Why Have the Ojai Valley Defense Fund?
The Ojai Valley Defense Fund provides financial support to groups undertaking legal action to protect and sustain the environmental quality of the Ojai Valley for the public benefit. The purpose of this nonprofit charitable corporation is to receive and distribute contributions from individuals, estates, governmental bodies, corporations, foundations, and any other source for the benefit of the mission of the Ojai Valley Defense Fund. The OVDF is a nonprofit public benefit Corporation and is not organized for the private gain of any person. It is organized under the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law for public and charitable purposes.
MEET OUR TEAM
We are grateful for the tireless efforts of our volunteers, past and present, who work together to protect the Ojai Valley for all of us — the generations of today and tomorrow. We are an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff. If you are interested in joining us, please do not hesitate to let us know, by clicking here!
Board of Directors
Peter Cantle (President)
Misty (Volaski) Hall
Jean Kilmurray MacCalla
John Broesamle (Founder & board member emeritus)
Legal Advisory Committee
Dave Neville (Chair)
Board of Directors
Peter Cantle is a founder, board member, past president and the current president of the Defense Fund. Peter and his wife Cindy, both native Californians, have lived in the Ojai Valley for more than 20 years and raised their two sons here. Peter sees the Ojai Valley as an iconic slice of California that elsewhere has disappeared under the onslaught of urbanization. He supports the Defense Fund as the best option for keeping Ojai a beautiful, livable place for future generations.
Lisa Casoni has a background in sales and marketing, having worked for such companies as Coldwell Banker, Giorgio Armani, and Prada. Lisa moved to Ojai in 2010 and in 2013, she was a co-creator of the Ojai Art Festival. Later that year, with Heather Stobo, she took over management of The Porch Gallery Ojai. In her own words: "Moving here in 2009, I immediately felt a connection to the beautiful environment that those of us who live here enjoy and shouldn’t take for granted. The efforts to preserve this special valley from over-development from numerous challenges and other environmental threats is ongoing. I’m proud to be working with such a dedicated group whose primary mission is a deep concern for the environment and its preservation now, and in the future."
Amy Denton has been a professor of biology at California State University Channel Islands since 2003. Originally from New York, Amy studies how climate and geology have influenced the evolution and distribution of arctic and alpine plant populations and their gene; understanding how plants adapted to past environmental shifts may help predict how species in cold regions will respond to future climate change. In addition to undergraduate courses in botany and evolutionary biology, Amy regularly teaches lifelong learning courses and gives public lectures on natural history (and natural historians), the flora and fauna of mountain and polar regions, scientists at sea, biotechnology, climate change, and citizen science. She moved to Ojai 2008 to be closer to the trees and mountains, and to be a part of a community genuinely committed to environmental conservation.
Jack Dyer relocated to Ojai in 2014 after living in various locations around California; Ojai just felt like home. Jack started Topa Topa Brewing Company along with his business partners shortly after arriving in the valley and has grown the business to include regional distribution and a number of satellite taprooms. Jack began volunteering with the Ojai Valley Defense Fund almost immediately after moving to Ojai in 2014. Jack loves anything outdoors and spends his time hiking and biking in the hills surrounding Ojai, as well as surfing, sailing and paddling in the great Pacific ocean down the hill. In addition to serving on the OVDF Board, Jack also serves as a board member on the Central Coast Brewers Guild and as a Committee Member on the Brewers Association. Jack remains quite active in local charity work both individually and through his business, Topa Topa Brewing Company.
Greg Grinnell first visited Ojai when he was very young. Many years later, he moved his family to Ojai and realize the benefits of living in the Valley. His interest in the Ojai Valley Defense Fund (OVDF) was immediate after understanding its unique approach to looking after the interest of the Ojai Valley and its residents. His career was in the international arena, and he was able to see the effects of growth in many parts of the world. As Southern California continues to grow, the Ojai Valley is no longer considered remote. “What changes will result due to increased awareness of the Ojai Valley is what draws me to the OVDF and to participate in the organization's efforts to make sure that our small community is able to be heard and its interests respected,” he says. “Now I would like to help the residents of the Ojai Valley in looking after the spirit that is Ojai.”
Misty (Volaski) Hall has been a photographer, graphic designer, and writer in the Ojai Valley for almost 20 years. Her background is in journalism; she served as sports editor, then managing editor of the Ojai Valley News and Visitors Guide from 2001 to 2015. She now works in admission, marketing, and communications for Ojai Valley School. In her free time, she enjoys writing for regional publications, shooting photos, and camping as often as possible with her husband, Logan. Growing up in Ojai Misty developed a deep love for the outdoors, and could often be found roaming the hills and creeks looking for lizards, interesting rocks, and wildflowers. Misty traces her Ojai roots back five generations, and is proud to be part of an organization working to maintain this incredible place for generations to come.
Jim Jackson is a filmmaker and owner a production company. He has won two EMMY Awards, both for PBS programs on the environment. He and his wife, Susan, have lived in Ojai since 1992. Their twin sons, Evan and Ryan, were born here in town in 1999, and graduated from The Thacher School in 2017. Jim was on the Ojai Land Conservancy Board for six years, serving as President for three of those years. As President, Jim guided the acquisition of the Ventura River Preserve, helped open Cluff Vista Park, and helped orchestrate the restoration of the Ojai Meadows Preserve. He is currently on the Board of Directors for Senior Canyon Mutual Water Company. In his free time, he is an avid tennis player. Jim joined the OVDF Board to help preserve and protect the valley and its natural resources. He hopes that his two sons will be able enjoy the valley as he and his wife have.
Chris Land arrived in Ojai in 2002 and has been in charge of communications at The Thacher School since 2005. He has raised four children in the valley and looks forward to introducing their children one day to the same trails and vistas that their parents knew.
Jean Kilmurray MacCalla is a lifetime Southern Californian, educated at Occidental College as an undergraduate and USC for graduate school. She was a teacher and librarian in the Los Angeles Unified School District for more than 30 years before moving to the Ojai Valley. The first time Jean visited Ojai, it was as an adult. It took her back to the idyllic citrus orchards and grape vineyards of her youth in Alta Loma/Cucamonga. That way of life is gone from there now. When she moved to Ojai after retirement, she was delighted to be in this charming village that seems a throwback to an earlier California. She tells us that "I could not fathom how it had stayed so, and then I learned of the dedication, work and money spent by certain Ojaians to protect this spot. It has not been easy, and I am proud to be working with a group intent on continuing to preserve the beauty and integrity of this beloved valley."
Carolyn Vondriska is the third generation in her family to call Ojai “home.” Both sets of her grandparents split time between Ojai and Yosemite, as do her parents. Carolyn finally had the opportunity to become a full-time resident of Ojai in 2007, along with husband Gil and their three young children. She is delighted to serve on the Board of the OVDF because it is helping to ensure the environmental well-being and livability of the Ojai Valley for future generations. She sees the Ojai Valley as one of the few reminders of what old Southern California used to be, and is committed to protecting what makes it a privilege to live here. Carolyn is happiest when hiking, backpacking, and fly-fishing in the Los Padres and Eastern Sierra.
John Broesamle is a founder of the Ojai Valley Defense Fund, a retired professor of history at California State University-Northridge, and the author of several books. He has lived in the Ojai Valley for 30 years, and believes the Ojai Valley Defense Fund is an insurance policy against outrageous development and resource-exploitation proposals that have threatened the valley's well-being for over half a century — on an average of twice per decade. His grandchildren are the fourth generation of his family to be lucky enough to live in the Ojai Valley, and he feels an obligation to do all he can so that the valley will provide them with the quality of life that it has their predecessors.
Legal Advisory Committee
Dave Neville has practiced law for 30 years. He earned his J.D. from University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in 1990, and an LL.M. in Taxation at the University of San Diego School of Law in 1993. He represents individuals and entities in matters of business, real property, estate planning, tax and litigation. Dave also gives generously of his time in pro bono work, including not only his long-standing efforts for the Ojai Valley Defense Fund (as counsel to the Board of Directors and one of the original founders of the organization), also as former member of the Rotary Club of Ojai, and as the former Chairman of the Board of HELP of Ojai, among other organizations. Dave was raised in Malibu and fell in love with the Ojai Valley as it reminded him of what Malibu was like back ‘in the day'. Dave has lived in Ojai since 2002 with his wife and two teenage children. He is an avid hiker and surfer, and enjoys Ojai for its proximity to the wilderness and the ocean.
Chris Borgeson is an Ojai native, a lawyer and business consultant. After graduating from Nordhoff High School and the University of California at Santa Cruz, he worked for the U.S. Treasury Department as an investigator of alleged discriminatory use of federal funds by state and local governments. He then attended law school at Hastings College of the Law and began his legal career as a civil trial lawyer with Long & Levit in San Francisco, specializing in professional liability defense and complex insurance coverage matters. He would go on to work for a large commercial insurer based in Chicago, and over 12 years hold various executive positions within the property and casualty insurance industry in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. He moved back to Ojai in 2004, and 3 years later co-founded Hiles Borgeson LLC, a Los Angeles law firm providing legal services purchasing and oversight services for insurers in high stakes litigation across the country. Chris retired from law practice in 2014 but continues to serve as a consultant and expert witness in insurance coverage, bad faith and professional liability suits and is senior counsel with the law firm of O’Hagan Meyer. Chris is married to Jill (Blumenthal) Borgeson, a social worker and consultant to Ventura County Children and Family Services. They have 3 adult children and a granddaughter.
Chris Cohen is an attorney is Sustainable Law Group. Prior to practicing law, he was a government relations professional for Scripps Institution of Oceanography for nearly 10 years, where he advocated for earth and ocean science programs and acquired an in-depth knowledge of environmental science and policy issues. Chris also volunteers as Chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors’ Ojai Valley Municipal Advisory Council, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture. He and his wife were drawn to Ojai by its natural beauty, small town charm, and welcoming community. Chris says, “For me, Ojai is the perfect combination of, on one hand, a small, peaceful town surrounded by wilderness — and on the other, a thriving community of artists, musicians, and thought and business leaders … This balance doesn't happen by accident. It takes intention and is worth protecting.”
Leif Dautch is an Ojai native and graduate of Oak Grove School, Yale, and Harvard Law School. Since 2014, he has been working to ensure proper regulation of oil and gas development in Ventura County, particularly in and around the Sespe Wilderness. He believes firmly in OVDF's mission of finding the proper balance of conservation and development in our slice of paradise. By day, Leif is a Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice, where he is a prosecutor in the Criminal Division.
Anthony (Tony) Glassman graduated from USC with a degree in literature and political science, where he also was a member of their baseball team, including its 1960 win at the College World Series. Tony attended law school at the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley. Upon graduation, he joined the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. Tony thereafter formed his own firm, where he tried both civil and criminal cases. Tony has tried over 100 civil and criminal trials to jury verdict, and has handled numerous appellate matters before the California Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits. Tony's current practice focuses in the areas of First Amendment rights, media law, product disparagement, publicity and privacy rights, crisis management, and white-collar criminal defense. During his more than 50-year career, Tony has represented the tabloid, Globe, for whom he tried numerous cases, Playboy Enterprises, Inc. and its founder, Hugh Hefner. Among his many media cases, Tony successfully defended Hugh Hefner in a defamation claim and won two jury verdicts on behalf of the largest shareholder of Santa Barbara Savings & Loan against the New York Times. Tony has lived in Ojai for over 30 years.
Rich Holly is a retired attorney living in Ojai with his wife, Carol, an Ojai native. When the couple moved to Ojai in 1975, Carol showed Rich the many trails and other places where she, her sister and friends would ride their horses growing up. “Over the years, hiking those same trails with our children and living in Ojai has imprinted a deep love and appreciation for this wonderful and unique place,” Rich said. “I am very grateful to be included among the legal advisors to help defend and preserve the Ojai Valley.”
Stuart Meiklejohn is a retired partner of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. He lived in Ojai from 2005 to 2019, when, sadly but understandably, he moved to the Northeast, where he spent much of his earlier adult life. While in Ojai, he could walk out his door and be in the Los Padres National Forest, and he took full advantage of the hiking and cycling opportunities available in Shangri-La. He and Mary Ann O'Connor were early and eager supporters of the Defense Fund when John and Kathy Broesamle approached them, and have continued their support through a year that some might question on mortality table grounds. Stuart hopes Ojai manages to keep itself vibrant at the same time it retains the wonderful qualities that drew him there in the first place.
Kevin Ruf graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan. He has worked for Manatt Phelps & Phillips specializing in commercial litigation, and Corbin & Fitzgerald (with future federal district court Judge Michael Fitzgerald), specializing in white collar criminal defense work. Since 2001, he has focused on class action plaintiffs’ law at the firm Glancy, Prongay & Murray LLP, where he is a partner and Head of the firm’s Labor and Consumer Law practice. He has successfully argued a number of important appeals, including in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and has twice argued cases before the California Supreme Court – winning both. Since 2014, Kevin has been an elected member of the Ojai Unified School District School Board. Kevin and his wife, Asli, have three children, all of whom attend the Ojai public schools, where Asli is a full-time volunteer.
Brian Segee currently serves as Senior Attorney in the Endangered Species Program at the Center for Biological Diversity. Previously, he worked for the Environmental Defense Center in Ventura County and Santa Barbara, Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C., and the Center in Tucson. He received his law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law and undergraduate degree in political science from the University of California at San Diego.
Sabrina Venskus is the principal of the law firm Venskus & Associates, a litigation practice that specializes in environmental and natural resources, land use and zoning, housing rights, historic and archeological preservation, energy regulation, and open government law such as the Federal Freedom of Information Act and California Public Records Act. Ms. Venskus has been featured on the cover of the Daily Journal and in the L.A. Weekly's annual Best of L.A. People. For the past five years, Ms. Venskus has been recognized by her peers as a SuperLawyer, an honor which places her in the top 5% of all attorneys in Southern California. She has presented at the California Bar Association’s Environmental Law Conference, Los Angeles County Bar Association, UCLA, USC, Loyola, and Chapman University on groundwater contamination, California Environmental Quality Act, land use and zoning law, government disclosure, archeological resource preservation, and housing issues. Ms. Venskus represents clients in a broad array of forums including: city and county quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial processes; proceedings before the California Coastal Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission; actions before the California superior, appellate, and Supreme Courts; and matters before federal district courts and the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeal. Ms. Venskus graduated as a Cornelius Honor Society member from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, earning a certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
Carolyn Vondriska is a graduate of the University of California, Davis School of Law, where she earned membership in the prestigious Order of the Coif national honor society. Upon graduation, she clerked for United States District Judge Milton L. Schwartz in Sacramento, thereafter joining the litigation department of the international law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco. She went on to become a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Clark County, Washington, where she handled both misdemeanor and felony cases, including charging, trial, and appeal. Carolyn relocated to the Ojai Valley from the Pacific Northwest in 2007, where she became a third generation client at the law firm of Waite, Jacobs & Atkinson, followed shortly thereafter by her joining the firm. Carolyn has practiced in the areas of estate planning and administration since 2011. As a former litigator, Carolyn saw first-hand how expensive and consuming a legal battle can be, especially those of the scale that have threatened the Ojai Valley in recent decades. Like so many attorneys in the Ojai Valley, Carolyn is enormously impressed by the community’s forward-thinking effort to render itself ready for the next environmental threat, and the Fund’s deterrent effect in particular. The fact that the Ojai Valley appears to be the only community that has been proactive in this manner is an important example of what we as neighbors and friends have accomplished together.
At least 60 percent of the OVDF investment portfolio's net assets are invested in fixed income securities with active management of maturities. These fixed income securities are heavily weighted toward FDIC-insured deposits or government-backed Treasuries. Other fixed income securities include investment-grade quality bonds, preferred stocks, and insured money markets. Up to 40 percent of the portfolio may be invested in equities, which will be diversified primarily among mid-to-large capitalization companies. Preservation of capital will consistently hold priority over capital appreciation. The Ojai Valley Defense Fund works with local banks, financial, tax, and legal professionals.