By Kristina Houck
From running for elected office to volunteering on various boards, Carmel Valley’s Ray Ellis spends much of his time looking for ways to give back to the local community and greater region.
A San Diegan since 1987, Ellis ran for the San Diego City Council in 2012. Although incumbent Sherri Lightner was re-elected to the District 1 seat, Ellis has found other ways to serve San Diego.
Ellis, who has lived in Carmel Valley for nearly a decade, has served on the Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Board for more than a year. Some of the challenges for the board have been moving forward with plans for a neighborhood park and managing growth in the community.
“It’s just a great community, and I wanted to become more involved,” he said.
“Our board is focused on open space and trails, and striking a balance between the environmental side, but also access. That’s a big part of the community, not only the Del Mar Mesa area, but the whole Carmel Valley area and San Diego in general.”
In addition to his work on the community planning board, Ellis serves as a board member on the Balboa Park Conservancy, which was formed in 2010 to promote and preserve Balboa Park, as well as raise funds for the 1,200-acre urban cultural park. The group is now responsible for rebooting the park’s centennial celebration.
“Balboa Park has some wonderful opportunities and some unique challenges,” Ellis said.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently unveiled plans for a scaled-down celebration to replace the spectacle that had been envisioned. The conservancy will now help the city host four events, including the 2014 and 2015 December Nights, which will serve as the centennial’s opening and closing ceremonies.
For the first time, the conservancy managed December Nights in 2013. The conservancy will manage the annual event again for the next two years, as well as two new events.
“It went very well, so it’s natural that they came back to us,” Ellis said. “It’s the city’s event. The centennial is the city’s event and we’re just trying to assist any way we can.”
In addition to his work in Carmel Valley and Balboa Park, Ellis serves as board chair of San Diego Social Venture Partners, an organization that invests time and money in nonprofit organizations to increase their impact in the community. San Diego Social Venture Partners has contributed more than $2 million to local nonprofits since it was founded in 2001.
Ellis serves as treasurer of The Parker Foundation, which creates partnerships with a variety of arts, community, educational and social organizations in San Diego County. He also serves on the finance committee of San Diego Grantmakers, a membership association that aims to connect and educate philanthropists.
Ellis is also on the board of the San Diego Workforce Partnership and is an active member of the San Diego Workforce Funders’ Collaborative.
“I’ve had just a wonderful time and I’ve met great people,” Ellis said. “I encourage folks to get involved both civically and from a community service standpoint.”
A Virginia native, Ellis earned his bachelor’s in history from Christopher Newport University and his MBA from Pepperdine University.
He is the owner of an investment firm, Ellis & Associates, LLC. He also manages the Ellis Family Foundation, a private foundation that funds other nonprofit organizations.
Although his run wasn’t successful in 2012, Ellis admitted he is open to the possibility of running for office again in the future.
“It will be an open seat in 2016, so it will be a different environment,” he said. “I learned a lot during that process, met some great people. I think I have a very strong grasp of citywide issues and neighborhood issues.
“It’s all about if I think I can have a positive impact on San Diego. I love our city and region.”