The Board of Trustees of Ventura Land Trust elected a new leadership slate to start 2021. Retired Ventura city manager Mark Watkins will serve as Board President, backed by Vice President Jill Shaffer. Sylvia Schnopp steps into the role of treasurer and John Hankins continues as secretary.

Mark Watkins, a registered California Civil Engineer, has enjoyed a long career of public service working for the County of Kern as the Public Works Director, for the City of Thousand Oaks, and most recently as City Manager for the City of Ventura. Mark retired from the City of Ventura in 2017.

Watkins takes the helm months after Ventura Land Trust opened Harmon Canyon Preserve, a project 10 years in the making. The preserve, open daily to the public for free, offers over 2,100 acres of land to the public. More than eight miles of trails for hiking and biking wind through meadows and oak groves. The land is permanently designated for conservation. “We’re here for the long run. A land trust is forever and is a steward to the land,” says Watkins.

Executive Director Derek Poultney is grateful for Watkins’s expertise and guidance. “Now that Harmon Canyon Preserve is open and thousands of people are able to enjoy Ventura’s hillsides for the first time in generations, we have the opportunity to collaborate with the community in new ways. Mark’s leadership has been instrumental in connecting us with new partners and navigating our growth and development as an organization,” says Poultney.

Jill Shaffer has served as a nonprofit leader and development professional for the past 30 years. She currently is the Fund Development Director at the Ventura County Community Development Corporation. Sylvia Schnopp joined Ventura Land Trust’s board in 2019. She currently serves as REI’s Central Coast Corporate Market Coordinator, where she advocates for stewarding of the land using collaborative solutions. Continuing board trustees are immediate past-president Don Wood, Steve Doll, Jermaine Jackson, Dennis Kulzer, Jane Montague, Ozzie Rios, and Scott Weiss.