SANTA BARBARA — The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors selected Chief Assistant County Counsel Rachel Van Mullem to become the next County Counsel following the retirement of Michael Ghizzoni next month.
The County Counsel acts as a legal advisor to the Board of Supervisors. Ms. Van Mullem was selected after a competitive nationwide search and brings 20 years of California County Counsel experience to the board. She has served as the Chief Assistant County Counsel for Santa Barbara County since 2014.
“I am deeply honored to be selected as County Counsel and to serve Santa Barbara County in this new role,” Ms. Van Mullem said in a statement. “We have a top quality team at County Counsel, and we look forward to continuing to provide the County with exceptional legal services. I am especially grateful to County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni for his leadership and support in all my years with County Counsel’s office.”
Ms. Van Mullem began serving in Santa Barbara in 2006, starting as Deputy County Counsel from 2006 to 2010, Senior Deputy County Counsel from 2010 to 2012, Chief Deputy County Counsel from 2012 to 2014, and serving in her current role since 2014.
“Rachel is a strong government legal professional who is well-versed in public law, but also has been immersed in our local county government and communities for more than 14 years,” Board Chair Bob Nelson, 4th District supervisor, said in a statement. “Her proven track record providing practical legal advice on a range of topics will continue to serve our county well. We look forward to continuing the customer focused collaboration and teamwork with our County Counsel’s office to provide quality public service to our community.”
Mr. Ghizzoni has served as County Counsel since 2013, beginning his counsel service in Santa Barbara County in 2004. According to a news release, Mr. Ghizzoni came to the board with 24 years of experience as a United States Coast Guard Captain, where he had many assignments in operations and law. He is set to retire June 27.
During his time as County Counsel, Mr. Ghizzoni is credited with helping the county prevail in tough litigation cases in Superior Court, the District Court of Appeals and the California State Supreme Court.
“Mike has expertly guided the County through complicated legal issues involving land use, disaster response, assessment appeals, water contracts, cannabis, jail improvements, and everything in between,” Chair Nelson said in a statement. “We are grateful to him for his commitment to the Board and unsurpassed work ethic.”
— Madison Hirneisen