Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 3:18 pm | Fair 61º


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Citing Public Safety, Physician Seeks Seat on Santa Maria City Council

Dr. Michael Moats, a former planning commissioner, is among 6 candidates vying for a pair of 4-year terms

Dr. Michael Moats, a dermatologist who has practiced in Santa Maria for nearly 40 years, is one of six candidates for two City Council seats in the Nov. 8 election. Click to view larger
Dr. Michael Moats, a dermatologist who has practiced in Santa Maria for nearly 40 years, is one of six candidates for two City Council seats in the Nov. 8 election. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

As a longtime resident of Santa Maria, Dr. Michael Moats said he decided to enter the City Council race to help shape his community.

“I just want to have some say in the future of our valley,” he said, a short time before setting out to walk precincts with his grandchildren. “It’s been a great city for me.”

The 68-year-old dermatologist has been active in city government after serving a seven-year stint on the Planning Commission.

Moats is one of six candidates running for two seats on the City Council, with one incumbent, Terri Zuniga, in the field. The other incumbent, Bob Orach, is not seeking re-election after 30 years on the council.

Also on the ballot are Mike Cordero, a former councilman and retired police lieutenant; and businessmen John Childers Jr., Ed Hernandez and Hector Sanchez. Childers has not responded to Noozhawk’s emails and phone calls.

The four-year terms will go to the top two vote-getters in the Nov. 8 election.

In a separate race, Mayor Alice Patino is being challenged by former educator Will Smith for a two-year term to wield the gavel.

Moats cited public safety as his top concern, adding that the city can take steps to improve the environment, such as ensuring police officers and firefighters have the proper equipment to do their jobs.

Preventing youths from getting involved in gangs would be ideal, he said.

The key is getting youth to join a group — such as organized sports or the Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley — to keep them out of trouble, he added.

“I’m sure that a young kid who participates in soccer and abides by the rules, agrees to the authority figure of the coach, probably would be less likely to join a youth gang,” Moats said.

He said the high-profile arrest of MS-13 international street gang members doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is permanently resolved.

“Where’s there’s a niche, it will be filled,” Moats added.

Economic development is another concern he cited.

“What we need are high-paying jobs,” he added.

But Santa Maria is vying with other communities to attract companies and should tout its pleasant climate, Highway 101 accessibility, nice airport and solid workforce, he said.

“I think the city needs to do what it can to maybe make some of the regulations a little bit easier,” Moats said, adding that it may mean providing breaks on developer fees.

“Then we’ll wind up being richer on the back end when they have employees who buy things here and pay sales tax,” he said.

Moats and his wife, Susan, have four children and seven grandchildren.

The family moved to Santa Maria more than 38 years ago so he could start a dermatology practice, which includes a division called Moats Laser & Skin Care for cosmetic procedures.

Moats also has been been on the medical staff at Marian Regional Medical Center, and for the past two years has been teaching interns and residents the dermatology specialty under a program to train primary care physicians with a goal of keeping them in Santa Maria.

The West Los Angeles native attended UCLA for an undergraduate degree and medical school before completing his dermatology residency at USC.

His first foray into council campaigning ended before it started. In 2010, after the deadline passed to remove his name from contention, Moats decided he didn’t have time to practice and campaign.

He is active in both Santa Maria Breakfast Rotary and Santa Maria Noontime Kiwanis clubs. He also is a founding board member of Community Bank of Santa Maria, and he serves on the bank’s loan and audit committees.

Moats noted that he has received endorsements from Patino; former Mayors Joe Centeno, Larry Lavagnino and Abel Maldonado; and Santa Barbara County Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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