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Setting an ambitious agenda

Political novice Peter Foy's conservative ideas could meet resistance among left-leaning Ventura County supervisors.

December 27, 2006|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

As he prepares to be sworn in Jan. 9, Ventura County Supervisor-elect Peter Foy has been busy meeting with county managers, interviewing potential staff and answering calls from reporters.

But his most important appointments have been with his soon-to-be colleagues on the Board of Supervisors.

A businessman and political novice, Foy will be the most conservative voice on the five-member panel that tilts decidedly left.

Foy knows that if he is to have any chance at passing an ambitious agenda -- one that includes setting term limits for supervisors and slashing services to illegal immigrants -- he will have to marshal support from colleagues who may not share his views.

"I like to talk and get to know who people are and understand what their values are," said Foy, 50, whose 4th District includes Simi Valley, Moorpark and surrounding unincorporated areas. "At the end of the day, my goal is to come together."

He is replacing three-term Supervisor Judy Mikels, who was defeated in the June primary.

Foy's challenge will be to push for his goals while learning how to navigate the complex, and often slow, channels of government bureaucracy, said Jack Miller, a political science teacher at Moorpark College.

As founder of an insurance firm, Foy is used to setting goals and then laying out a path to achieving them, Miller said.

But on the board, there are five bosses, and it takes three votes to get anything done, he said.

Unions must also be consulted and government regulations and laws followed, he said.

"He is new, with an emphasis on 'new,' " Miller said. "This catchy-headline stuff that he is talking about doing, well, he will find it is not as easy to accomplish once he gets in office."

Finding compromise on some of Foy's priorities may be less difficult.

During his campaign, Foy promised to make funding for public safety departments a top priority. While his board colleagues may disagree on the amount, they have consistently stated that keeping Ventura County residents safe is high on their lists.

Last year, they came to an agreement with Sheriff Bob Brooks and Dist. Atty. Gregory Totten on law enforcement funding, ending years of litigation.

The board recently approved an additional $792,000 in annual funding for the Sheriff's Department to reconstitute a gang-control unit. And after years of losing newly hired deputies to agencies that pay more, higher starting salaries and a strong recruitment program have helped reverse the problem.

Still, Foy believes the board needs to begin funding a needed jail expansion and said Totten may need more prosecutors to go after gang members arrested by the sheriff's new gang unit.

In fact, he said the gang unit, which is focused on the west county, should be expanded to include gangs in the east county cities of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks.

"If we want to keep L.A. gangs out, that's our first line of defense," Foy said. "Don't just throw money at it. Define what the mission is and go after it."

Foy said he intends to ask the board to adopt a law that would bar former county employees, or elected officials, from lobbying or seeking county contracts.

He said similar laws are in effect at the federal and state levels, and local government should have the same standard. Foy said he didn't know anyone who had misused their position, but said such a measure would prevent the possibility.

In recent years the board has eliminated stipends paid for attending commission hearings, adopted campaign contribution limits and created a campaign finance ethics panel.

More controversial are Foy's proposals to set term limits for county supervisors and to cut services provided to illegal immigrants.

Supervisors have no term limits. Foy said he would propose that supervisors be allowed to serve no more than three four-year terms.

The clock would start ticking from the time the law is passed, Foy said.

"Twelve years is a lot of time to get things done," he said. "If you don't have this, it becomes a lifetime career."

As for himself, Foy said he would probably serve only one term.

"I have a Jeffersonian mentality," he said. "If you see a problem, leave the farm, solve it and then go back."

Foy's most controversial goal is to cut services to illegal immigrants. He said he would ask the board to define the services that are mandated by state and federal laws.

For instance, counties -- and private hospitals -- are required by law to provide emergency medical care to anyone who needs it. But Ventura County may be providing other healthcare services that are not legally required, Foy said.

"We've made it so easy to get help that we've had an influx of illegal immigrants," he said.

"At the same time, there are American citizens who can't get the healthcare that is provided to illegals."

Foy said he knows some of his proposals may get a cold reception. But it won't stop him from trying.

"I expect to be shut down on some issues," he said. "That's fine."

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catherine.saillant @latimes.com

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