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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:18 pm | Fair 49º


Former Goleta Mayor Jonny Wallis Dies

The city of Goleta lost one of its founding leaders and advocates over the weekend with the passing of Jonny Wallis.

Jonny Wallis

Wallis, who was serving on the Goleta Planning Commission until she suffered a stroke in June, died early Sunday of causes that were not disclosed by family, according to Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves.

Aceves did not know if her death was related to the stroke, which kept her from resuming the planning commissioner duties she took on in 2009.

Wallis had been a key player in Goleta politics since the push toward incorporation in the early 2000s, and served on Goleta’s City Council for a number of years after helping spearhead the effort to form the city in 2002.

She was re-elected to council in 2004, and became mayor in 2006, subsequently leading efforts to preserve local open space and to revitalize Old Town Goleta during her time in government.

“This is a great loss to our community,” Aceves told Noozhawk on Monday. “She was a great leader that taught me a lot. She was truly committed to our city, including returning as a planning commissioner.”

Goleta City Manager Dan Singer forwarded a message with notice of Wallis' passing to city staff and officials on Sunday.

Aceves said no memorial service would be planned per Wallis' wishes, but a moment of silence will be held for her at the beginning of Tuesday’s 1 p.m. Goleta City Council meeting.

Those wishing to honor Wallis' memory are also invited to say a few words about the activist near the end of Tuesday's meeting.

Aceves said he has asked the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to pause for a moment of silence to remember Wallis at the start of its meeting Tuesday as well.

“She was part of creating the city of Goleta,” Aceves said. “You can’t let something like this just go unsaid. We owe her a debt of gratitude for her commitment to creating the city of Goleta and serving on its first council.”

Wallis was remembered Monday as a sometimes stoic and staunch supporter of a city she loved.

Mayor Pro Tempore Michael Bennett described Wallis as a “very classy lady” who was logical and respected by all who knew her, even those who didn’t always agree with her point of view.

Singer said Wallis won over “a heck of a lot of supporters” as an ironically private person serving the community in such a public way.

Her sudden passing surprised officials and staff, who had heard Wallis was responding well to therapy after her stroke.

“She’s going to be missed,” Singer said. “Her contribution to this community has been significant. She was an exceptionally bright and a dedicated leader. We’re all saddened.”

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr became friends with Wallis 15 years ago when both became activists in the Goleta community, with Wallis going on to help found the Goleta Old Town Neighbors and GoletaNow! organizations as a longtime resident.

She was also named as Goleta’s Women of the Year in 2001.

Farr recalled Wallis as a smart, modest and well-known local leader with a wonderful sense of humor and steady hand throughout the route to Goleta cityhood.

She also recalled that Wallis enjoyed the outdoors, and hiking with her spouse, Kitty Bednar.

“She cared very much about the community,” Farr said. “It’s a great, great sadness.”

Margaret Connell, who served on the original Goleta City Council with Wallis, said she will be deeply missed.

"Losing Jonny is like losing one of the foundation stones of Goleta," Connell said. "She was a leader in GoletaNow! and a touchstone for all of us. She was a wise counselor and a dear friend."

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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