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Goleta City Council Taps Tony Vallejo to Fill Vacant Seat

Council members hear from final candidate Eric Onnen before voting in favor of Vallejo and swearing him into office

Tony Vallejo was picked Tuesday afternoon to fill the fifth seat on the Goleta City Council, and was then immediately sworn into duty.

The decision came after council members cast five unsuccessful written ballot votes, with a majority 3-1 vote eventually endorsing Vallejo, a past board chairman of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and a local accountant.

Mayor Pro Tem Paula Perotte disagreed with the others in favor of current Goleta Planning Commissioner Julie Solomon, another of the seven applicants vying for the seat.

Vallejo will serve through the end of 2016 — the remainder of a term vacated with 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.

Tuesday’s selection came after the Goleta City Council heard from Eric Onnen, a former Goleta city councilman and current city planning commissioner, was not able to attend the original interviews last Thursday because he had previously planned to be out of town.

Because the interview date was not included in the application, a majority of council members decided to interview the other six and postpone a pick until this week to be fair.

Onnen began his remarks with an apology and thanks for giving him the opportunity to speak before council members commenced questioning.

As a longtime resident and owner of Santa Barbara Airbus, Onnen expressed his willingness to step back onto council after serving from 2006 to 2010.

“I think (the city has) made tremendous progress over the last 12 years since incorporation,” Onnen said, noting the city's exemplary staff and financial responsibility.

While Onnen spoke, the rest of the applicants sat attentively in the crowd, including Solomon; 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.

Catriona Orosco, a local single mother of three and project manager at Yardi Systems, was not at the meeting, nor was Bill Shelor, a current Goleta Design Review Board member who told city officials late Monday that he was withdrawing his application for reasons not shared.

After asking questions about the city’s revenue neutrality agreement, Old Town Goleta revitalization and more, council members quickly wrote the name of their first choice to fill the seat on pieces of paper collected by staff.

Councilman Jim Farr chose Vallejo, Perotte picked Solomon and Mayor Michael Bennett and Councilman Roger Aceves both selected Onnen for his breadth of experience and ability to hit the ground running.

Two subsequent votes elicited the same results, so Farr suggested they write the names of their top two choices.

“I would strongly believe that if Mr. Vallejo was sitting up here, he would be willing to pick up a spear and enter the front ranks,” Farr said of Vallejo’s resolve.

Perotte said she thought Solomon would bring a balanced perspective to council — something Easton provided.

Farr’s top two choices were Vallejo and Solomon, Perotte picked Solomon and Swaney, and Bennett and Aceves both preferred Onnen and Vallejo.

Most council members kept to their first choices when they switched back to writing just one name, but Bennett changed his vote to Vallejo.

Aceves followed suit on the next — and final — tally.

“Well, congratulations, Mr. Tony Vallejo,” Bennett said to applause.

Vallejo was sworn into office, gratefully taking his seat on the dais next to Aceves so the meeting could continue.

“I know it’s a great responsibility and a lot of work, and I’m looking forward to doing that with all four of you,” Vallejo said.

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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