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Local News

Buellton City Councilman, SBCAG Board Member Russ Hicks Dies at Age 55

Santa Barbara County native is remembered for his dedication to public service

Longtime Buellton City Councilman Russ Hicks has died. He was 55.

Russ Hicks
Russ Hicks

The cause remains unknown, and sources close to Hicks, who died at his home Thursday morning, told Noozhawk they weren’t aware of any serious illness.

He is survived by his wife, Cindy, and two sons.

“Russ loved Buellton and devoted many hours of public service to our city,” Buellton City Manager John Kunkel said. “It is a great loss, and our prayers and thoughts are with his family.”

Hicks, a Santa Barbara County native, was re-elected last November for the fourth time after winning a seat in 1994. He moved to the Santa Ynez Valley after being raised in Santa Maria and worked with Health Sanitation Service for 21 years as a union steward and pension trustee.

For the past 20 years, Hicks has been involved with economic development task forces, the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and the League of California Cities, and sat as a representative on the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. He also served six terms as Buellton’s mayor and two as a city planning commissioner.

Hicks was also active in programs at Jonata Middle School and Santa Ynez Valley Union High School and has supported youth recreation programs, including Santa Ynez Pony Baseball and the Santa Ynez Valley Elks.

Joe Armendariz, SBCAG chairman, said Hicks had a wealth of knowledge about the subject matter that came before the board.

“When he spoke, it was always directly on point, and with a keen insight that few others had due to his years of serving on the board,” Armendariz said. “He also had a great sense of humor, and knew how to work with the other members regardless of geography or ideology. I will miss him very much.”

Hicks had just returned to the SBCAG board as Buellton’s representative after a one-year hiatus, said Jim Kemp, SBCAG’s executive director.

“Russ was always fair and respectful to everyone. He was more interested in good governance and getting things done than playing politics. Russ was folksy and unpretentious, but extremely smart and a quick study,” Kemp said. “All of us at SBCAG are really going to miss him both personally and professionally. This is a real loss for the community.”

“It’s very sad,” said Jim Salvito, president and CEO of Santa Barbara-based MNS Engineers. “I’ve fished with Russ on a few occasions, and had many great conversations over the years about a myriad of topics. He always had a well thought-out viewpoint. He was an expert on planning and regional transportation issues. His passing is a big loss for Buellton, SBCAG and all that knew him.”

Funeral services are pending.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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