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New Supervisors Seek to Trim Budget Fat : Judy Mikels: At 49, she was picked by her predecessor, Vicky Howard. A business owner, she wants to downsize government and reduce the work force.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

To prepare for her new job as a Ventura County supervisor, Judy Mikels has spent the past few weeks talking with county department heads, poring over government documents and attending board meetings.

“Every time I ask someone a question, I end up with a stack of papers,” she said.

But Mikels, who will be sworn in Tuesday, doesn’t mind.

“I love it,” she said. “I enjoy the learning curve.”

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Indeed, Mikels added, not even the city’s sanitation plant escaped her interest as a Simi Valley council member.

“Never in my life did I think coliform levels would be so important to me,” she joked. A coliform count is often used as an indicator of fecal contamination of water supplies.

Friends and supporters said that Mikels’ experience on the council and as a former planning commissioner will serve her well in her new job.

Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton said Mikels’ greatest strength, though, is her direct, no-nonsense personality.

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“She’s very opinionated and more than willing to duke it out on the issues,” he said. “But she’s the kind of person who will say, ‘Let’s all go out for a beer’ afterwards. She doesn’t hold grudges.”

Mikels, 49, said she was content to remain in her council job and never thought seriously of running for the board, assuming that Supervisor Vicky Howard, also from Simi Valley, would serve at least another four years.

Then, one day last fall, Mikels received a surprise call from Howard. The supervisor said she would not be seeking a second term and asked if Mikels might be interested in running.

“At first I said no, because my mind was so boggled,” Mikels said at the time. “It was such a traumatic announcement. I honestly expected Vicky to go two terms or maybe three.”

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But after discussing the issue with her family, Mikels decided to enter the race.

In the midst of her campaign, Mikels learned that her husband, John, had received a job transfer to Tucson.

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But Mikels never considered dropping out of the race. She said she and her husband, a marketing representative for Hughes Missile Systems, agreed to make whatever adjustments to their living arrangements that were necessary, should she win.

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The couple recently bought a condominium in Tucson. But Mikels said she will spend most of her time at her home in Simi Valley. She and her husband will fly back and forth on weekends and holidays.

Although the arrangement might seem unusual to some, Mikels, who has been married for 26 years, said it is not so big a sacrifice as it seems.

“It’s nothing new,” she said. “We’re used to being apart. Mike (John’s nickname) travels constantly with his job and is usually gone anywhere from four days to three weeks.”

Besides, Mikels, a mother of two, said, “It’s a good time. The children are all grown up. We’re both happy about it.”

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Mikels is having to make other adjustments as well. She said she is turning over her custom framing business to her son, Brett, to have more time to devote to her county job.

As a business owner, Mikels said it was her Chamber of Commerce involvement that first got her interested in government. She said that, through the chamber, she met and got to know a number of local politicians, contacts that led to her appointment in 1986 to the city’s Planning Commission.

Four years later, Mikels was elected to the City Council, filling a seat left vacant by Howard after election to the county board.

As a supervisor, Mikels said, one of her primary objectives will be to probe the county’s $860-million budget for fat.

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Mikels said the Republican Party’s landmark victories in key local, state and federal races in November were a wake-up call for politicians everywhere.

“I think people are clearly tired of big government and tired of government spending more than it has,” she said.

Like Frank Schillo, who will also join the Board of Supervisors this week, Mikels said she will be looking for ways to reduce the size of the county’s 6,700-member work force.

“We’ve gotten to the point where government has become a major employer,” she said. “I don’t believe that’s the way it should be. I believe the primary objective of government is to provide a safe environment for its citizens and for businesses--so that they can become the major employers.”

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Once in office, Mikels said, she plans to make one other major change in her life: she’ll buy a new car. She said her trusty 1978 Dodge van, with 250,000 miles on its odometer, is simply not up to handling the commute between Simi Valley and the Government Center in Ventura.

Besides, she said, “One of my kids told me, ‘I don’t want my county supervisor driving an ugly old van.’ ”


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