Chapter History

By Marty Marino, June 2001

On June 14, 2001, the Valley Coastal’s charter as an official Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) was twenty years old. It was on this date in 1981 that Regional Vice President (RVP) Martin A Marino accompanied the Chapter’s first President, Ralph Westland and Member-at-Large Leon Cuthbert to the podium at the Assembly meeting in Salt Lake City to formally receive the Charter from Society President John E. Russell.

The official beginning and/or birth of the Chapter was with the Buena Ventura section of the Los Angeles Chapter when Chapter President Martin A. Marino submitted the petition to the Regional Operating Committee for approval in February 1975. The Section Certificate was then formally presented by RVP Sam Rowland and Marty Marino at a Section meeting on April 18, 1975.

Much of the groundwork was started by Ray Mera, who moved to Ventura from Orange County. Ray was instrumental in forming the Orange County Section and Chapter in 1972. In a letter dated July 19, 1973 Ray solicited members for a new section and received 20 favorable replies from Los Angeles Chapter members. Unfortunately this attempt was not successful. However, in May 1974 another attempt was made, and with nine committed members, the first meeting was held on August 14, 1974. Officers were elected at the meeting of September 11, 1974 with the following founding fathers:

  • Chairman, Raymond Mera
  • Vice-Chairman, Robert Sautter
  • Secretary/Treasurer, Raymond B. Fowler
  • Programs, Glen Funk
  • Membership, Robert L. Davis

For several years after this, from 1974 to 1981, the Section experienced rough times with on and off meetings and interests. Thereafter major obstacles included difficulty in obtaining a 40 member signed petition including officer leadership, by-laws, a one year technical plan and territorial boundaries to submit for a Chapter charter. However, on January 19, 1981 an open workshop/dinner meeting was held at The Hungry Tiger Restaurant in Thousand Oaks. Martin Marino, RVP, was the principal speaker with the topic being formation of a Chapter and other related ASSE material on Regions, etc. There were 46 members in attendance, including Andrea Smutz, Leon Cuthbert, Ted Ferry, John Lukas, Don Thompson, and Tony Cruz.

The organizers of this meeting were Ralph Westland and Bob D’Amato who were instrumental in reviving the section, with the temporary name being The San Fernando Valley Section of the Los Angeles Chapter. They received strong support form Marty Marino, Regional Vice President, affectionately called the “Godfather” of the Section and the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles Chapter.

Meetings were held at Howard Johnson’s in Thousand Oaks. On the third meeting, March 16, 1981 founding member Vern McNaughton submitted the name of the Valley Coastal Chapter, which was unanimously approved by the members in attendance.

At this March meeting, a petition with 40+ member signatures, Chapter By-Laws, and Territorial boundaries were developed, and the following slate of officers were elected:

  • President, Ralph Westland
  • President-Elect, Bob D’Amato
  • Treasurer, Jim Sathe
  • Secretary, William Henke
  • Recorder, Tom Vandenburg
  • Member-at-Large, Leon Cuthbert
  • Assembly Delegate, John Houdeshell

This petition, etc. was submitted by Marty Marino and approved by the ASSE Board of Directors at their meeting in Salt Lake City on June 13, 1981.

On June 24, 1981, at the Holiday Inn in Woodland Hills, the new officers were installed and the first official Chapter meeting was held.

On September 16, 1981, at Howard Johnson’s in Thousand Oaks, the Society President, Donald Eckenfelder, formally presented the Chapter with its Charter. In addition, the Mayor of the City of Thousand Oaks gave a welcome speech to the attendees.

The Valley Coastal Chapter grew from its initial 50 Chartered members to the present day of almost 200. Meetings have been held on a monthly basis at various restaurants in the San Fernando Valley. The Warner Center Marriott has been home to the meetings for the last several years. From its first President, Ralph Westland, to its current President, Michelle Kelly, the Chapter has always experienced excellent leadership, providing technical meetings, seminars, and legislative involvement to support its members and to foster growth and development of the safety profession.