After eight years of bringing his own style to Santa Barbara County politics, Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam — known for his creative mustaches and blunt comments — will bid farewell on Tuesday, leaving as he began.
He continues to press for attention and dollars on deferred maintenance projects and unfunded liabilities in Santa Barbara County government.
“It’s something that nobody wants to talk about. Everybody wants to wait for a miracle to occur, and I think miracles are few and far between. In the absence of a guarantee of a miracle, prudent planning is always in order,” Adam told Noozhawk.
“This chronic deferral of maintenance is going to catch up with somebody some day.”
Adam ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2012, besting long-time incumbent Joni Gray with his signature issue being the millions of dollars of backlogged infrastructure needs for county roads, parks and bridges.
Adam confirmed in February 2019 that he would not seek a third term on the board.
A farmer who clearly didn’t envision a long-term career as a politician, Adam spent eight years representing Orcutt, Lompoc, a small section of the southern Santa Maria Valley, and some of the Los Alamos Valley on the board.
His chief of staff, Bob Nelson, will replace Adam on the dais. Nelson ran unopposed for the seat this year and takes office in early January.
Serving on the Board of Supervisors has provided “a great experience,” Adam said.
“I really met a lot of great people, and got to work with some talented people,” he added.
“At the same time, it’s been a frustration because, as you know, I usually don’t get much of my way,” Adam said. “I said the things that a whole bunch of people that I run into on a routine basis are thinking.
“It’s been an honor to represent each of those people and convey those ideas, even if our ideas didn’t win the day, and make sure those people are heard.”
The job brought surprises, including new friendship with a political opposite — then-Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf.
“There was a personal connection there that endures,” Adam said.
Adam doesn’t expect to return to meetings pushing for deferred maintenance, noting Nelson will carry on that role.
“I think that’ll be sufficient,” he said. “My time is done.”
He suggested some frustration the county didn’t make a bigger dent in the gap.
“At some point, it just becomes unsolvable. You can’t tax yourself that much, and that’s what everybody else’s solution is. I don’t think that’s a rational solution just to have another tax for maintenance,” he said.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he believes Adam has made a greater impact than he recognizes.
“I think he’s always not been able to see the progress that he did make, that would have never happened without him,” Lavagnino said.
“We have a whole policy now that 18% of all future growth goes into deferred maintenance, and that would have never happened,” Lavagnino said, recognizing Adam doesn’t view that as enough.
Lavagnino said he has respected Adam, despite clashing on some issues.
In recent months, as they sat in Santa Maria for meetings while their three colleagues gathered in Santa Barbara due to COVID-19 precautions, the North County supervisors have found time to bond.
“I’ve always appreciated the fact he’s a really good family man. He’s just a really nice dude,” Lavagnino said.
“He tries to give this gruff exterior, and it’s all bluster. He is a really super nice guy,” Lavagnino added.
There’s another aspect the blunt-speaking Adam brought to the board.
“It’s really cool going to the meeting and I have no idea what Peter’s going to say or what position he’s going to take,” Lavagnino said.
Unlike his colleagues who typically don’t hold other employment, Adam has continued his job outside the county role.
A fifth-generation farmer, Adam remained an active leader for the Adam Brothers Family Farm, and will return to some role in the business that grows broccoli, cauliflower, various lettuces, celery and more.
“If I end up too bored, I’ll just get another horse,” he said.