At approximately 8:45 on Tuesday morning, Laura Capps was sworn in as the new 2nd District supervisor, assuming the seat of now-Assemblymember Gregg Hart. Supervisor Capps was sworn in prior to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“We had to cancel the (public) ceremony so it was a quiet, small heartwarming experience, which was really nice because my family was able to be with me,” Supervisor Capps told the News-Press. “I’m honored, excited and already rolling up my sleeves to do well not only for the 2nd District but the entire county.”
“My whole career has been centered on public service in and around government at different levels — state, national and local — with advocacy groups and nonprofits, trying to make people’s levels better,” Ms. Capps said. “I was born and raised in Goleta/Santa Barbara and have experience in government outside of the county. I was involved in the community as a child thanks to my parents’ connection with public service.”
Her father was the late U.S. Rep. Walter H. Capps, and her mother is former U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.
“I grew up with a sense of community engagement and activism: nonprofit work through church, volunteering at the food bank, etc,” she said. “My experience in Santa Barbara as a child made me who I am as a person.”
Since 2016, Ms. Capps served as a trustee on the Santa Barbara Unified School District board. (She left the school board when she joined the Board of Supervisors.)
She said she believes in the motto, “When we do right by our children, we do right by us all.”
Ms. Capps has started and run nonprofits, served on 10 national and local nonprofit boards and managed large government affairs and communication operations. She has served as a White House speech writer for President Bill Clinton; western communications director for U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign; and a senior aide to U.S. Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, D-Mass..
Ms. Capps also served as UC Berkeley’s director of government affairs.
In Santa Barbara County, Supervisor Capps has worked with No Kid Hungry to help provide more food for kids in need. Ms. Capps has served as president of the Community Environmental Council, chair of the Commission for Women, a trustee of UC Berkeley and on the board of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s from the London School of Economics.
Supervisor Capps spoke of how she plans to honor Assemblymember Hart’s legacy. “I have a lot of admiration for Gregg Hart. He is a really good listener, and that is key to the job. First and foremost, we are here to help people, and we have to be responsive to constituents’ needs.”
Supervisor Capps identified poverty and housing as two of her primary goals she wants to address.
“Too many neighbors live in poverty, which is an interconnected issue which touches on: housing, health, homelessness, transportation and climate change. People can’t afford to live where they work, which impacts climate change due to carbon emissions. Poverty is my priority.” said Supervisor Capps.
She said solving the housing problem will require energy, commitment and creativity. “We have a housing crisis here; housing is unaffordable for most people. We have mandates from the state (for affordable housing), and we need to forge a balanced plan that helps people like teachers, firefighters and nurses live where they work.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Ms. Capps to fill Mr. Hart’s seat in December because he was starting his work as an Assembly member. The term for which Ms. Capps was elected began with her swearing-in on Tuesday.
“It’s been good to work with her thus far. We have had two BOS meetings and have worked together for about a month,” 1st District Supervisor Das Williams told the News-Press. “I particularly look forward to tackling climate change issues with her as that is a passion we share, and to handle a number of issues important for working people. There is a lot the county does on poverty issues, another passion we share.”
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann told the News-Press she’s delighted to have Ms. Capps as a colleague on the board.
“Laura brings a stellar history of working for families and children at all levels of government — and of pushing the government to do better,” Supervisor Hartmann said.“She is congenial, hard-working and deeply committed to public service.”
Supervisor Capps said she and her fellow board members want to hear from their constituents and are open to ideas.
“My commitment to public safety and first responders and extreme climate events are the new normal, and that is where the county comes in to keep us safe and plan for the future,” Supervisor Capps said.