Los Angeles County Fair Association President and CEO James Henwood, right, and former Cal Poly Pomona president and Los Angeles County Fair Association Chairman Michael Ortiz respond to criticism of Fairplex operations in Pomona on Saturday.
Los Angeles County Fair Association President and CEO James Henwood in front of the administration building at Fairplex in Pomona on Saturday.
Rachel Luna Staff Photographer
POMONA >> To say the nonprofit Los Angeles County Fair Association has strayed from its agricultural roots could not be further from the truth, said James Henwood, president and chief executive officer of the association Saturday.
The Fair Association
remains committed to its agricultural mission, he
The two topics were brought up in an article published by the Los Angeles Times last week critical of Henwood
The publication reported Henwood
was making close to $900,000 in compensation and that organization has been drifting away from its agricultural mission and increasingly focusing on profit-generating ventures.
is responsible for putting on the monthlong Los Angeles County Fair along with running revenue generating businesses such as the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center and a catering operation.
is also responsible for bring events to Fairplex that keep it operating year-round in addition to the nonprofit Learning Centers
at Fairplex, which includes the Child Development Center at Fairplex and the Career and Technical Education Center
, a vocational training program for youth and young adults.
I dont sit to defend my worth, others do that, Henwood
Henwood was hired as president and CEO in 1995 after having been general manager of South Coast Plaza for 17 years and executive assistant manager of Westin Hotels and Resorts for close to nine years.
At the time he
was asked to enhance the business purpose of the hotel which at that point was losing about $500,000 a year.
bosses told Henwood
they would like him to grow the year-round business aspect of Fairplex.
A 1988 lease between L.A. County contained a stipulation.
It had a specific requirement to increase the economic purpose of the campus, Henwood
A week after arriving Henwood
learned horse racing was not doing as well as hed been told and he
learned people had concerns associated with visiting the carnival section of the Fair at night due to the presence of gang members.
Steps were taken that made the Fair a safe environment for fair-goers and efforts made to keep horse racing going until last year when the Fairs race meet was moved to Los Alamitos where it has been successful, he
Every indication is that it performed at a higher and better level, than the year before based on the satisfaction of those who attend, he
While the Fair is successful high summer temperatures impacts attendance.
On three or four weekends this year Fair-goers didnt begin arriving until 4 p.m.
Increasingly the Fair is becoming an evening attraction, Henwood
Fairplex continues to meet all of its financial obligations, Henwood
said the Fair Association
remains committed to agriculture.
We are as connected to agriculture if not more, he
In L.A. County, large farms that cultivate acres of crops are almost nonexistent so the Fair Association
has adapted offering programs that still promote agriculture but in a more relevant way such as the case of the urban farming concept.
The Farm, on the White Avenue side of Fairplex, has expanded to showcase that form of farming and its available year-round.
Fairplex is working to develop a program that will bring 4H programs back to the fairgrounds but that include an educational structure.
said recent days have not been easy.
To see this organization placed in the position it has been over the last week and a half is disheartening, disappointing and in many ways a poor reflection on the work of lots of people historical and currently, he
That includes many people who have volunteered their time and worked to make Fairplex a success.
Its not a fair representation of the company, Henwood