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Former Santa-Maria Bonita School Board Member Will Smith Seeking Mayor’s Job

Smith says his priorities would be stopping youth violence and filling vacant commercial buildings as he announces bid for November's election

Former Santa Maria-Bonita School District board member Will Smith is running for mayor of Santa Maria against incumbent Alice Patino. Click to view larger
Former Santa Maria-Bonita School District board member Will Smith is running for mayor of Santa Maria against incumbent Alice Patino. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A former teacher whose credential was revoked and who later served a contentious term on a local school board will challenge Mayor Alice Patino for the job of leading the City Council this fall.

After two years out of the political eye, Will Smith, 54, of Santa Maria returned to run against Patino in the Nov. 8 election. 

“After looking at the condition of the city, and after having been on the Santa Maria-Bonita School District (board), and getting a baptism, per se, in the fire, I decided I can be a help to the community and to the city, with my education, my experiences, and having learned quite a bit about the community,” Smith said. 

Saying that juvenile crime in the past three years has doubled, he said he is looking to curb the violence. One way may be the addition of more soccer fields on the northern end of Santa Maria, he said.

He also wants fill what he contends are too many empty buildings.

“I believe we should try to get these buildings filled and bring in a new source of revenue for the city as well as get rid of vacant buildings,” he said. “It’s going to take time but we need to streamline maybe the way that we allow businesses to come into the town.”

Patino, 75, a retired teacher, announced her re-election campaign in June. 

While two council seats also are up for grabs this fall, Smith, who has lived in the Santa Maria for 25 years, said he decided to run for mayor.

“My educational background as well as my experience leads me to believe I have what it takes to be a guiding force in the city to lead,” he said.

Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino announced her re-election campaign in June. Click to view larger
Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino announced her re-election campaign in June.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

“I can also follow which I have done on the school board, but I felt the mayor position is something I was qualified to handle and I felt I could do a more good for the community in that position.”

His critics disagree, with his newest candidacy drawing strong reaction from members of the Santa Maria Elementary Education Association.

Smith served four years on the Santa Maria-Bonita School District board of education, a stint marked by dissension that included his colleagues taking the unusual step of censuring Smith for unethical behavior.

He also was the target of a community-led recall effort that failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

In a commentary published in 2012, then board president Linda Cordero said the district was “under attack” from Smith.

His bid for a second four-year school board term failed in 2014, with Smith placing last among the field of four candidates seeking the two seats.

The former teacher also had his credential revoked from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing amid allegations he was verbally and emotionally abusive of students and colleagues as well as dishonest, according the finding of an administrative law judge. 

Among other allegations, Smith was accused of misusing a district computer and defying supervisors orders.

“Respondent’s misconduct has demonstrated a defect in character which makes him unfit for teaching,” the judge said in his 2013 ruling.

Smith, who is representing himself in the case, claims he could have had the credential through a stay during the legal process, but didn’t because he failed to file the proper paperwork.

He has appealed the case to the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District.

“I really can’t say very much about it because it is in litigation,” Smith said. “But the process is alive and well.”

Since leaving the Santa Maria-Bonita board in 2014, Smith said he battled health issues — he said he had a stroke approximately a year ago but since has recovered — and served as a minister while also undertaking projects to enhance the community, including what he called his pet peeve centered on the safety of school buildings. 

He has a binder filled with 2 inches of letters and emails exchanged with state officials regarding safety of Santa Maria-Bonita school buildings. 

He claimed he argued for projects most people didn’t want to speak about and fought for transparency in the school district. 

Smith grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and left when he enlisted in the Air Force, ending up at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and a master’s degree in education.

He and his wife have been married 28 years and they have three children.

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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