“As an elected official, you are elected to work for the entire community—those that voted for you, and those that didn't vote for you. I will do my best to fight for all of the people who live in the City of Oxnard.”
Bert Perello was born on November 5, 1950 in Santa Barbara, California. His parents, Eugene and Lena, moved the family to Oxnard in 1959 where together with Clara and Bert, Gene’s parents, and Gene’s Brother Dominick, they operated Perello and Sons, a family-run lemon ranch located on the outskirts of town. It was around this time when a young Bert was introduced to the world of politics. His father would often take him along during campaign work in the field, including putting up scores of political signs and attending many campaign gatherings.
Bert’s father, Eugene, got involved in politics as a youth shortly after WWII. Later in life he served as an elected member of the El Rio Community Council which later became the El Rio Municipal Advisory Council. Eugene continued his service to the community by being elected to the board of the United Water Conservation District. Eugene always said the key components to any successful community were health, safety and welfare. He once told Bert something that has stayed with him to this day—if one person doesn’t stand up for the rights of the people, nobody will.
Bert graduated from Rio Mesa High School in 1968. He continued his education at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he studied farm management at the school of agriculture, and went on to work on the Perello family farm.
In 1990, Bert married Susan Miller, a girl he went to high school with and the one he credits for his direct involvement with neighborhood concerns and issues. In 1998, while attending a Southbank neighborhood meeting, an issue was being discussed that prompted residents to call for volunteers to help with its research and organizing efforts. Bert’s wife elbowed him gently, encouraging him to take on that role. It was there that Bert got his start as an advocate for Oxnard’s residents and their neighborhoods, and he hasn’t stopped championing neighborhood issues since.
Bert has been attending city council and neighborhood meetings consistently to help raise questions on issues that affect every neighborhood in Oxnard. In his many years as a voice for the community, Bert has spoken out strongly for greater transparency in local government, advocated for a Council decision regarding Spanish-language translation at city council meetings, and fought strongly for the public’s right to be informed truthfully during the District Attorney’s investigation of several city officials.
In 2009, Bert helped organize neighborhood residents in questioning and challenging the validity of FEMA’s preliminary flood-risk maps issued in 2008, which at one time showed thousands homes and businesses in the Northwest community of Oxnard as being in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). According to FEMA regulations, homes with federally-backed mortgages mapped into a SFHA must pay mandatory annual flood insurance payments of thousands of dollars each year to FEMA in Washington, D.C.
Bert’s leadership efforts lead to the formation of the Flood Zone Justice Association (FZJA). Bert, in close consultation with a five-member Executive Committee of local residents, helped heighten and focus neighborhood awareness of these important health, safety and welfare flood-risk issues, and raised funds through voluntary membership donations to retain and assist legal counsel and to keep floodplain residents informed.
As FZJA’s first president, Bert, led local neighborhood advocacy efforts in the fight against FEMA’s incorrect preliminary SFHA maps, first at City Hall, then the County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately in FEMA’s Region IX HQ in Oakland, and FEMA’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In response to collaborative local efforts spearheaded by FZJA, which were supported by elected officials and staff in the City of Oxnard and the County of Ventura, in January 2010 FEMA issued a “Letter of Map Revision (LOMR)” which rescinded their incorrect preliminary SFHA map. FEMA also committed to working closely with local city and county flood protection professionals, and the Oxnard community of interest, to complete further detailed studies of the actual flood risk in this area of the Santa Clara River.
The FZJA fight has put the neighborhood spotlight on serious technical deficiencies and mapping equity problems with FEMA’s one-size-fits-all national one-dimensional flood-risk mapping methodologies. And the FZJA was instrumental in ensuring that the local Oxnard community, in partnership with its elected officials, maximized our collective local advocacy voice in both Oakland and Washington, D.C.
Bert believes that effective service on the City Council requires elected members to: (1) study and ask City staff clear, direct and sometimes tough questions, (2) hold staff strictly accountable for their answers, attitudes, and actions responding to those questions, and (3) ultimately oversee staff’s performance of work deliverables to a successful conclusion.
And Bert believes that council members can’t formulate quality questions on behalf of their Oxnard constituents when city staff “jams” them at the last minute with incomplete staff reports that gloss over such questions and give council members insufficient time to read and digest the issues contained such reports.
That is why he’s proposing changes in the way the city conducts its business, including improved and transparent communication between city staff and the public, consistent and impartial professional decision-making regarding city funded projects, full-disclosure of the true fiscal status of the city, and early-neighborhood review and engagement regarding future development, as well as maintaining a consistent level of truth and accountability from all city officials.
It’s been said time and time again in politics that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But the truth is all Oxnard residents deserve equal access to city services, even if people are not able to be present at every city meeting where decisions are made.
Oxnard is undergoing a change in its leadership and that transition continues with Bert as your next councilmember. Bert Perello will be a clear, strong voice effectively articulating the public’s questions and fighting for honest answers, on the Oxnard City Council.