Ginger Gheradi was named “Citizen of the Year” at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday. Gherardi is known for spearheading local projects. She led the charge to restore the Depot Plaza, fund the Santa Paula Art Museum and revive the city’s annual 4th of July Fireworks show, just a few of her numerous accomplishments on behalf of the community. (Photo Courtesy Craig Mailloux)

Citizen of the Year honored at Chamber luncheon

February 05, 2010
Ginger Gherardi: Citizen of the Year lauded for dedication to Santa Paula
Santa Paula News

Both professionally and as a community activist, Ginger Gherardi was lauded as the 2009 Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in a celebration of all things Santa Paula. 

Gherardi, as well as Business of the Year Santa Paula Times and Beautification Project of the Year Depot Plaza, was honored February 2 at the annual luncheon held at the historic Mill, the soon to be home of the Farm Heritage Museum of Ventura County. Almost 200 people attended the event that featured the State of the City address by Mayor Jim Tovias.

Master of Ceremonies John Chamberlain noted, “You probably didn’t know this,” but prior to her work at as executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission Gherardi “was the head of NASA in the early 80’s. She also found time to appear on Broadway in Lillian Hellman’s play ‘The little Foxes’... she was a fox. Ginger also competed in the Tour de France!”

Perhaps not true, but Gherardi’s long list of professional and community wide accomplishments is equally unbelievable. And, said Councilman Ralph Fernandez, who presented the Citizen of the Year award, Gherardi’s resume is so long “it would take forever” to list.

A former Simi Valley Councilmember before moving to Santa Paula, Gherardi’s transportation career started 28 years ago; and before her retirement she led the VCTC for 18 years. With VCTC she spearheaded, helped secure funding for or worked with a variety of governmental agencies - or all three! - that led to the creation of the Gazebo, St. Francis Dam Monument, Green Alley, Santa Paula Bike Path, Santa Paula Branch Line, and the renovation of Depot Plaza, among others.

Gherardi, a Ventura County Fair Board director, is past president of Santa Paula Rotary, involved in the Christmas Basket project, and founder of the Christmas Stocking program for seniors. She is co-chair of the new Santa Paula Art Museum Board of Directors, led the effort to create the report and lobby on behalf of school unification, and is trying to raise funds to bring back the 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.

Being honored at The Mill, whose future would have been bleak “without Ginger,” noted 2008 Citizen of the Year Maria Bombara before the event started, “we would not be able to add this treasure and piece of history to Santa Paula’s cultural arts activities.” There is not a cause or fundraiser Gherardi is not involved with, added Bombara, either as a tireless volunteer or financial supporter. “Ginger is one of my role models!”

After Fernandez’s remarks Gherardi admitted she does not like the spotlight. “This kind of thing embarrasses me,” especially since she is “not alone” in her community activities. “The neat thing about this town is everybody pitches in and helps!”

Gherardi received proclamations and recognitions from Brian Miller on behalf of Representative Elton Gallegly, Linda Johnson representing Senator George Runner, Matthew Hewitt on behalf of Assemblywoman Audra Strickland and Martin Hernandez for Supervisor Kathy Long.

“Ginger, myself and Representative Gallegly thank you for all you’ve done for the community,” noted Miller.  

After lauding Gherardi’s community efforts Johnson hugged her, noting, “I absolutely love Ginger,” especially since the petite Johnson is slightly taller.

“Ginger,” said Mayor Tovias, “is a strong example of what sets Santa Paula apart” from other communities.

Gherardi, a resident of Santa Paula since 1990, is also active with her grandchildren. she has two sons, John, who with wife Mary has Nathan, 9 and Thomas, 6, and lives in Ventura; and Andy, a Santa Paula resident with his daughter Shanna, 8. Ginger, whose deep interest in education led her to spearhead the unification study, is a regular volunteer in Shanna’s classroom.

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