Former 5th District Supervisor Joseph “Joe” P. Centeno, a Santa Maria Valley native who spent more than 50 years in public service, died last weekend. He was 86.
Mr. Centeno began his career in public service on his 21st birthday when he joined the Santa Maria Police Department, according to a news release from Santa Barbara County.
He was appointed police chief in 1979 and retired from the department in 1988. After his retirement, he continued to serve as a trustee at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.
Mr. Centeno was then elected to the Santa Maria City Council, serving two consecutive terms in 1994 and 1998 before stepping into the role of mayor from 2000 to 2002.
In 2003, Mr. Centeno was elected to the County Board of Supervisors. He served two terms and retired at the conclusion of his second term, ending his public service career that spanned more than 50 years.
In honor of his legacy and lengthy career serving Santa Maria, the county decided to name the Santa Maria government building located at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway the “Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Building” in his honor.
Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who was elected to serve in the 5th District after Mr. Centeno’s retirement, said in a statement that the late official “represented the Fifth District and the City of Santa Maria with distinction.”
“Joe put the people first, especially those who came from more humble circumstances,” Mr. Lavagnino said. “His commitment to a life of public service is an example to all of us.”
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, also served with Mr. Centeno on the Board of Supervisors. In a statement, the congressman said Mr. Centeno “consistently demonstrated extraordinary leadership in his public service and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his constituents.”
“Some of my most fond memories of Joe were working with him to establish the Children’s Health Insurance Initiative for uninsured children in Santa Barbara County, build the Cuyama Pool, and partnering to support our agricultural industry,” the congressman said. “Joe was the epitome of a dedicated public servant who worked in a bipartisan way to improve our community. My thoughts are with his family and all who knew him during this difficult time.”