Jackson to Honor "Women of the Year" in Santa Barbara and Ventura

March 08, 2017

SANTA BARBARA AND OXNARD – To commemorate Women’s History Month, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) will honor eight women from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties as the 19th Senate District’s 2017 ‘Women of the Year’ in separate ceremonies in each county. 

The women, chosen for their contributions to their communities, will be recognized at events held on March 10 and March 23. Female elected officials have been invited to attend Women of the Year events in their respective counties.

“It’s important that we recognize women who have and continue to achieve excellence and success,” Jackson said. “Each woman being honored has given of herself in significant ways in order to make our community a better place for us all.” 

Jackson’s Santa Barbara County Women of the Year will be honored at a reception on Friday, March 10 from 5-7 p.m. at the Downtown Center, 1221 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara. Due to limited space, the reception is closed to the public. However, members of the press are invited to cover the event.

The Santa Barbara County honorees are:

Sharon Hoshida is a long-time peace and social justice activist who has extensive ties to the Santa Barbara community. As the former director of the Women’s Center and founding member of the Asian American Faculty and Staff Association at UCSB, Sharon has dedicated her career to empowering students to become the next generation of activists fighting for gender, racial, and socio-economic justice. She has served as a volunteer and board member for various organizations that aim to raise awareness and better the lives of our community members, including the City of Santa Barbara’s Living Wage Coalition, Women’s Economic Justice Project, and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

Nancy K. Johnson has been giving back to the Santa Maria community for more than 50 years as an activist, philanthropist, and civic leader. She is a known humanitarian and loved by the community for her advocacy and volunteer service to organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the League of Women Voters. She served as a member of the community planning process for the City of Santa Maria and County of Santa Barbara for over 20 years. Supporting the arts has been one of Nancy’s passions and she has served as a board member and board president of the PCPA Foundation.

Cathy Murillo is the first Latina ever elected to the Santa Barbara City Council. Before entering public office, she was a journalist for the Los Angeles Times and Santa Barbara Independent as well as a radio and television producer at KCSB. She is currently serving her second term on the City Council representing district three, which includes West Downtown and Lower Westside neighborhoods. She is the founder of the Pro-Youth Movement, a forum addressing gang prevention. She has also sponsored a self-defense class for high school girls and organized large events, such as “Take Back the Beach,” to raise awareness on sexual assault issues and victim’s rights. 

Sherry Villanueva, managing partner for Acme Hospitality, has been the driving force behind the revitalization of the FunkZone in Santa Barbara. Her entrepreneurial spirit has brought together a group of successful restaurants and businesses and created a dynamic and active neighborhood. She is committed to the local Santa Barbara community and wider global community, and holds numerous volunteer and board roles with the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce, Community Action Fund for Women in Africa, and Direct Relief International and others.

Jackson’s 2017 Ventura County Women of the Year will be honored at a reception on Thursday, March 23rd from 5:30pm-7:30pm at Ventura County Credit Union, 2575 Vista Del Mar Dr. Suite 100, Ventura. Given limited space, the reception is closed to the public. However, members of the press are invited to cover the event.

The Ventura County honorees are: 

Kim Evans is the executive director and founder of the Ventura County Military Collaborative. She has been trained at the National Center for PTSD and has received the California Commendation Medal. She continues to receive awards for her work with military mental health and veteran advocacy. She has briefed and trained over 8,000 service members and their loved ones on pre-deployment, reintegration and combat stress. In addition, she has trained over 1,500 clinicians on military culture and PTSD and has briefed over 600 law enforcement officers throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Alicia Flores serves as the executive director of La Hermandad Hank Lacayo Youth and Family Center working to address the legal, social, educational, and economic inequities facing immigrants, their families, our youth, and the senior population. She has served as vice-president of the Congress of California Seniors since 2006 and serves as a member of the Consumer Advisory Committee of Gold Coast Health Plan. She is active in advocating and organizing for immigration rights and reform. She has assisted in the planning of large national movements, including the “Gran Marcha” in 2006.

Dr. Cynthia Herrera is currently the dean of institutional effectiveness at Oxnard College.  Prior to this position, she served as the Director of Project ASCENSIÓN, an initiative to enhance STEM educational programs and partnerships throughout the pre-school through graduate level pipeline.  She is a recipient of the 2015 and 2016 Chairman’s Award of Excellence from the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, 2015 Latino Business Award sponsored by the Pacific Coast Business Times and the 2015 Ventura County Star’s 25 over 50 Award. 

Suz Montgomery has long been a passionate advocate for seniors as a teacher with the Ventura Unified School Districts’ adult education program and creator of the Extended Learning Academy. In between work, she visits other seniors in care homes and the hospital, arranges for ‘victory gardens’ and works with the Area Agency on Aging, Ventura Council for Seniors, and the Westside Action Committee. The long-running “Schmooze with Suz” TV interview show has brought her thousands of fans and followers and her activism has earned her numerous awards, notably Local Hero, the “25 over 50” outstanding citizen’s award, and an LGBTQ recognition award.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.