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Lavagnino Announces Bid for Third Term on Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors

North County Jail among key accomplishments cited by Santa Maria-area representative who bills himself as a fiscal conservative

Surrounded by supporters Wednesday, Steve Lavagnino announced his plans to seek a third 4-year term representing the Fifth District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors next year. Click to view larger
Surrounded by supporters Wednesday, Steve Lavagnino announced his plans to seek a third 4-year term representing the Fifth District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors next year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Elected twice to represent Santa Maria on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and boasting plenty of battle scars from his poltical stint, Steve Lavagnino announced Wednesday that he will seek a third 4-year term in 2018.

With his wife, Marian, by his side, Lavagnino, 53, made his announcement while flanked by supporters in front of the Betteravia Government Center.

“There’s plenty of work to do, and my pledge to you is the same one I made eight years ago — that regardless of how much criticism comes my way, I will  always stand up for what I believe is right for the people of this county,” Lavagnino said.

Promising fiscal responsibility, personal integrity and accountability. Lavagnino said he focused on issues important to his constituents, such as public safety. ‘

He counts the new North County Jail among his key accomplishments during his time on the board, which had tried for 25 years to make it reality.

“With a lot of pushing and pulling on my end, and Sheriff (Bill) Brown working his magic in Sacramento, the new jail’s a reality, currently under construction and ready to open next year,” he said. 

Likewise, Lavagnino said the Santa Barbara County Fire Department was “woefully underfunded,” leading him to push for changes to reprioritize county funding to successfully rebuild the firefighting capability.

He also led a push to boost county funding for veteran service officers from one to three, located in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc.

Lavagnino founded the annual Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down to deliver services directly to military veterans with a special focus on helping those who are homeless. This fall will mark the sixth annual event. 

As one of the supervisors often on the losing end of 3-2 votes, Lavagnino noted the disappointments that come with the job, especially seeing revenue- and job-creating projects denied.

Those include rejection of Pacific Coast Energy Company’s request to boost the number of wells on Orcutt Hill, and conditions added to a Santa Maria Energy plan, making it infeasible.

“Both of these projects would have put people to work and created millions of dollars of new property tax,” he added.

Even small projects hit roadblocks, he said, noting the rejection of a proposal to add a wine-tasting venue as part of a Los Alamos hotel renovation plan.

“It is a frustrating, but I haven’t lost the passion to keep pursuing what I believe is right,” he said.

A ban on short-term vacation rentals cheats the county out of transient occupancy tax, or bed tax, that brought $2 million to county coffers, he said.

“It’s not like it goes in my back pocket. It goes out to services for people that need it,” he said. “We just continually make decisions that put more restrictions on people, more restrictions on businesses, more restrictions on job creators. That’s what’s frustrating.”

Helping the most vulnerable — mentally ill people, senior citizens, foster children and homeless residents — will require new streams of revenue, he added. 

A self-described fiscal conservative, Lavagnino noted his office budget is $60,000 leaner than the next highest colleague, and $200,000 less than the most costly district office.

In the next four years, Lavagnino said, he will work with employees to achieve “true pension reform,” and craft countywide regulations to mitigate the new state regulations regarding cannabis, working with First District Supervisor Das Williams to find revenue.

“That could be very lucrative for the county,” Lavagnino said. 

Lavagnino’s backers include all five Santa Maria City Council members, with Jack Boysen noting the supervisor’s assistance in cutting through red tape to help the city.

“It really is a no-brainer for me,” Boysen said. “He just gets in there and does the job, and he does it from heart.”

Several union leaders also showed up to support the re-election announcement, including the Local 114 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union.

"We support good-paying jobs and that's something Mr. Lavagnino very much so supports," said Nickolas Harvey, union organizer. "Fiscally as a county, we need good-paying jobs.

Lavagnino denied plans to run for Congress or any other higher office, and said he announced his re-election bid for the county job to silence the flood of questions about his plans.

“I like what I’m doing,” he said. “Actually, I don’t like what I’m doing. I love what I’m doing. I enjoy the give and take and trying to mold public policy from what most people would consider a minority position.”

Thus far, no one has announced plans to challenge Lavagnino.

In addition to Lavagnino’s seat, the term of Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf will expire in 2018. 

The primary election is June 5. If a candidate does not get more than 50 percent of the votes in June, the race would head to a runoff election in November 2018. 

For a list of assorted filing deadlines, click here.

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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