Candidates for the Santa Maria City Council this year are an even mix of incumbents and challengers, with the mayor and District 1 seat up for grabs.
Mayor Alice Patino is running again for a third term.
The city’s first female mayor has served on the city council since 2000. She has also been a board member in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, a member of the Marian Medical Foundation and its board president, and a Code Compliance Board member.
Through these positions, she focused on expanding school campuses, raising money for critically needed medical programs, addressing neighborhood concerns and law enforcement, fighting for affordable housing and establishing a district election process.
Regarding COVID-19, she took a more educational approach rather than one of enforcement, establishing the “Protect. Respect. Wear Your Mask” campaign.
The mayor hopes to work on youth programs and continue to serve Santa Maria residents.
Challenging Mayor Patino is former Santa Maria educator Will Smith, running for the second time after losing to her in 2016.
Mr. Smith has served as a corrections officer at the Federal Corrections Institute in Lompoc, an educator and board member in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District and a local minister. He’s also an Air Force veteran.
His main focuses are beautifying the city by setting standards for lawns and exteriors, reducing crime and homelessness by stricter policing and lifting up small businesses to keep money in Santa Maria rather than giving it to bigger businesses.
Mr. Smith was suspended multiple times while he was a substitute and full-time teacher at El Camino and Arellanes junior high schools in Santa Maria. His teaching credentials were revoked in 2013, but he has denied any misconduct.
Finally, local barber Alberto Ugalde is also challenging Mayor Patino for her seat.
He’s a Santa Maria native, and his parents moved from Tarandacuao, Guanajuato, Mexico. He opened his own barber shop, Landmark Barbers in Santa Maria, and provides free haircuts and school supplies to underprivileged children.
Mr. Ugalde aims to improve public safety by brightening dark neighborhoods and adding flashing crosswalks in high traffic areas, along with improving communication with public service workers to increase efficiency.
He also plans to increase affordable housing, change zoning and provide underground utilities to lower development costs, bring more events such as Open Streets and extend Downtown Fridays to bring new businesses to Santa Maria. His goals also include improving communication between city officials and local residents to increase transparency.
There are four candidates running for the District 1 seat on the Santa Maria City Council.
Health care business manager Brian Billones plans to focus on affordable housing, education, youth safety and diversifying the job market.
He sees these things as dependent on one another, and hopes to bring people back to Santa Maria to live and work.
Mr. Billones also wants to address developments, parking and other residents’ concerns.
Next up is a music professor at Allan Hancock College, Christopher Diaz.
He’s running to keep his students in Santa Maria, and make the city more self-sufficient. He believes arts and recreation can enhance the city, as he holds a doctorate in digital composition.
The music professor also wants to improve relationships between residents and law enforcement and make street improvements.
Another Allan Hancock College employee is hoping to win the District 1 seat: Carlos Escobedo.
The first-generation American currently works as a student success outreach specialist at the college, where he supports and guides students in Santa Maria applying to higher education and technical careers.
He’s also a commissioner for the fifth district on the Human Services Commission of Santa Barbara County, where he protects services for individuals and families such as school programs, senior programs, counseling, case management, food, clothing, shelter, rental housing, assistance, job preparedness and more.
Mr. Escobedo’s main goals are to increase public safety by establishing trust between law enforcement and residents; promote initiatives for physical, cultural and other healthy activities and recreation for local youth; simplify the permitting process for small businesses to start in Santa Maria; and incentivize low-income housing.
Lastly, nonprofit professional Osvaldo Soleto is competing for the District 1 seat.
He works for Goodwill Industries of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties as a workforce services supervisor, and his parents immigrated from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico.
The top priority of his campaign is housing affordability, having lived in crowded housing with his relatives growing up. He plans to address the housing crisis with inclusionary housing requirements, tenant displacement assistance, restricting use of short-term leases and rent stabilization.
Mr. Soleto also wants to increase the number of living wage jobs by supporting small businesses and streamlining the permitting process, and increase educational and leadership opportunities for local youth.
Incumbent District 2 Council member Mike Cordero is running unopposed, along with incumbent city treasurer Teressa Hall and incumbent city clerk Patti Rodriguez.
For more information, visit cityofsantamaria.org.