The possibility of taking on a new challenge in which he would both enjoy and excel lured Paul Hood out of retirement and back to an all-too familiar profession.
The Atascadero resident refers to the new gig as “fun” and “fascinating,” which makes sense considering Hood has been actively involved in similar commissions that regulate city boundaries within California counties for more than three decades.
Hood most recently served as the executive officer of the San Luis Obispo LAFCO commission — a position he held more than 29 years — before retiring in 2009, and also previously worked as an analyst in the San Mateo LAFCO office and served on commissions at the state level.
“The challenge of stepping into this interim role as the executive officer of Santa Barbara LAFCO was intriguing,” he told Noozhawk. “My appointment is for up to two years. It’s possible it could go longer. I’m trying to meet with as many people as I can.”
Last week, Hood led his first LAFCO commission meeting since being appointed as interim executive officer in March and shadowing his predecessor for months.
Since then, Hood has been commuting the two hours down to Santa Barbara once or twice a week and working from home in an effort to get up to speed.
What he’s found is that Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties aren’t all that different when it comes to governing growth and development, the core mission of the state-created agencies.
Commissioners plucked Hood out of retirement to ensure a smooth transition and set up a secure future. One of his tasks is to assess LAFCO’s long-term budget and administrative operations to determine the best goals and objectives moving forward.
Hood, a Sacramento native, became interested in regional planning issues while studying at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
He said he could already see that water and sewer services in northern Santa Barbara County, especially in the Santa Ynez Valley, might be an issue of concern.
“I think it’s a very worthwhile and very influential commission dealing with growth issues, preserving agricultural land, dealing with infrastructure,” Hood said. “There isn’t anyone else except for LAFCO that really looks at issues like this.”
Hood said it’s too early to tell whether he’d like to stay on after his two-year contract, partly because he had been enjoying the retirement life of backpacking, fishing, traveling with his wife in their RV and visiting their three grown children.
How he handles the new challenge and what type of direction the county commission chooses to adopt remains to be seen.