Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau Board of Directors

Effective July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025

Executive  Committee

Brian Pendleton

Brian Pendleton | Chairperson – General Manager, Ventura Port District

Let’s start with the important part — Brian and his wife Arlene, a counselor with California State University Channel Islands’ School of Education, are longtime Ventura County residents, where they raised their three (now) adult children. On paper, Brian is the General Manager for the Ventura Port District, which owns and operates Ventura Harbor. In life, this means he oversees a vast swath of things, from the harbor’s large commercial fishing facilities, to its shops, restaurants, hotels, timeshares, marinas, boatyards, mobile home parks and new rental housing; along with overseeing the Port District’s finances. Yes, that is a long sentence.

Community Service (short version): Board of Directors, Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau (VVCB). Board of Directors, Ventura Chamber of Commerce. Board Member, California Marine Affairs & Navigation Conference (CMANC), which represents all of California’s Ports and Harbors. Ventura Port District representative and member of the Ventura County Special Districts Association (VCSDA).

Victor Dollar

Victor Dollar | Treasurer- Large Hotel/Operator, Four Points by Sheraton

Again, let’s start with the important things; Victor, married to Karen, is a father to two and a grandfather to four. Hobbies (when he can find the time), golf, and fishing. A buzzsaw of energetic passion, his efforts have earned him plenty of recognition, including, when he worked for Marriott, a coveted Silver Award for Guest Satisfaction. Currently, Senior Vice President of Sales for Brighton Management, Victor oversees operations for a number of local hotel properties, including the Ventura Beach Marriott, where he isn’t resting on the laurels of his previous Guest Satisfaction award. And, on a serious note, heartfelt thank you, Victor, for your Army service, including a year in Vietnam.

Community Service (short version): Chairman of the Ventura County Lodging Association, Board Member of the Workforce Development Board (previous Chairman 2015-2016), Board Member of the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau, and previous Chairman of Tri-County Lodging Association.

Board of Directors & Committees

Dena Bellman | Secretary- District Superintendent, Channel Coast District, California State Parks

Always ready to find a solution, you’ll find Dena working backstage to keep things moving along. Newly appointed District Superintendent, Dena oversees the Channel Coast District which encompasses a whopping 2 State Parks, 3 State Historic Parks, and 7 State Beaches — over 8,100 acres of beautiful land that defines our coastal community. It’s a job full of a million intricate parts that require teamwork and a bright smile — both of which Dena thrives at. Though Ventura has her heart, she’s an avid traveler with family all around the world. Equally comfortable in the skies and in the kitchen, Dena never needs an excuse to host a party for her family and friends. We’re lucky to have Dena’s leadership and love for Ventura on the board!

Community Service: Board of Directors, Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau (VVCB). Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel. Mission Team Leader, ICare International. Hospitality Committee, South Santa Barbara County Chamber Of Commerce.

Ed Wehan

Ed Wehan | Past-Chairperson- Citizen at Large

Ed’s resume reads a lot like Forrest Gump’s. Along with serving the Ventura community on a host of boards, Ed has inhaled the world; he has, yes, played tennis against Arthur Ashe, run the Inca trail in Peru, deep-sea fished remote Pacific waters, and competed (numerous times) in the Western States 100 — a, yes, 100-mile running race through the Sierras. Oh, right. One year Ed placed 7th, finishing in 18 hours.

Community Service (short version): Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau – Current Chair, City of Ventura Parks and Recreation Commission (16 years), former President and founding member of the Ventura Community Partners Foundation, CAPs Media Board of Directors (4 years), Board of Trustees Ventura Land Trust.


Jim Aveary board headshot

Jim Avrea – Restaurant/Owner/Operator | Aloha Steakhouse

When you think of Ventura food, Aloha Steakhouse is probably at the top of that list. Just steps from the historic Ventura Pier, the iconic Ventura restaurant has amazing food with an equally amazing view of the Pacific Ocean that not many restaurants in town can tout. Jim has worn many hats: he has centered and dedicated his life around making good food in Ventura. For the past four decades, Jim has owned a Ventura restaurant at some point: in the 80s it was Club Soda on Main Street, in the 90s it was the Habachi Restaurant, and through the 80s until the early 2000s it was the Ventura Chart Restaurant. This year, Jim’s Aloha Steakhouse will turn 20 and we wish for another 20 years after this. And though Jim’s current restaurant is at the forefront of his long and successful resume, Aloha still pays homage to Jim’s old homes to this day: 100% of Aloha Steakhouse is built from recycled materials from Ventura Chart House. Needless to say, Jim is a Venturan at heart, filling happy stomachs and bringing smiles to locals’ and visitors’ faces each and every day.

Community Service: Visit Ventura Board of Directors. Strategic partner for the city.

Board of Directors & Committees

Stephanie Caldwell- President & CEO | Ventura Chamber of Commerce

Stephanie has had a love for local businesses for a long long time. Since April 2015, Stephanie has served as the President and CEO for the Ventura Chamber of Commerce and proudly lives right here in Ventura. But before that she spent 10 years at San Jose Chamber of Commerce. Working at the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, Stephanie loves filling her days learning about the diverse businesses that make up our community; meeting the different business owners, learning about their businesses, and hearing their stories. Every day she’s amazed at what we have right here in our own City!

Community Service: City of Ventura’s General Plan Advisory Committee, The City Center, City of Ventura’s Homeless Stakeholder Committee, was recognized in 2018 as one of the Top 50 Women in Business by the Pacific Coast Business Times.

Headshot of Carlos Cruz-Ampudia

Carlos Cruz-Ampudia – General Manager | Best Western Inn

After just one conversation with Carlos, you’ll understand why he landed in the hospitality industry as General Manager at Best Western Inn. Carlos has worked at the Vagabond Inn since 2000 and the Best Western Inn since 2003 where he runs it with the help of his lovely wife. Carlos is happy to walk to work (he lives just a few blocks away) and loves meeting visitors who come into town and also getting to work on the international side of business for Best Western. When Carlos isn’t in his office, you’ll find him outdoors, enjoying our beautiful weather. Biking to Ojai or Carpenteria, or letting the breeze blow through his hair on his motorcycle, or even enjoying the warm sunshine on his kayak in the Ventura Harbor, Carlos is always on the move. And we’re lucky to have him!

Community Service: Visit Ventura Board of Directors. Strategic partner for the city.

Pearl Feist headshot

Pearl Feist – General Manager | Ventura Beach Marriott

A hospitality veteran who holds more than a quarter of a century of experience in the industry, Pearl knows what it means to make folks feel welcome. Employed by Brighton Management as Regional/General Manager, Pearl oversees day-to-day operations, including management of the hotel’s executive team and more than 300 hotel employees.

She focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and communities. She and her family of three + cattle dog reside in Ventura & enjoy all the California coast lifestyle has to offer.

Cheryl Heitmann

Cheryl Heitmann – Downtown Ventura Liaison| Hospitality & Tourism Industry

Reading this will just make you feel good because life, well, it isn’t really about resumes. Yes, Cheryl Heitmann has served in many important capacities (including Mayor of this town). But just look at the photo. It tells you everything. Or you might hazard a few correct guesses. Yes, Cheryl loves travel – especially with family (she’s been to all seven continents). Yes, she loves good music and good books. Yes, she loves long walks along Ventura’s beaches and trails, for, in serenity, you can consider many things, including your gifts. And the photo? It’s her happy place. Ama to her five grandchildren (all living in Ventura County) and mother to three married children. Yes, resumes can make you smile.

Community Service: Visit Ventura Board of Directors, Executive Director of the Ventura Music Festival, Ventura County Behavioral Health Advisory Board, Women’s Economic Ventures Board, Sister Cities Board, DVO Board (and yes, others). Also served on the Ventura County Community College District Board for 8 years and the Ventura City Council for 9 years (two as Mayor).

Suresh Patel, Amanzi headshot

Suresh Patel – Small Hotel/Motel/Operator | Amanzi Hotel

Always lighting a room up with smiles, it’s no surprise that Suresh Patel has spent most of his adult life in helping people. Suresh has been a general manager since 1993 in Ventura County, and prior to that, he was in the dry cleaning business. Though Suresh commutes to work close to an hour each way, he wouldn’t have it any other way. Meeting so many different travelers who find themselves in the warm and welcoming Amanzi Hotel and its amazing staff makes it all worth it. And when he’s not at work welcoming visitors to Ventura? He’s probably 1. spending time with his beloved family and grandchildren or 2. cheering on Manchester United, his favorite soccer team.

Community Service: Visit Ventura Board of Directors. Strategic partner for the city.

Akemi Shapiro

Akemi Shapiro – Large Hotel Operator | Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach

Yes, Akemi is the extraordinarily capable Director of Sales and Marketing for the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach, where she’s worked for the past 13 years. She’s also worked at Starwood and Hilton properties. Among other honors, during a stint at the Westin LAX, she was recognized as one of the top salespeople in North America. Mother of two wonderful children — a daughter working in Hawaii and a son studying at the University of Washington in Seattle — she also channels her considerable energy into travel, gourmet cooking, poker, and passionate love of music because, well, it’s not only rock n’ roll. She’s a huge fan of Jon Bon Jovi and not at all averse to being right up front (in the pit) for the Rolling Stones. If they knew her, Jon and Mick would likely recognize her for what she is — a different kind of rock star.

Community Service: Board member Ventura County Coast, Board member, Visit Ventura, former board member Meeting Professionals International Southern California Chapter (3 years).

Josh Spiker

Josh Spiker – Citizen at Large | Mile 26 Sports

Yes, Josh Spiker – owner of two Ventura running stores (Mile 26 Running Co and Inside Track) – is a phenomenal runner; a former California State Champion, High School All American, and dual Collegiate All American (cross country and track at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). But in life, it’s the little things that matter. This month (February 27th), Josh and his wife Jen (partners in many senses of the word) will again host the Ventura Marathon (and half marathon and 5K). Why February? Because Josh plans his events in the off season so he can help local hotels and businesses in those slow times. He also donates countless time to youth running programs (Josh cut his own running teeth as a six-year-old with the Ventura Tigres Youth Track & Field Club). Oh right. Both Josh and Jen also oversee the activities of 16-month-old Dylan Spiker; avid reader, lover of life, and nonstop, well, runner.

Community Service: Community Service: Visit Ventura Board of Directors, member Ventura Downtown Lions Club, former Board member for Ventura Public Lands and the Ventura YMCA.

Jim White

Jim White – VCTC Commissioner | Hospitality & Tourism Industry

Jim first met the city of San Buenaventura in the summer of 1973, after he had just finished promoting his first concert with Don McLean. Yes, you read that right. Jim spent five years promoting concerts ranging from the Beach Boys to jazz greats Chick Corea and George Benson. But back to Don McLean. Inspired by American Pie, Jim and his business partner set out to discover America. When Jim arrived in Ventura, that was that. He and his wife left the Michigan cold and moved to Ventura for good. For 37 years Jim worked for Arc of Ventura County, learning about many of the needs of our city, including affordable housing, transportation, and our community parks. And he continued to be very interesting, completing 15 marathons, several 100-mile bicycle rides, and, recently, seven-day rides through Utah and South Dakota.

Community Service (short version): Visit Ventura Board of Directors, Ventura County Transportation Commission, the City of San Buenaventura Housing Authority, Past Parks and Recreation Commissioner, and other committees throughout the community.

Advisory Board

Eric Burrow – Hogan Hospitality Group

Kevin Clerici – Downtown Ventura Partners 

Jim DeArkland – OFI Management

Steve Doll – Doll Real Estate Services

Jack Dyer – Topa Topa Brewing

Joanne Hadley – Birkenstock: Footprints of Ventura

Alex Hong – Coastal Cone Inc.

Nancy Pedersen – Sunflowers on the Square

Brian Tucker – Ventura County Coast, VCLA Liaison

Melissa Baffa – Ventura Land Trust

Tom Cussins – Ineffable Music

VTMD Steering Committee Board

Carlos Cruz-Ampudia- Best Western Inn Plus 

Victor Dollar- Brighton Hotels/Four Points by Sheraton

Pearl Feist- Marriott Ventura Beach

Mayur Patel- Mission Bell/Loop Motor Lodge/Bayshore Inn

Akemi Shapiro- Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach

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