Welcome New and Returning Office Leaders to Orinda and Moraga

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    Elections are over, votes were cast, ballots tallied and results are in for Orinda and Moraga, making this a good time to welcome five new and returning officeholders for Orinda and a new Orinda Chamber President.
    Two incumbent directors of the Moraga-Orinda Fire Department, (MOFD), John Jex and Craig Jorgens, won new terms of office.
    Director of District 2, Jex has called Moraga home for nearly 50 years. He was born and raised in Utah and earned a master’s degree in accounting from Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business.
    He said he was surprised he won another term, “because of the strong opponent, Nathan Smith, who ran for the same position.”
    He speaks willingly about his top three priorities, and he’s happy to share details of each: “Continue to focus on the need to improve financial capability of the District to meet its obligations; expand the District’s contribution to assist both communities to be better prepared to deal with wildfire threats; and support activities to enforce new fire code requirements.”
    To provide context for his agreeing to serve on MOFD, Jex summarizes what he loves about Moraga and Orinda: “The people who live here, the high quality of the schools and the involvement of the citizens to support and contribute to worthwhile efforts that lead to continued improvement to the environment and community.”
    Jorgens, also an incumbent Director of District 5, is not native to Orinda, since he was born and raised in Spokane, WA, but said a job change brought his family to Orinda where he and his wife Lisa have lived for the last 28 years. It’s also where they raised their two daughters, Laura and Emily.
    He calls Orinda wonderful because, “the residents are friendly, helpful and actively involved in making their community better.”
    Jorgens’ top priorities include working to increase MOFD’s commitment to fire prevention, not just suppression. “Fire prevention is not simply fire code enforcement,” he said. “It must include much more actual fuel removal by MOFD.”
    Wage increases are also at the top of Jorgens’ list.
    “Since our firefighters work hard, they deserve the same wage and benefit increases that are given to hard-working teachers, federal, state and city employees who live in our community,” said Jorgens.
    Jorgens also thinks it’s important to look ahead since recessions are always a threat: “Reasonable salary increases will also allow for increases in much needed fuel reduction programs and increases in reserve fund balances to prepare for the next economic downturn.”
    Jorgens sees his background and expertise benefitting the MOFD and his community.
    “After my retirement from the satellite industry, I wanted to leverage my knowledge and experience to help my local community where the results are directly observable,” he said. “The Board is a team effort and making Orinda more fire-safe through my actions related to prevention, use of technology and being mindful of the budget on the MOFD Board will benefit all Orindans.”
    Orinda Mayor Amy R. Worth, no stranger to the Orinda City Council, has been on the Council since 1998. Her current term on the Council ends in 2022.
    A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in history, Worth was born in Boston, MA, and raised in Portland, OR and Palos Verdes in Southern California. Her grandfather, Edward Miller, was the managing editor of The Oregonian newspaper.
    Worth, who has resided in Orinda for the last 38 years, places public service, community outreach and development as her core areas of focus.
    The mother of three daughters and wife of Tom Worth sees her most significant accomplishments as her leadership role in the building of Orinda’s library and the completion of the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel.
    As a good listener and a visionary, she’s concentrating on specific areas to target first.
    “I will work with the Council and the community to implement the voter-approved Measure R for increased fire and infrastructure safety in Orinda and continue the City and School District initiative for inclusion and diversity,” said Worth, who officially took office as mayor Dec. 8, 2020.
    She said she also looks forward to completing the downtown planning process and continuing to engage the community in that important process: “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our community, and I will continue to work together to promote public heath safety as we support our local businesses and schools and provide youth recreation activities as the protocols allow.”
    When not working, Worth enjoys studying Spanish and playing with her two grandsons. Her other loves consist of living and serving in Orinda. “I love the people here and Orinda’s beautiful setting with its wonderful access to both the city and the beautiful outdoor parks.”
    Two open seats were filled on the City Council by re-elected Council Members Darlene Gee and Inga Miller.
    Gee, an Orinda resident for the last 31 years, who prides herself both on Orinda’s family focus and the volunteerism that connects the community, talks about her top three areas of concentration for 2021.
    “My top priorities are planning and initiating the effective expenditure of Measure R funds and improving our emergency preparedness, progress on the Downtown Planning process and solidifying long- term solutions to our infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance,” said Gee, who was born and raised in Bloomington, IL.
    Gee moved to California in 1980, but said, “I still appreciate my Midwest roots and enjoy visiting, but I’m not willing to go back to the weather.”
    She considers holding the councilmember seat an honor.
    “I was grateful that I won [reelection],” she said. “It is a great responsibility that people entrust you with making good community decisions, and I take that very seriously and will work hard to be both a good listener and responsive to residents’ concerns and interests.”
    With her professional expertise as a civil engineer, Gee, who has been on the Council since 2012, is happy to continue giving back to her community in this way.
    “My husband and I raised our family here. We had a wonderful experience doing so, and I want to help ensure our community remains a pleasant, safe and welcoming place for everyone, even as we make positive improvements for our future,” she said.
    Miller, who shares a similar focus as Gee, sees herself as a voice of the community for Orinda.
    “Orindans have made clear that safety, infrastructure, downtown revitalization and inclusivity are our biggest priorities for 2021,” said Miller, who has served on the Council since 2016. She grew up in north Orinda near the Country Club “where Lake Cascade was my playground.”
    Miller is specific, when it comes to fortifying against wildfires.
    “We need to continue to maintain our newly improved roads and work on the El Toyonal corridor and other evacuation routes to make them safer,” she said. “And to delve deeper into drain work to avoid another infrastructure failure like the Miner Road sinkhole – all of which were discussed as uses of Measure R funding during the campaign.”
    A graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Miller has come full circle, returning to where she first started.
    “Orinda is an unparalleled place to grow up,” she said. “With the intent of moving back as soon as possible to our own home here, I moved from Orinda in late 2003 or early 2004 as a requirement of my position as a news reporter for The Modesto Bee. I still spent significant time in Orinda during those years and was so grateful to be able to move back permanently with my husband Paul in 2010 to our home in south Orinda near St. Mark’s.”
    She’s more than honored to win one of the City Council seats to serve another term.
    “Winning reelection showed we Orindans are on the same page for priorities at City Hall, and this was not a surprise, given that we have been working together as a community corroboratively for four years,” she said. “I am looking forward to another wonderful four years.”
    The new Orinda Chamber President, Kristen Southworth, was born and raised in Kalamazoo, MI, and currently resides in Oakland.
    “Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo, and I’m a gal from Kalamazoo,” said Southworth, a partner in the law firm of Southworth & Chavez LLP. 
    “We are a two-person, woman-owned law firm,” she said. “We practice in the area of trusts and estates, which consists of estate planning, trust administration and probate administration. Though each of us has been in practice for 30 years, we have been in partnership for seven years.”
    Her firm, which is located at 1 Northwood Dr. in Orinda, has been a chamber member for four years, and she’s excited to take on this new role as president, centering her attention on certain areas.
    “I hope to foster a sense of community among those doing business in Orinda and, in the process, grow the membership,” she said. “Given that COVID-19 will likely continue to impact businesses and our ability to gather for the foreseeable future, we are working to put together a series of educational and fun virtual gatherings.”
    Her business philosophy consists of, “competence and compassion,” and her goal in becoming chamber president, is about giving to others.
    “I believe you get out of something, what you put into it,” she said. “I really enjoy doing business in Orinda, and I hope to have a positive impact on the community.”

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