion of retirement funds on behalf of the County and its employees.

Jim Scanlon

Scanlon is area president for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Gallagher, which operates in over 120 countries and has revenues exceeding $5 billion. Prior to that he was the chairman and CEO of SGB-NIA Insurance Brokers for the past 31 years culminating in the sale of the firm to Gallagher in 2014. He has served on many boards including the board of governors of Legatus, board of regents of Thomas Aquinas College and at Holy Cross College. He is currently a board member of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Board. Jim was also a Vistage member for many years and a member of the local Legatus Chapter. He is a member of the board of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County and was a board member of the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.

Peter T. Zierhut

Zierhut is a senior-level manager at Haas Automation, Inc., responsible for oversight of Haas Automation’s HTEC-branded education program comprising more than 2000 institutions around the world that utilize Haas machine tools for educational purposes. Additional responsibilities include government relations, working with local, state, and federal lawmakers as well as industry associations. He is a member of the management committee at Windshear, Inc., a high-technology automotive wind tunnel owned by Haas Automation, and located in Concord, North Carolina. His volunteer roles include board member and manager of the Gene Haas Foundation, board member of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, member of the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County and board member of the National Institute for Metalworking Skills in Fairfax, Virginia.


The Museum of Ventura County, through its collections, exhibits, educational programs and publications, celebrates the history, art, and culture of Ventura County and the Channel Islands. Located at 100 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001, the museum is open Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed Monday). Admission is $5.00 Adults (18 years and older), $3.00 Seniors (62 and over) and Students with ID, $1.00 Children (17-6 years old); Children 5 years old and younger are free. For information, visit or call 805-653-0323.

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