Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 11:06 am | Fair 60º

Goleta Council Interviews Candidates for Vacant Seat, Postpones Selection

City leaders continue the decision until Tuesday to give hopeful Eric Onnen the opportunity to be questioned

The Goleta City Council on Thursday interviewed candidates for its vacant seat, including Goleta Planning Commissioner Julie Solomon. A decision was postponed until next Tuesday because one applicant was not present.
The Goleta City Council on Thursday interviewed candidates for its vacant seat, including Goleta Planning Commissioner Julie Solomon. A decision was postponed until next Tuesday because one applicant was not present.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

The Goleta City Council was able to vet all but one of seven candidates who applied for its open seat — one person was out of town — so officials pushed an official selection until next Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Eric Onnen, a former Goleta city councilman and current city planning commissioner, could not attend Thursday’s special meeting because of a previous commitment, and a majority of four remaining council members thought a decision made without first interviewing him would be unfair.

The council voted 3-1 — with Councilwoman Paula Perotte dissenting — to continue a decision until Tuesday when a candidate would also be sworn into duty.

Seven candidates are vying for a fifth council seat, vacant after the resignation of Councilman Ed Easton on May 21.

Easton had to step down from the post after he and his wife bought a new house outside the city limits, and residency is a requirement to serve on the council.

Mayor Michael Bennett said candidate applications mistakenly did not include the date for interviews, although council members were already given notice to keep the day free.

“To me, it’s an issue of fairness,” Bennett said. “I really think he needs to be spoken with.”

Council members moved forward with other interviews, spending 30 minutes interviewing each candidate before a public comment period.

A current Goleta planning commissioner, a Design Review Board member, a recent UC Santa Barbara graduate and a U.S. Army veteran were among the locals vying for the spot

Questions ranged from whether candidates could commit enough time to the position to how they would reach out to constituents, since they’re bypassing an election campaign.

Council members also asked for opinions on the revenue neutrality agreement, ongoing development, Old Town Goleta revitalization, Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet, the oil-processing plant and more.

Some candidates hadn’t seen or attended any public city meetings, while others had already served several years on either the Goleta Planning Commission (Julie Solomon) or Design Review Board (Bill Shelor).

Other applicants included Tony Vallejo, a local accountant and past Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce board chairman; Catriona Orosco, a local single mother of three and project manager at Yardi Systems; Aaron Swaney, an Army veteran, parent and human resources and operations director at Independent Nurse Consulting; and Dayton Aldrich, a 2013 graduate of UCSB who has worked as an intern at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office since September and plans to attend the Santa Barbara College of Law this fall.

Council members commended applicants for presenting them with such a tough decision.

“No one needs to go away here with their heads down,” Bennett said. “It is another example of the quality of life we enjoy in Goleta. Don’t get discouraged.”

Council members will hear from Onnen on Tuesday before casting written ballot votes.

Whoever receives the majority of votes will be appointed to serve the remainder of Easton’s term, which lasts through the end of 2016.

An appointment must be made within 60 days of a vacancy. Otherwise, the open seat couldn’t be filled until the November election.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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