VCAAA ADVISORY COUNCIL MENU
Meet our Advisory Council! If you are interested in getting involved, please visit our Become a Member page.
Meet our Advisory Council! If you are interested in getting involved, please visit our Become a Member page.
Karen Gorback, Ph.D., is a retired dean from the Ventura County Community College District who taught in the Graduate Schools of Education at CLU and CSUN. A former chair of the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging, Karen currently serves as a Senior Senator in the California Senior Legislature. She is a past Ms. Senior Ventura County and is enjoying an encore career as a writer.
Martha Shapiro, LCSW, is director of programs for Senior Concerns and oversees the Adult Day Program and the Caregiver Support Center, ensuring participants are treated with dignity and respect to maximize quality of life. She earned a master’s degree in social welfare from UCLA and holds a license in clinical social work. Martha serves on the LGBT Aging Coalition of Ventura County, the Ventura County Compassionate Care Coalition, and Dementia Friendly Ventura County.
William (“Bill”) Nelson is a senior-level human resources professional with more than 35 years of experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations across diverse locations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia. He is an active volunteer with Caregivers and the Humane Society, and sits on the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Board of Directors.
We honor Suz Montgomery’s dedication as chair of the VCAAA Advisory Council, a role she held at the time of her passing in October 2021. Suz’s passion for serving older adults was unmatched, and she proudly represented the City of Ventura on the Advisory Council for many years.
Carmen E. Reyes is the Director of Community Engagement for the UCLA Department of Medicine. She has more than 50 years of experience in health and human services with an emphasis in the field of aging and aging service network systems. Her work in academic community-partnered research builds meaningful academic/community/stakeholder partnerships. These partnerships form an equitable framework for culturally/linguistically-responsive studies to address health disparities, and inform and advance public policy to improve health status of older persons and systems of care.
Nancy Rowe formerly lived in Oxnard and was a member of Oxnard’s Senior Services Commission. While there, she served as Chair of both Oxnard’s Commission and the VCAAA. After a move to Camarillo in 2014, Nancy became involved with the Camarillo Council on Aging, and now acts as the liaison between the VCAAA and the CCOA. Serving seniors has always been one of her passions. She is currently involved with the Leisure Village Women’s Club, where she resides, and is Vice President.
Carina Forsythe served 23 years in the military (U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, retired). She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in liberal arts from Excelsior University in Albany, N.Y. Carina is also a retired judicial assistant for a U.S. federal judge in the Central District of California. She is a published author of several local history books, a screenwriter, and a contributing column writer for the Fillmore Gazette.
Anna Reilley is a realtor at RE/MAX Gold Coast who is committed to helping clients achieve their property goals with expertise and integrity. With 30+ years of marriage to Daniel Reilley and five wonderful children, Anna is a strong believer in community engagement. She serves as a board member for the local Rotary Club, participates actively in the San Buenaventura Women’s Club, and holds the position of Director of Senior Outreach at the First Baptist Church in Fillmore. She has a master’s degree in business and a minor in leadership from the University of La Verne.
Lyn Cotwright has been a Ventura County resident for more than 45 years. She works as a Real Estate Planner with Keller Williams Realty. She is a certified Senior Relocation Specialist and also holds certifications in 1031 Exchanges, DST’s and Trust and Probate. Cotwright also volunteers her time at her grandchildren’s school as PTA Vice President of the Ladera Stars Academy.
Bill Nugent’s professional life involved 38 years of law enforcement. He spent nine years with the Port Hueneme Police Department, 22 years with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and eight years with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. Bill and his wife have two children. He is currently a board member for Help of Ojai, a counselor for the Heath Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, and an AARP income tax preparer.
Clark Owens, a resident of west Ventura County since 1967, was an area realtor for 45 years. He serves on the Oxnard Senior Services Commission for a new senior center. As co-chair of the VC Coalition of Home Modification, he helped seniors and adults with disabilities continue to live independently. He has also held roles on the Ventura Planning Commission, was Chairman of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, and served as President of the Ventura Board of Realtors.
Alice Frost Sweetland was born at Lying Inn Hospital in Oxnard. She has volunteered with St. John’s Hospital Auxiliary for almost 50 years, served on the Board of the St. John’s Healthcare Foundation, and belonged to VC Forty Leaguers. She is chair of the Oxnard Senior Services Commission and is the coordinator of a speakers’ bureau of senior citizens for the VCOE. A recent widow after 52 years of marriage, she spent most of her married life in Oxnard. Alice has three children and two grandchildren.
Jonnie Lisman is a representative from the City of Port Hueneme.
Luis Mendez II has been a resident of Port Hueneme for more than 35 years and has a deep connection with the city. He graduated from Hueneme High School and he has a B.A. in communications from CSU Northridge. He works in the mortgage industry and helps local families achieve their dream of home ownership. More recently, he has found himself advocating for the elderly in his family.
Dr. Maria Munguía Wellman, LISW, LCSW, has served as clinical staff at the University of New Mexico Children’s Psychiatric Center, and as Assistant Professor at New Mexico Highlands University. She taught human diversity/multicultural theory, clinical practice, and qualitative research at NMHU. She remains committed to the ongoing interdisciplinary study, practice, and teaching of identity, community, and culture.
Dana Tomarken has been appointed to represent Santa Paula.
Al Brown volunteers extensively in his community, including as a board member for the Simi Valley Council on Aging, as the vice chair of the Simi Valley Neighborhood Council #2, as a member of the of the Simi Youth Employment Services Advisory Board, and as a monitor for the Simi Senior Center Computer Lab. He is a Distinguished Toastmaster and a retired magician.
Stephanie Belding has been a Ventura County resident for more than 40 years. She currently serves as a Commissioner and Vice-Chair for the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging. She is a retired school teacher and spent nearly 40 years dedicated to serving students in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Patricia (Patti) Lownes is a 40-year resident of Ventura County. She has been a commissioner for the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging for three years, most recently serving as the Chair. She is recently retired, spending her spare time training for triathlons and long-distance swims. She is looking forward to bringing her perspective on the maturing adult experience to the VCAAA.
Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios was appointed by Supervisor Matt LaVere. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in higher education leadership at Cal Lutheran. She serves as District Director for the California State Assembly and lives in Ventura with her husband Otto and two grown children. Jeannette enjoys trail running as well as spending time in her garden.
Sylvia Taylor-Stein is Executive Director of the Ventura County Ombudsman Program, overseeing the county’s long-term care services. She serves on the board of the California Long Term Care Ombudsman Association and is a member and former officer of the National Association of Local LTCO. She is a member of Consumer Voice and CANHR Least Medicating Team and chairs the Committee for an Independent State Ombudsman, a sponsor of SB 345, the LTCO Program Independence and Improvement Act of 2012.
Denise Calhoun is a postdoc fellow and adjunct professor in Pepperdine University’s graduate school of education. As a National Board-Certified Teacher, Dr. Calhoun developed a language arts curriculum for older adults titled, Changing Seasons: A Language Arts Curriculum for Healthy Aging, published by Purdue University Press. She has a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential from UCLA, a master’s degree from CSUN and an EdD and PhD from Pepperdine University, where her research was focused on linking language to cognitive functioning.
Anita Ruiz has been appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
Sue Hughes was selected to represent District 3.
Smita Dandekar enjoys teaching “Yoga for Wellness” classes at the Simi Valley Senior Center. As a retired person, she works with the members of the VCAAA Advisory Council and volunteers to help seniors in any way she can.
Blair Barker, MPH, is the Care Services Director at the Camarillo Health Care District and oversees the Caregiver Center, Senior Nutrition Program, and evidence-based health promotion programming. She received her master’s degree in public health, with an emphasis in community health education, from CSU Northridge. Blair serves on the Dementia Friendly Ventura County, Caregiver Consortium, and Ventura County Health Improvement Collaborative. She is an adjunct faculty at CSU Channel Islands in their health sciences department.
Peter Schreiner, LCSW, is currently the Clinic Administrator of the Older Adult and Benefits programs with Ventura County Behavioral Health. He has worked with seriously mentally ill consumers with the Youth and Family Division and now with the Adult Division for approximately 20 years. He received his master’s of social work from UCLA and is a diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, providing coaching and training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for VCBH staff.
Ronald Berkowsky is an Assistant Professor of Health Science at California State University Channel Islands, where he specializes in gerontological coursework and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Center for Multicultural Engagement. Ronald also serves on the LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) Constituency Council for the American Society on Aging.
Sue Tatangelo was selected to represent consumer service providers.
Lynette Harvey is an RN whose background includes acute care, home health, managed care, and national health plan experience. Currently the Clinical Services Director at the Camarillo Health Care District, Lynette leads the Care Management Department, as well as clinical oversight for all District programs. Due to her varied work across the health care continuum, she brings a unique perspective to the Advisory Council.
Carol Leish graduated from CSU San Bernardino with a master’s degree in education. She has worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations in Ventura County. She currently works as a reporter for the Ventura Breeze and operates Call Me Capable, providing in-service presentations to educate others that we are all more similar than different.
Reynaldo Rivera was selected to represent the veterans population.
Maureen O’Keefe Hodge, LCSW, has dedicated her career to working with vulnerable and high-risk populations in California as well as in three other countries. She is passionate about bringing private and public services together to better serve those in need. She currently manages a grant specific for caregivers through Community Memorial Hospital and is collaborating with multiple organizations in an effort to enhance services for caregivers in Ventura County.
Tony Gitt is the founder of Conejo Valley Village and is a Commissioner on the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging. He has served as chairperson of the Conejo Valley Unified School District Measure I Bond Oversite committee. He also serves on the California Senior Legislature as a Senior Assemblymember. During his career in aerospace, Tony helped develop the original military GPS receivers as well as inertial navigation systems for commercial and military aircraft.
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