By Nao Braverman
Senior councilman Joe DeVito will take his seat as mayor of Ojai for the fifth time in his career on Tuesday.
It has been a long road and he has stuck it out for 21 years, but this will be his last term, he said. At this time in his life he wants to do some traveling and spend time with family. That doesn’t mean his efforts will wane, however.
“I’ll work as hard this term as I ever have,” he said.
Though the job pays a small stipend of $65 per meeting, $30 for serving on the Redevelopment Commission and $35 for City Council, with benefits, DeVito said it has mostly been an enjoyable experience to work with an exceptional staff and other council members who have the city’s best interests at heart.
He supports the council’s primary goal which is to keep up to par with finances, according to DeVito.
“We have been on track the past few years and we need to keep our reserves replenished,” he said. He will also prioritize adoption of an approvable housing element, and looks forward to seeing how the new chain store ordinance plays out in the years to come.
A longtime councilman who prides himself on being an available and accessible representative who always considers public concerns, DeVito took a blow in late April when a recall petition was circulated against him. Primarily due to his “no”dissenting vote, which stalled the initiation of a moratorium against chain stores; petition circulators changed their minds after DeVito subsequently voted in favor of the moratorium. Though the petition was retracted soon after, it was still an arduous experience.
“It was extremely difficult to deal with and I felt like I was personally attacked, like my reputation and character were being dragged through the mud,” he said.
The good that came out of the ordeal, however, was the multitude of supporters who came up to him and showed their appreciation for his work, he said.
“People who I had never met came out of the woodwork to thank me for my representation on the council,” he said.
DeVito has also been re-energized by chairing the Ventura Transportation Commission for the first time and the board of Gold Coast Transit, formerly known as SCAT, which he has chaired three times.
His involvement on those boards has enabled him to coordinate between the local trolley service and the Gold Coast bus, bring further funding to Ojai for transportation efforts, and keep local public transportation options attractive enough for people to use them, he said.
City manager Jere Kersnar said he is confident that DeVito will be able to effectively take on the role of mayor once again.
“He has been mayor before and he’s been the chair of VCTC, which I imagine is an even harder task. I’m sure that being mayor will be a lesser challenge for him.”
By Nao Braverman