VRFSC Staff

Jill Santos

Executive Director

VRFSC

Born and raised in the Pennsylvania Wilds, Jill always had a natural curiosity about the world around her. She earned her BS degree from West Virginia University in Wildlands Parks & Recreation Management before moving to Lake Tahoe, where she pursued a career in environmental conservation and community-based outreach. She has traveled extensively throughout the Americas, Europe and Eastern Europe and lived in Argentina in the early 2000s teaching English to business executives. She relocated to Southern California just before the birth of her son in 2008, continuing her community-based sustainability work with a mix of nonprofit organizations and local government agencies. In 2019, she pursued an MS degree in Sustainable and Resilient Communities from Green Mountain College. Jill has worked for a mix of nonprofit organizations and local government agencies during her nearly 30-year career. Her passions include being a mom, writing, homesteading, and helping others.

Stephen Watson

Director of Operations

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Stephen joined our team in July 2021, and he has already made such an impact getting our organization into shape. He’s very eager to restructure and reorganize the grant management, financial, and administrative aspects of the fire safe council.

Although Stephen is new to our organization, he is no stranger to nonprofit work. He worked as a Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee at a nonprofit in Van Nuys for over 3 years while getting his masters in Psychology and Counseling. After working as a therapist for many years, Stephen then went on to being an office manager at a therapy center for troubled teens. He even aided in the creation of a new nonprofit community mental health center that provided low cost therapy for teens and families who couldn’t otherwise afford it. In addition, he served as the Secretary and Treasurer at this nonprofit for over 2 years. It was during this time that he realized he had a passion for working behind-the-scenes in the more administrative roles.

Although you may not see him as much out and about in the community, he is a vital part in our organization. We feel so fortunate to have him on our team, and we are confident that he will help us immensely in making our workflow processes more efficient so we can continue to serve and expand the amount of people we can reach through our programming.

Sarah Wortman

Administrative Assistant

VRFSC

Sarah joined the VRFSC team in February 2022 as our Administrative Assistant. Sarah graduated from CSU Channel Islands with a Bachelors in Environmental Science and Resource Management in 2020. She brings with her an extensive background in environmental science as well as customer service. She has found her place here with VRFSC assisting the office with the fundamental day-to-day operations of our organization. She is excited to bring her personal experiences and enthusiasm to the team to support and ensure the efficient operation of VRFSC. 

Max Young

Lead Wildfire Safety Liaison

VRFSC

We are so excited to introduce our new Lead Wildfire Safety Liaison, Max Young! Max came to the Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council wanting to combine the passions developed as a Consulting Utility Forester, working in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties as a Southern California Edison contractor, and as a Conservationist 1 at the Camarillo Fire Center for the California Conservation Corps. There he became certified through CalFire to work wildfires locally, and throughout the state, on a Type 1 Handcrew. The experience led him towards wanting to help develop community resiliency to wildfires, and educating the public on how we can and need to adapt to living with them. 

He has a passion for resource conservation, land management and studied Environmental Science within the College of Agriculture at the University of Nevada, Reno. A native Californian, Max has lived, worked and studied in many different areas of the State, but holds a special relationship with Ventura and its many wonderful communities. 

You may see Max running Ventura’s beautiful trails on the weekends, or surfing its world class breaks.

Mayra De Leon

Wildfire Safety Liaison

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Mayra De Leon has worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade. In that time, she developed a grant-funded program for underrepresented communities at the Ventura Family YMCA, organized continuing education events for the regional branch of the California Dental Association, and managed engagement and marketing for the California State University’s Santa Rosa Island Research Station. 

As a nature enthusiast, Mayra can be found hiking around Ventura County or supporting a local beach cleanup. Mayra cares deeply about contributing back to the communities she grew up in, focusing her efforts on Santa Paula and the rest of the Heritage Valley.

Mayra earned her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Communications from California State University Channel Islands and is excited to be putting her skill sets into action for VRFSC.

Pepper Dee

Projects and Grants Manager

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Pepper joined the Fire Safe Council in February 2022, and is thrilled to participate in the project of making Ventura County a safer place to live with wildfire. Pepper brings a diverse range of skills to the council, including experience as a public-school teacher, mountain guide, and community organizer. Pepper has a passion for empowering communities to effect positive change, and appreciates the balance between conservation and sustainability.

Pepper holds a B.A. from Amherst College and a M.A. in Education from the University of Colorado-Denver.

 

 

Natasha Saxena

Wildfire Safety Liaison

VRFSC

Natasha Saxena is our newest Wildfire Safety Liaison! She studied Environmental Communications and minored in Environmental Science and Resource Management at CSU Channel Islands. With her experience implementing sustainability initiatives and climate action planning at her University, she cultivated a passion for the environmental field. She has worked with certified B corporations and nonprofits, and has developed skills in marketing, facilitation, and event planning.

 

Most days you can find her cooking up an extremely tasty but overly complicated vegetarian dish or relaxing at the beach.