The Conejo Valley is filled with remarkable men who make a positive difference in everything they do. The following four men in particular have spent the majority of their lives working toward the greater good for all.
Chris Cook, Gas Company Pipeline Technician & Casa Pacifica Volunteer of the Year
“The deed carries its own reward.”
As a Gas Company Pipeline Technician for nearly four decades, Chris Cook takes great pride in making sure that high pressure gas lines are located correctly for contractors and ensuring everyone’s safety.
“I also try my best to lead by example in regard to having a good work ethic—I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and do the hard work,” says Chris, who was born and raised in Ventura County.
Leading by example also means giving back to his community as a volunteer at Casa Pacifica, a local nonprofit organization that offers adolescent and family services designed to treat victims of abuse and neglect, substance abuse, homelessness, and other behavioral and mental health issues.
At Casa Pacifica, where Chris was named Volunteer of the Year, “I love building things, so anything needed for the children’s parties is fun to plan and build. The parties are always a fun theme. I built a tiki bar for our Hawaiian Christmas a few years ago.”
Chris also volunteers to help with Casa Pacifica’s fundraising events, like the Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival, which has established itself as Ventura County’s premiere Wine & Food event.
“Whatever they need fixed, built or organized—I’m up for it,” Chris emphasizes.
He has also done volunteer work for the City of Ventura, where “I’ve overseen and built four playgrounds around Ventura County.”
Reflecting on his life so far, Chris says one of his greatest accomplishments is staying at the same job as a pipeline technician for nearly four decades. He is also proud of his wife, Tamiann, and their two children, Tyler, age 27, and Sara, age 31.
As far as his secrets to success are concerned, Chris offers the following advice: “Ask what you need and get it done.” When it comes to working with other people, he also believes it’s important to ask: “How can I help? How can I make it easier for you? How can we accomplish what needs to be done?”
What inspires him the most is “helping others.” He especially enjoys overcoming challenges to complete a task and seeing tasks through to the end, so he can move on to the next thing. Also, “being organized inspires me—to be organized means I’m organized on all levels.”
When he’s not involved with work or philanthropy, Chris enjoys playing video games; spending time with his two English retrievers, Bella and Stella; and engaging in activities with his family, such as building items he and his wife see on Pinterest. Additionally, “I would like to get back into softball.”
In the future, he’s looking forward to retirement, as well as upcoming projects at Casa Pacifica.
“There’s so much to be done there. Tami, my wife, is president of the Casa Pacifica Angels, and with her leadership, they are making major events and projects happen.”
While the past two years have been incredibly challenging due to the global pandemic, Chris offers the following words of wisdom: “Stay the course and it will be fine,” he says. “Focus on dealing with the here. Accept the facts. Try to be prepared, but be flexible to adjust to the situation.”
Tom Fisher, Chief Investment Officer for Montecito Bank & Trust
“Do what you love and make a career out of it—and the rest will fall into place.”
With nearly four decades of experience in portfolio management and financial planning, Tom Fisher takes great pride in overseeing assets for individuals, families, private foundations and other charitable organizations.
“I’m a teacher at heart,” says Tom, the Chief Investment Officer for Montecito Bank & Trust, which serves Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. “I enjoy helping people and communicating complex ideas to them in language they can understand.”
Flashback to the early 1980s when Tom took his first personal financial class at Santa Barbara City College at age 19.
“I had an amazing instructor—John Bowman,” Tom remembers of the mentor who inspired him. “It was my first exposure to concepts such as banking basics, financial planning and investments. I teach the fundamentals, and that goes back to that great teacher who motivated me to become interested in this career path.”
Today, he enjoys guiding people “through this complex maze of financial planning questions…it’s a comprehensive plan and a holistic look at a client’s situation, guiding them through the different options. Ultimately the client makes the decision, but I want them to make that decision with professional direction and guidance so they feel confident about their investment plan.”
One of the things that attracted Tom to Montecito Bank & Trust “is their strong community impact—this is something the founder created.” For instance, “we provide more than 5,400 volunteer hours per year to local nonprofits…we are having a meaningful impact on the communities that we serve.”
Tom also volunteered his expertise to help wounded military members. This was inspired by his father, who was an airplane engine mechanic in the Army Air Corps in World War II.
“He was blind in one eye from a fishing accident as a child, so he memorized the eye chart so he could get into the Army,” Tom recalls. “I never served in the military, but when he told me that story I wanted to do something for the military. On two occasions, I worked with severely wounded Marines from Iraq and Afghanistan and created financial plans for them to get them in their forever home.”
In other philanthropy, “I’m currently the president of the Rotary Club of Montecito,” Tom says of the service organization with the motto: “Service above self.”
“We are looking to raise $20,000 from member donations…for humanitarian relief in Ukraine.”
Tom believes giving back to others “is in our DNA…you feel part of something bigger than yourself. There’s a real sense of pride and accomplishment when you help people and see the results.”
When it comes to things that have inspired him, Tom noted, The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court and The Pyramid of Success, both authored by John Wooden, who used the Pyramid to train and develop the UCLA men's basketball teams that won 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years.
“I’m also a big fan of Warren Buffet,” Tom says. “I like to share Buffet’s wisdom with young people.” Invest in stocks like you’re buying the whole business.
When he’s not involved with work or philanthropy, Tom enjoys golfing with his wife, traveling, and spending time with their three grandchildren.
As the world continues to change during these challenging times, he offers the following advice: “Continue to keep the faith. Realize that the situation we’re in today will change—that we know for sure—so remain positive and hopeful.”
Kevin Gamboa, EMT and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County “Big” of the Year
“Greatness from small beginnings.” –Sir Francis Drake
For Kevin Gamboa, working as an ambulance EMT and volunteering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County is all about service to others.
“Every day, multiple times a day, I get to be a part of a team that helps the people in Ventura County when they have an emergency and need to call 9-1-1,” says Kevin, of Moorpark, who has also been a Big Brother (mentor) to a little boy named Dorian for the past six years.
“Signing up to help this smart and cool little man has been the single best decision I have ever made,” emphasizes Kevin, who has helped guide Dorian through everything from his first romantic relationships to run-ins with school bullies—and most recently, his first job.
“I am proud to say that I am his brother and I helped him on his way to being a positive member of the community.”
In related endeavors, Kevin is president of the BBBSVC Ambassador Group, a team that arranges outings for “Bigs” and “Littles” to get together.
“At these outings, the kids get to meet other kids and see that they are not alone in the program, and they also get to see other kids with similar family situations,” Kevin explains.
Looking back on his life so far, he is proud of the 15-year-long career he had in finance, which was the profession he left in order to work in emergency medical services. Additionally, “I am proud to be a Big Brother to both Dorian and to my biological brother, Eric. I am proud to be serving our county as an EMT on an ambulance in the 9-1-1 system.”
Wisdom that infuses his daily life comes from people like Sir Francis Drake, the famous navigator and sailor, who stated: “Greatness from small beginnings.”
“It reminds me that no matter how small we feel we are, we can all achieve great things,” Kevin says.
In other wisdom, his favorite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
“I read it often, especially when I need to be reminded to follow my dreams,” Kevin says. “It also inspires me to challenge myself. It encouraged me to travel the world to learn as much as I can.”
He is particularly inspired by his father, who came to America as an immigrant with nothing and has made a great life for himself and his family.
“He has always worked to build up the people around him,” Kevin says. “That is why it is always important to me to help others as much as I can.”
As far as the future is concerned, Kevin looks forward to watching Dorian grow “into the good man I know he will be.” Additionally, “I am working on my path to become a firefighter.”
As communities continue to navigate their lives in the midst of the pandemic, Kevin offers the following advice: “Remember this time—people will be asking you about this time for the rest of your life,” he says. “Remember that you made it through. The pandemic was hard, but you made it through. That is just proof of how strong you are.”
Moy Serrano, State Farm Agent
“It’s not how much you have or how much you accumulate in life—it’s how many people you impact along the way.”
As a State Farm Insurance agent for nearly four decades, Moy Serrano feels fortunate to have many clients who have stayed with him for up to 30 years.
“I now insure their kids and grandkids,” says Moy, a resident of Thousand Oaks since 1967 who earned his degree in Business Administration from California Lutheran University.
Over the years, he has helped many folks in not losing their homes, avoid being sued because of an accident, and/or making sure that a life policy was in effect for the family.
“That has been very rewarding to help out my clients,” he says.
In other endeavors, Moy has been involved with the Mexican Chamber in Oxnard, “where I took on the challenge of how to run it in a better, more honest way; saved the D.A.R.E. (program)…and I started a golf tournament that went on for years to raise funds for the program.”
Additionally, he is the founder of HOY—Help Our Youth—a nonprofit that provides mentoring for youths by helping them with life tools, career choice and direction for earning a degree.
“We are planning a big project where we are developing a community farm to educate students on the process of growing different foods, how they grow, how the insects play a part and why it’s good to eat fresh organic food instead of processed food,” Moy explains.
When he’s not immersed in his vocation and philanthropic activities, Moy enjoys hobbies, such as making things out of wood, welding and building furniture. He is also a collector of Hot Wheels, with more than 100 in his office and more than 3,000 in his home collection.
Reflecting on his life and the things that have inspired him along the way, Moy said the book, The Power of Choice has made a positive difference.
“We decide how much we let things that happen in our lives affect us, hurt us, make us react the wrong way or make us go into depression,” he says. “When you are in control of mind over body, you can overcome a lot.”
The married father of three sons with a 3-year-old grandson also takes pride in the men his sons have become.
“They are all good, responsible, honest hard-working men,” says Moy, adding that he was able to send his sons to college without any financial assistance. “They could start without debt—that has been a big accomplishment for me and my kids.”
Moy says it’s important to be grateful for each day: “Don’t waste it and enjoy the moment in whatever you are doing…I always look at what tomorrow will bring.”
In today’s challenging times, he adds the following advice: “Keep being positive,” Moy emphasizes. “Remember, you are not the only person in this situation—we are all in it. Do your part and keep moving forward. Remember the power of choice…keep your head up high and don’t stop working to better yourself and those around you.”
As far as his future is concerned, “I look forward to enjoying more family time and hope for more grandkids.”