A Year in Review: Prominent People of 2015

Beginning in March 2015, the Desert News Post began a series of interviews with prominent people in the High Desert. We felt people would enjoy revisiting those interviews, and following are brief summaries of each one.  

Caroll Yule – March 2015

Prominent businessperson Caroll Yule, of Shear Realty, has been helping people find “Home” for over 19 years. Originally from Minnesota, she came to the High Desert in 1985 with her husband, who worked at Yellow Freight in Barstow. Caroll started working for Bob Sher at the Spring Valley Lake Shear Realty office in 1987, and in 1995 bought in to the business, which was established in 1980. Bob retired, and Caroll and her husband now co-own the business with Becky and Leroy Otwell. Carol manages locations in Apple Valley, Spring Valley Lake, Jess Ranch, Rancho Cucamonga and a Commercial Division. Caroll says her biggest challenge was the market crash in 2007/2008, and her biggest victory was, “Surviving and keeping the doors open.” She earned a B.A. in Business Organization & Management from LaVerne University at the age of 61and encourages everyone to stay engaged in education and stay knowledgeable of trends. She defines success this way: If what you do provides you with a sense of purpose and a feeling of personal satisfaction, that is success. Measure of profit is not the measure of success. The business reality, however, is that you must meet expenses while doing it. In her personal life, she defines success as a wonderful marriage and a healthy child.  

Michele Spears – April 2015

Michele Spears recently celebrated 25 years as President and CEO of the Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce, and was honored during the VMI breakfast in February. Her unique brand of leadership was developed from being a past school teacher, along with work experience and an intuition of what businesses need to succeed in her community. Another factor in her success is enthusiasm. She originally chose teaching as a profession while living in Arizona, but when she and her husband Ron relocated to California, she pursued a career in the chamber business, working at the Upland Chamber before moving to Oak Hills. Since accepting her current position at the Victor Valley Chamber, Michele has attracted some of the community’s top business leaders to serve on the board. Under her management, the chamber has been recognized as an Accredited Chamber, with four stars by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has strong financial assets. She also was instrumental in founding the Victor Valley Chamber Foundation, Inc. The chamber is run like a business, and she believes that building relationships in the community has been a huge factor in its success. She has volunteered with many organizations and has been honored with many community awards. Michele and her husband Ron have been married for 30 years. They live in Oak Hills with their three children Ashley, Megan and Lindsey. Kudos to Michele for her great work in building one of the most prestigious chambers in the country. The High Desert is proud to have this great leader in their community.  

Becky Otwell – May 2015

Rebecca “Becky” Otwell moved to the High Desert in 1951 with her parents Millard and Betty Blunt, and brother Douglas, joining her grandparents, and two uncles and aunt already living here. She attended Irwin School and then Victor Jr. High. Her parents took their Real Estate license and opened Blunt Realty in 1965. Becky held various jobs in historical places like the original A&W on 7th Street, and also at Victor Bowl on Victor Street in Victorville. Getting her Real Estate License in 1978 and started working for her. Becky and her husband Leroy have worked together in real estate since 1984. They are co-owners of Shear Realty, and manage two Hesperia offices, Phelan, Rancho Cucamonga, and the commercial office on Hesperia Road in Victorville. Being in real estate gives Becky the time and flexibility to give about 30 percent of her time to the community, including the San Bernardino County Fair Board, Hesperia Chamber board, SBC Friends of the Fair, Hesperia Kiwanis, Hesperia Police Activities League, Hesperia Property Owners, SBC Museum Commission, Victor Valley Museum Board, and the High Desert Association of Realtors. Becky was honored in 2012 as Woman of the Year by the State of California by Tim Donnelly (59th District), and in 2013 by Steve Knight, 36th Assembly District. Becky enjoys playing Dale Evans for Night at the Museum, and also plays Mrs. Santa with Curt Emick as Santa in the Victorville Christmas Parade.  

Gloria Garcia – June 2015

Gloria Garcia served as Mayor of Victorville in 2015. She was born in Victorville, as were her parents. Generations of Gloria’s family have lived here for 110 years. She has never lived anywhere else. Married at 16, while still in high school, her husband was supportive of her getting a higher education as well as being a businesswoman. She says as far back as junior high that she thought becoming a CPA or an attorney, and she was good at helping family and friends with their bookkeeping and income tax preparation needs. Gloria received an AA degree in Business Administration, and that also propelled her business forward. As time went by, her from-home business grew to the point where she needed to open a separate office. Her office has been located near the Victorville courthouse ever since. Gloria ran for the Victorville City Council in 2012, after helping others with their own successful campaigns in the past. She never thought of running for election, but was always being asked why she didn’t. “God had other plans for me, and I surprised myself when I said I would,” she said. She was elected in 2012, and served as mayor in 2015. Although she did not think she would enjoy politics, she now finds that she can help people. With the help of her talent in financial matters, she was able to help balance the city’s budget was balanced within a year. Gloria rejoices in her family, with two sons, daughters-in-law, 5 gr andchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. Some of her family are employed in her business, Garcia’s Bookkeeping.  

Steve Orr – July 2015

Steve Orr has served on the board of the Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce since 2009, as V.P. of Financial Services, Membership & Community Services, and Business Enhancement. He was elected to serve as chairman of the board for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015. His goals as chairman have been about keeping the regional focus of the chamber as a priority, along with maintaining pride in the community. Apart from new goals, fundraising to support the chamber is a priority, and some fun events were successful in that effort, including Swig, Schmooze and, the Kemper Campbell Ranch mixer, and the annual Roadrunner Classic golf tournament. Outside of the chamber, Steve is the Director of Business Development for Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group. Steve works directly under COO Merlin Aalborg, the driving force behind the fitness awareness programs being developed at Heritage. Steve keeps busy making connections with the business in the community to offer the great benefits Heritage has developed. Part of the job is community outreach, physician recruiting, and creating relationships between businesses and the medical group. Seeing people take a proactive approach to their health is the one of the many goals for Heritage. The staff focuses on improved relationships between people and their healthcare. There are many health education programs to take advantage of and in most cases you need not be a member to participate. A full calendar of activities for those 50+ includes everything from exercise to crafts, coffee clubs and games. Originally from San Gabriel Valley, Steve has lived in the Victor Valley since 1989, and worked in the healthcare industry since 1978.  

Eric Schmidt – August 2015

Eric Schmidt wears many hats, from being the President of Exquadrum, Inc., to holding several civic and community volunteer positions and designations. Schmidt seems to be constantly out and about in the community, speaking at many business and chamber meetings, as well as community events. Achievements in education are high on his list of goals, and he applauds programs like the first elementary school robotics program, and early college entry agreements where high school students have an opportunity to graduate from college in two years rather than four. Schmidt constantly advocates bringing more tech, aerospace and industrial business growth to the area. Schmidt dispells the idea that the High Desert is a “bedroom community,” pointing out that, with a population of 440,000 people, it is the 8th largest “city” in the state, maintaining its own economic base of consumers while still holding on to its “hometown” feel. He also talks of the High Desert’s rich history of innovation, from having the largest turkey farm in the U.S. to the fact that retail and restaurant companies use the High Desert as a testing ground for expanding their products “out west.” Eric Schmidt possesses a combination of real world experience and formal education, and enjoys serving people in the High Desert and county-wide. His natural abilities complement his work as Mayor of Hesperia, and are just what a city like this needs to flourish and grow responsibly. In his business life, Schmidt supervises the day-to-day business operations of Exquadrum while providing the corporate and technical vision, and is heavily engaged in its research and development efforts. He has received many awards and recognition. Schmidt has lived in the area for 35 years and graduated from Hesperia High School. He is a forward thinker, and has high standards for himself, his company and his community. A devoted family man, Schmidt and his wife Cindie have raised two sons and a daughter in Hesperia.  

Robert Lovingood – Sept. 2015

By the time he was 10 years old, Robert Lovingood was working at the corner grocery store stocking shelves and sweeping floors. His family owned some businesses and instilled in him a strong work ethic. He believes experience is the best teacher, and for 30 years he has founded and managed businesses, including one that he sold and it became a publicly traded corporation. Since moving to the High Desert in 1989, Robert has been involved in many non-profit organizations as a way to give back to the community. Throughout his working life, and as a business owner, he has seen how government policies can help, or harm, job creators. Some of the reasons he ran for Supervisor are the excessive state regulations and unreasonable taxation that are killing jobs in California. Robert seeks to shape policies that serve county residents, and also acknowledges that there are other local, state and federal representatives who are fighting for fiscal responsibility in our government. He feels the supervisors have made progress on many issues, including improving law enforcement, helping reduce the homeless population, property tax reform, improving veterans’ lives, helping senior citizens, abused women and more. Robert came to this job, not as a politician, but from a business perspective. Aside from his time in the Air Force, his career has been in the private sector as an employee, a manager, business owner and entrepreneur. As an employer, he knows what it’s like to be responsible for working families, and the struggles they face A brief description of what is happening in with jobs, education, welfare, homeless, and veterans follows: The general job trend nationally is that people and businesses are moving to low tax, low regulation states. California’s business climate is poor, and our unemployment rate is higher than the nation’s. One goal is to establish our county as a model of business friendliness. Education, jobs and health are closely related. Statewide, education levels, especially for bachelor’s degrees and above is higher in California than in San Bernardino County. We are making progress in raising the high school graduation rate. Robert lives in Apple Valley with his wife, Melanie and their three children.  

Lorrie Steely – Oct. 2015

Lorrie Steely formed a community action group called Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative (MC3) to help fight two proposed “big energy” projects. MC3 members put together a campaign called “2 Save Our Skyline,” that ultimately brought down Goliath (SCE) in a battle over the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission and Northpeak Wind projects slated for the Milpas Highlands in the easterly part of the Victor Valley. She grew up on a 500 acre dairy farm in Valley Home near Sonora and Yosemite. She moved to Apple Valley in 1993 after living in Pasadena, Tujunga and Hesperia. One day in August of 2013 she was driving home up Milpas Road and stopped to look at a piece of paper on a telephone pole. It was a Public Notice from SCE about their submission to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop the Coolwater-Lugo Power Transmission Project in the immediate area. She visited the website, made phone calls and found out about the huge scope of the project that SCE wanted that would cover 165 acres of land. She found that massive projects were being shoved into local communities by federal and state government representatives, using a process that would compromise the land and citizens, without looking at, or having any alternatives. This one proposed project alone included 71 industrial 500-feet high wind turbines in Phase I alone, of a 14-phase plan for power and energy that would not even be used in our own community. Lorrie brought the community together and formed MC “cubed” (MC3), which informs people and motivates them to take action. The group started an education campaign called Save or Skyline (SOS). To learn more about the Mojave Communities Coalition, go to  

A. V. Mayor Larry Cusack – Nov. 2015

Apple Valley Mayor Larry Cusack is a true hometown boy, having grown up in Apple Valley and raising his own family here. He also owns a local business that was started by his father, Earl, in 1956. Back then, Apple Valley Communications had three employees, and has grown to over 60, including several family members. A telecommunications and alarm company, it provides communication services to federal government agencies spanning across California, Arizona, and Nevada, and also provides monitored security and alarm systems to local residents, businesses, school districts and businesses. As a youth Cusack was always active in sports, and when his kids were growing up, he served local teams as a coach and sponsor. This led to further involvement in other community service activities. Before becoming a city councilman, he was appointed to the local fire board, was a planning commissioner, served on the town’s Community Development Citizen’s Advisory Committee and the Park and Recreation Commission. Cusack looks at his city council experience as a continued responsibility to the residents of his community. Ongoing issues include water ownership and the drought, the Yucca Loma Corridor/Bridge project, bringing a hotel to the town, and working with other cities on bringing more businesses and services to the region through the Opportunity High Desert cooperative. Mayor Cusack is approachable and friendly, so if you see him out and about, be sure to say “Hi.”  

Doug Robertson – Dec. 2015

Victorville City Manager Doug Robertson moved to the High Desert in 1988, with his wife Inger and their two daughters. He became Victorville’s city manager in July of 2011 and has worked for the city for approximately 14 years. He has spent most of his career working in the public sector previously at California State University San Bernardino and the City of San Bernardino. During his time as Victorville city manager he has consolidated two independent water districts, negotiated the settlement of a claim from General Electric, negotiated a $54 million settlement for the failed Foxborough power plant and resolved a $13.4 million structural budget deficit in the City’s General Fund without cuts to Police and Fire. Upgrading the overall image of the city is one of his current goals, including bringing the community together for events and neighborhood beautification is having a positive impact. The city continues to grow and make improvements. A Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grant has been used to fix up and sell run-down homes, and a similar program is helping to rehab businesses in the old town area of the city. Beautification projects include redesigning medians on major roads, including Green Tree Blvd and 7th Street where grass is replaced with water saving desert-scapes. Robertson is active with the Opportunity High Desert, a regional powerhouse of five local cities: Adelanto, Apple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia and Victorville. With a combined population almost 450,000 residents, it would be the 8th largest city in California. By joining forces, the group offers a regional consumer market of $5.3 billion, helping to bring better retail choices to its residents. In 2012, the City of Victorville celebrated its 50th anniversary of incorporation by holding a dinner celebration at the Hilton Garden Inn. With Robertson’s vision and guidance, the city is well on its way to another 50 years of being a great place for people to live and enjoy life.

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