A posed photo of the five Women of the Year with the Riverside County Supervisors behind them.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors this week named five women from across the county Women of the Year. (Courtesy photo)

In honor of Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors this week honored five incredible women from across the county for their contributions to their communities.

“Women’s History Week was founded in 1978 to implement the women’s history and education curriculum, and 10 years later, congress proclaimed the month of March as Women’s History Month to celebrate the economic, political and social contributions of women,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “We created this award here … to honor women who have made efforts and inspiring change throughout Riverside County, and I’m really excited that we have this opportunity.”

The women honored at the March 5 meeting were selected by each supervisor, with the help of their staff, from a list of nominees submitted to their offices. This year, the goal was to celebrate women who have “aimed to put their community first through innovation and efforts to bring social and economic change, and diligence to create a better community.”

District 1 Supervisor Kevin Jeffries presents Sterlon Marie Sims her Woman of the Year plaque. (Courtesy photo)

District 1: Sterlon Marie Sims

In introducing Sterlon Marie Sims, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries first listed off all of her many accolades, including more than 18 years of experience in government administration, primarily within the Riverside County Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions (HWS), and serving on various boards and committees throughout the county, including the Boulder Springs Homeowners Association.

“That alone deserves an award,” Jeffries said.

A resident of Mead Valley, Sims graduated from Cal State University Dominguez Hills with bachelor’s degrees in communications and sociology and a master’s degree in leadership and management with a minor in human resources from the University of LaVerne.

“It is always an incredible pleasure to work with you out in the field and get things done, because you have so much energy in what you do and dedication to the community,” Jeffries said.

Sims thanked the HWS staff, her mentor and her family, friends and colleagues for always supporting her and being at the meeting.

“It’s been said that the heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others,” she said. “And I strive to be that person to embody that.”

District 2 Supervisor Karen Spiegel presents Michelle Sheen her Woman of the Year plaque. (Courtesy photo)

District 2: Michelle Sheen

Michelle Sheen is the first American-born director of the Eastvale Chinese American Association Library where she mentors youth and manages events to spread awareness about Chinese culture and traditions.

“This young lady recognizes the rich diversity of culture through her city Eastvale,” Spiegel said. “She is only 25-years-old, but her contributions make her a great role model to all who aspire to make their communities better.”

Spiegel said she first met Sheen at the Eastvale Lantern Festival, but didn’t realize that it was her in the booth working with youth at the event. But Sheen’s impact is not just local.

Sheen participated in the Project-Based Learning International Competition held by the National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan representing Team America and presented her research at the 2023 Joint Conference on Global Health in Japan among other achievements.

“She has truly demonstrated her commitment to her community and made an impact on the world around us,” Spiegel said.

Sheen thanked her family, both there at the meeting and watching online, and friends for their ongoing support.

“I certainly couldn’t have done this without any of your guys’ help,” she said. “All the ECAA events that I do, I always drag my friends and force them to do them with me, so this is an award for all of us, not just me.”

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District 3 Supervisor Chuck Washington presents Raven Hilden her Woman of the Year plaque. (Courtesy photo)

District 3: Raven Hilden

Raven Hilden is the founder and CEO of MilVet, a nonprofit organization that supports deployed troops, veterans and their families. She also collected a compilation of stories from 30 local veterans. Those stories were then published in the book, “A Veteran’s Story: True Stories of Strength, Courage and Inspiration.”

“Raven mentors, encourages and uplifts both men and women alike,” Supervisor Chuck Washington said. “She is described as a great resource for individuals to learn how to operate a nonprofit, become a valuable member of their community and develop a servant’s heart.” 

Along with running her nonprofit, Hilden currently serves on a number of veteran committees and is a member of the Global Society For Female Entrepreneurs and the Professional Women’s Roundtable.

“Raven’s passion for helping others shows in the difference she continues to make within the community,” Washington said. “Her leadership has paved the way for MilVet’s success and has built it up to the extraordinary service organization that it is today — all based on volunteer work.” 

Hilden thanked her husband, family, friends and MilVet team for believing in her and her ideas and projects.

“This is such an incredible honor, especially coming from Supervisor Washington who has dedicated his life to service through the military, city, county and even today, so thank you very much,” she said. “And I feel so blessed to be a part of this community that affords us so many options to get involved and make a positive difference.”

District 4 Supervisor V. Manuel presents Jan Pye her Woman of the Year plaque. (Courtesy photo)

District 4: Jan Pye

Jan Pye currently serves on the Desert Hot Springs City Council where she represents District 3 and has been named mayor pro tem. She moved to the city in 1998 in search of a better education for her daughter, Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said.

“I remember you talking about your daughter, and about how tough it was in L.A.,” Perez said. “You wanted her to have a better education, you wanted her to be free from drugs and gangs and issues that obviously a mother or father would think about their kids.”

Pye, who helped Desert Hot Springs avoid bankruptcy and get back on stable financial ground, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business development and a master’s in financial management. But it’s her commitment to her community that Perez highlighted the most.

She is a member of the Desert Hot Springs Women’s Club, the Desert Hot Springs Elks Lodge 2639, the Senior Center Advisory Committee and the Historical Society, serves on a number of community boards and helps to mentor youth of all ages through the Rotary Club and The Ophelia Project.

“All these efforts obviously come from your heart,” Perez said. “They come from your soul, and that’s the reason why you’re up here, Jan, because we love you back home, I certainly do, and you mean a lot to me and to a lot of these folks right here, especially folks from the Coachella Valley and the Fourth District and especially folks from Desert Hot Springs.”

Pye, who was moved to tears by the presentation, thanked the members of the Desert Hot Springs City Council as well as city staff and Perez.

“I thank you as my silent mentor,” she said. “That you acknowledge me by what you do, walking your talk.”

District 5 Supervisor Yxstian Gutierrez presents Cyndi Lemke her Woman of the Year plaque. (Courtesy photo)

District 5: Cyndi Lemke

Cyndi Lemke is currently the executive director of the Hemet San Jacinto Chamber where she has led the charge in growing business memberships throughout the valley while also helping to foster community among the businesses.

“Transformational leadership is really where you inspire others to lead and I really truly see that in Cyndi,” Supervisor Yxstian Gutierrez said.

Lemke graduated from Hemet High School and later went onto Mount San Jacinto Community College where she realized her passion was to help her fellow community members. She was recently chosen to lead the new District 5 Employer Connect program, which will provide businesses incentives to hire individuals who will train to improve homelessness. 

Along with her work, Lemke is involved with a number of organizations that align with her values, including the Trauma Intervention Programs Riverside County Chapter which helps to serve the needs of those in crisis as requested by first responders, hospital personnel, paramedics or the coroner’s office.

“When you look at that theme, to inspire and to include those most vulnerable populations, Cyndi, it was an easy decision to make,” Gutierrez said. “Cyndi, again, has that leadership, she has that inclusive leadership, and she has the inspirational leadership in the Fifth District, and we’re thrilled from the Fifth District to have you on board.”

Lemke said she was humbled by the honor and was so moved hearing all of the work that the other women have done for their communities.

“I’m just honored to be a part of it,” she said. “Supervisor, you’re amazing in what you’re doing and you are the inspiration of inclusion for District 5, and it’s an easy partnership to serve you and to work with you.”

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