About Us

The Ladera Ranch Civic Council is the precursor to a local incorporated government which provides input to the Orange County governing boards as the Ladera Ranch civic representation. The Council serves Ladera in a capacity to encourage and gather public comment on a range of topics affecting the community.  The board members represent the interests of Ladera Ranch residents as their Civic Council. Meeting discussions provide input on:

  • Planning / Land Use
  • Public Safety
  • Public Works
  • Governance
  • Business Development
  • Other Municipal Related Services

The current Council includes:

  • Stephanie Ramsey – Chair
  • Gary Kephart – Vice Chair
  • Amir Arbabi – Treasurer
  • Margaret Novak – Councilmember
  • Mike Ellzey – Councilmember
  • Joe Brennenman – Councilmember
  • Carlo Tomaino – Administrator


Stephanie Ramsey – Chair (Appointed 2016) 

Stephanie grew up in South Orange County, has lived in Ladera Ranch since 2003, and is the mother of three teenagers. She is an Account Executive – Public Sector K-12 Education with SHI International Corp. Education is a passion for Stephanie and her current position, and prior years with Microsoft, has allowed her to work with schools, teachers, and students to inspire their learning environment through the use of technology.

Stephanie has been a long-time volunteer in Ladera Ranch; serving on the LARCS Board, Ladera Rancho Chamber of Commerce Board, Neighborhood Representative, PTA Board Member, AYSO volunteer, and Girl Scout Leader. She brings her expertise in marketing, technology, non-profit, and prior board experience to the Ladera Ranch Civic Council.

Gary Kephart – Vice Chair (Elected 2013, 2016, 2017) 


Gary is a native Southern Californian. He graduated from UC Irvine with a BS in Information and Computer Science. He and his wife, Laura, moved to Ladera Ranch in 2003 and a few years later, Gary became a Neighborhood Representative. In 2013, Gary decided to increase his commitment to Ladera and joined the Civic Council.


Amir Arbabi – Treasurer (Elected 2016) 


Amir and his family have resided in Ladera Ranch since 2009.  He brings to the board experience in financial services.




Margaret Novak – Councilmember (Appointed 2017)

Margaret Novak is a proud resident of Ladera Ranch and one who genuinely enjoys being involved in the community.  In addition to serving as an elected member of the Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation (LARMAC) Board of Directors, Margaret is very engaged in the business of Orange County. She is an appointed member of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) Citizen Advisory Committee – inclusive of the Bicycle/Pedestrian and Technology/Innovation Ad-Hoc Committees – as well as a member of the South Orange County Economic Coalition’s (SOCEC) Political Action Committee. She also serves on the Women’s Transportation Seminar of Orange County’s (WTS-OC) Board of Directors and is an active participant in the Orange County Business Council’s (OCBC) Governmental Affairs, Infrastructure, and Economic Development Committees. One of her proudest achievements is graduating from the Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series.

Margaret has an exceptionally well-rounded background in community development throughout southern California. Her career has largely centered around land use and transportation planning, as well as community engagement.  She has an undergraduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Cal Poly Pomona and has completed coursework towards a Masters degree in Public Administration from USC.  Having worked in both the public and private sectors, Margaret’s expertise is thoughtful, creative, and results-oriented.

Michael Ellzey – Councilmember (Elected 2016) 


Following 13 years working with publicly held companies in Silicon Valley, Michael Ellzey began a career in public service that includes executive appointments with the cities of San Jose, San Francisco, and Irvine, California. In 1991, he was appointed executive director of the San Jose Arena Authority, a public agency responsible for overseeing the construction and operation of the San Jose Arena, home of the NHL San Jose Sharks. In 2000, Ellzey was appointed chief executive officer of the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, the agency that supervised the renovation of the arts and cultural district in Golden Gate Park, site of the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. In his most recent assignment with the City of Irvine, Mr. Ellzey served as chief executive officer of the Orange County Great Park Corporation and assistant city manager with the City of Irvine.  Appointed in 2008, he supervised the agency responsible for early development of publicly owned land into a metropolitan park at the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, in the heart of Orange County.

Mr. Ellzey is currently the federal director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.  Appointed by the Archivist of the United States, Mr. Ellzey oversees one of 13 presidential libraries in the federal system administered by the National Archives.

Ellzey holds a Juris Doctor degree from Lincoln University School of Law and an undergraduate degree in political science from San Jose State University. He and his wife, Melanie, reside in Ladera Ranch with two of their four children. Mr. Ellzey served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War era.

Joe Brenneman – Councilmember (Elected 2017)

Joe Brenneman was elected to a 2-year term on the Council in September, 2017. He and his wife, Beth, have lived in Ladera Ranch with their four sons since 2005.  They selected Ladera Ranch following an exhaustive and months-long search after relocating to southern California from the Midwest. After falling in love with their new neighborhood, they decided to make this their permanent home and have made plans to eventually retire here.

Joe grew up in Kansas City, Mo. and attended the University of Kansas – where he earned a BS degree in Journalism.  He later went back to KU, while working and raising a family, to earn his MBA in Marketing.  Joe began his career as a journalist and soon moved into sales and marketing roles at various media companies – first focusing on traditional media advertising and then transitioning into new media opportunities available online and through social media.  His career advanced through promotions to leadership positions in sales and marketing – and ultimately to the Executive Boards that ran local media outlets in areas such as Kansas City, Baltimore, Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego.  He was recruited to lead revenue-generating sales, marketing and product development teams by companies such as ABC/Capital Cities, Knight Ridder, Disney, Freedom Communications and Tribune Company.

Joe’s passion has always been to help small business owners and executives reach their personal and professional goals. He is the President and Owner of The Growth Coach of South OC, a business and sales coaching company that utilizes a proprietary system – The Strategic Business Mindset – with a 20-year successful track record of delivering proven results.  Joe is a certified Growth Coach.