LOS ANGELES, CA (January 25, 2023)—The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy announced today the election of its new officers for 2023. Rudy J. Ortega Jr., Tribal President, Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, was unanimously elected Chairperson. Appointed to the Conservancy by the Governor, Ortega Jr. Is the first Native American Chair in the history of the Conservancy. Hon. Steve Veres, a Trustee of the Los Angeles Community College District and the Public Member appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, was elected Vice Chairperson. The Chairperson and the Vice Chairperson are selected by the voting members of the Conservancy for a one-year term.

Rudy Ortega, Jr. is the Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, a native sovereign nation of northern Los Angeles County. As the elected leader of his Tribe, Ortega Jr. oversees the governmental body and manages affairs pertaining to the rights of all Fernandeño Tataviam tarahat (people). Ortega Jr. is a member of Siutcabit, the lineage of present-day Encino, CA. His ancestors come from the villages that originated in the geographical areas of Santa Clarita Valley, Simi Valley, and San Fernando Valley. His great-grandfather Antonio Maria Ortega, from whom he receives his traditional role as tomiar or leader, fought in Los Angeles Superior Court in the 19th century to preserve traditional lands and protect Native title to Mexican land grants from encroaching settlers. His father, the late Rudy Ortega Sr., served as the previous leader of the Tribe for over fifty years.

Steve Veres has served as a Trustee of the Los Angeles Community College District since 2011.  He has led efforts to improve graduation and transfer rates and workforce and career pathway programs. He led the adoption of the District’s Award-winning Clean Energy and Sustainability Program and has presided over nearly $4B in facility improvements at all 9 Colleges. Under Steve’s leadership, LACCD has built more LEED Certified/ Energy Efficient facilities than any other Community College District in the nation. With over 20 years of public service in the San Fernando Valley, he worked as a teacher, college instructor, journalist, and news editor. He is the former mayor of the City of San Fernando.  Steve has also worked for the California State Legislature for nearly 20 years. He is the Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Maria Elena Durazo.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is composed of nine voting members and three ex officio members. The nine voting members represent local, state, and federal government including the Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, a member appointed by the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, a public member appointed by the Governor, a public member appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, one public member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, a member appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a member appointed by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, the designee of the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency of California, and the Superintendent of the Angeles District of California State Parks. Ex Officio Members include the Supervisor of the Angeles National Forest and appointees of the California Coastal Conservancy and the California Coastal Commission.

A 26-member Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of local jurisdictions and members appointed by the Governor, the Senate Rules Committee, and the Speaker of the Assembly advise the Conservancy. Hon. Illece Buckley Weber was elected Chairperson for 2023.  Sean Anderson, Ph.D., Representative of the County of Ventura, was elected Vice Chairperson.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy was established by the State Legislature in 1980. Since that time, it has helped to preserve over 75,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings. Its mission is to strategically buy back, preserve, protect, restore, and enhance treasured pieces of Southern California to form an interlinking system of urban, rural, and river parks, open space, trails, and wildlife habitats that are easily accessible to the general public.

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Conservancy Announces New Officers for 2023

Photo of Rudy J. Ortega, Jr.