A Santa Barbara County planning commissioner stepping down after nearly 14 years has been a “fierce advocate” for public participation in hearings while working to preserve the quality of life, speakers said in recognition of longtime Second District representative Cecilia Brown.
She attended her final meeting Thursday in Santa Maria where her colleagues and supporters praised her stint on the commission.
“I am so appreciative of how you took each project to heart and you did the research, and you did the homework and you spoke to planning staff…,” Janet Wolf, former Second District supervisor, said. “Our community is better for your activism, your involvement and your intelligence. Your impact has been tremendous.”
Current Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart, who noted Brown will also be recognized Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, said the departing commissioner has been invaluable to him as he transitioned into the job succeeding Wolf.
“Your passion and commitment to this job comes through every day in every thing that you do,” Hart said.
Hart’s appointment of Laura Bridley as Brown’s replacement is set to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Bridley has worked as a land use and transportation planner in the Tri-Counties area since 1985 and she currently works as a contract planner for the city of Goleta.
The Second District encompasses the eastern Goleta Valley, Hope Ranch, More Mesa and part of Santa Barbara.
Planning Commission Chairman John Parke, who represents the Third District, read a resolution praising Brown’s efforts to defend her Goleta neighborhood “against all threats to the enjoyment of peace and tranquility.”
First District Commissioner Michael Cooney called Brown “the best teammate one could have in carrying out the work of the Planning Commission.”
“A lot of adjectives have been thrown out today, but the one thing you’ve helped me with is your coaching,” Fourth District Commissioner Larry Ferini said, adding that Brown was the first person to call him when he joined the panel.
She told him to speak up and showed him how to take apart a project, Ferini said, adding commissioners will miss her fine-tuning of projects and her especially good sensor at detecting questionable comments.
“I could just look at you and know if somebody’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes a little bit and I’m going to miss that too,” he added.
Commissioner Dan Blough, Fifth District representative, noted he and Brown remained friendly despite their opposite views and lively debates, estimating she voted differently from him 20 to 30 times.
“That’s OK to be wrong that often,” he joked.
He also cautioned county leaders that the Post-it note budget will decrease dramatically due to Brown’s habit of using them generously to mark pages in reports.
“You’re going to be missed,” Blough told Brown.
Eastern Goleta Valley resident Gail Johnson thanked Brown for her “tireless service” to the county and especially the Second District.
“Cecilia’s intellect, experience, knowledge and attention to important issues have been invaluable to the county’s planning process and our small community of More Mesa Shores,” Johnson said.
Explaining it was time to retire so she could garden instead of reading lengthy reports, Brown said she appreciated the unique opportunity to serve on the county panel in “vetting and getting the very best projects.”
“We come from all different backgrounds in trying to get the very best project and it’s really great,” said Brown, who is in her mid-70s,. “We can agree to disagree but we’re agreeable in disagreeing. In today’s climate that’s something very previous as I think you know.”
She also expressed admiration for county planning and development staff for their dedication and professionalism.
In preparation for review of projects, Brown said, she received deliveries of packets and even boxes filled with documents.
Upon retirement, she said she plans to keep just one document — her well-worn Goleta Valley Community Plan.
She called Santa Barbara County a special place, and shared her experiences driving along Highway 246 and seeing the results of projects revised to protect the landscape.
“It’s so important for our quality of life. That’s been my passion,” she said. “I appreciate the recognition. I don’t know that I deserve it but I appreciate it.”