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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 11:24 am | A Few Clouds 56º


Terri Zuniga Plans to Still Be Voice for Others After Leaving Santa Maria Council

Pair of new members to take oath Tuesday night when she and Bob Orach will leave panel

Terri Zuniga says she has peace in her heart as she prepares to leave the Santa Maria City Council after serving a 4-year term. The lifelong Santa Maria resident came in third in the race for two seats during the November election. Click to view larger
Terri Zuniga says she has peace in her heart as she prepares to leave the Santa Maria City Council after serving a 4-year term. The lifelong Santa Maria resident came in third in the race for two seats during the November election. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Terri Zuniga will wrap up four years serving on the Santa Maria City Council this week, but said she plans to continue being a voice for causes close to her heart.

She is one of two council members who will bid farewell Tuesday night when Councilman Bob Orach will wind up a 30-year stint serving on the City Council after choosing not to seek another term.

Newly elected members Dr. Michael Moats and retired police lieutenant Mike Cordero will be sworn in during the meeting.

Zuniga, 59, placed third on the Nov. 8 election, pushing her from serving a second term.

“I’m proud of my service, humbled by the fact that I got to be a part of city government and represent the people who elected me,” Zuniga said. 

For 30 years before she was elected, Zuniga worked as a grassroots organizer for issues she cared about, leading to memberships on several boards.

“I’ll continue on the boards that I’m on,” she said. “Certainly, I’m not going away. People are still going to see me. I’m still going to be a voice for those causes and issues that I care deeply about.”

She serves on the boards for the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, Good Samaritan Shelter, People for Leisure and Youth, the Central Coast Literacy Council, the Santa Maria Youth and Family Center, the Conflict Solutions Center and the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness.

A lifelong Santa Marian, Zuniga said being a City Council member wasn’t a goal but stemmed from her work in the community.

“I think being on the council gave me a level of voice that I didn’t have previously,” she said. 

While she could be a voice for people, serving on the council also came with constraints, she added.

“Those constraints are going to be gone. I’ll continue to be a voice and will have some ability to be less constrained,” she added. 

While inclined to say she doesn’t plan to run for City Council again, Zuniga said others have warned against making a hasty decision. 

“I’m saying no, but I’m open again if in two years God puts on my heart that he wants me to run — I’ll run,” she said. 

Her time on the council provided a front row seat to see the city’s operations, making her value relationships with city staff leaders.

But the best part was getting to know how hard the employees work and to see their commitment, she said.

“Those people who are the boots on the ground, that keep the city running, are amazing. They’re committed, they're passionate and they're compassionate,” she said. “And that was really, I think, for me one of the greatest parts of being on the council.”

She has worked for the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Unit for 10 years. 

Before that, she worked for Domestic Violence Solutions, and helped open the first shelter for those victims.

She and her husband, Alex, have seven children, 14 grandchildren and a great-grandchild, with a second due before Jan. 1. 

She and her family are looking forward to Zuniga having more free time when she no longer has council duties, which require more than attending meetings twice a month. 

“People don’t really understand what sacrifice public service is,” she said.

While running her campaign and awaiting results, Zuniga relied on her faith and prayer.

“I have peace in my heart that God’s will has been done, and that He’s closed this door but He’s got other doors He’s going to open for me,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m excited about what the future holds.”

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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