Saturday, July 11, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 26th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 52

The three candidates for 3rd District supervisor ran against each other for the same position in 2016


Voters in Santa Barbara County’s largest district will face a familiar decision when voting for county supervisor in the March 3 primary election. The county’s 3rd District covers a sprawling area stretching from Guadalupe to the Santa Ynez Valley to Isla Vista. 

Incumbent Joan Hartmann faces challenges from Bruce Porter and Karen Jones, both of whom ran against her in 2016. Jessica Alvarez Parfrey’s name will also appear on the ballot; however, she dropped out of the race in February and has since endorsed Hartmann. 

In the June 2016 primary, no candidate received a majority of the votes, and a runoff election was held in November, which Hartmann won with about 53 percent of the votes. 

Four years later, Hartmann wants to continue pushing for the priorities that have served as the focal point of her first term in office. Meanwhile, Porter and Jones both see the same failings at the Board of Supervisors that led them to join the race last time. 

The incumbent

Influenced by the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, Hartmann has focused on environmental issues throughout her career. This includes time spent teaching environmental studies at colleges and working with the U.S. Department of the Interior, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Incumbent Joan Hartmann is running for a second term as county supervisor to continue the work she started four years ago.

Hartmann continued her environmental work after moving back to Southern California from Philadelphia in the 1990s, before retiring and transitioning to the farm life in the Santa Ynez Valley. 

When the city of Buellton attempted to expand its boundaries without a plan, Hartmann said she joined a group of neighbors to oppose the move and led a campaign to establish an urban growth boundary initiative in 2008. 

Her role in this campaign led then 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr to appoint Hartmann to the county Planning Commission in 2012. Four years later, when Farr retired, Hartmann decided to step up. She credits her mother—a nurse who took care of Hartmann’s father until he passed away and then worked at a hospital caring for children with cancer—as the inspiration.

“I didn’t understand that much, but over the years, I come back to the lesson of you keep taking on hard challenges, and that’s how you grow and how you’re able to give more back to the community,” Hartmann said. “And that’s the purpose of life.”

Hartmann said she’s proud of helping the county begin its transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. In 2019—among other energy-related measures—the Board of Supervisors approved a strategic energy plan that identifies suitable locations for renewable energy projects and streamlines the permitting process for developers. 

Her other top priority is to improve county parks. She pushed for the completion of a countywide recreation master plan, with the idea that this document will help the county and local cities apply for billions of dollars in state grant funding that’s available. Hartmann has also pushed for the completion of trails around Guadalupe, including ones connecting the city to Santa Maria and the dunes. 

In addition, Hartmann advocated for stronger cannabis regulations in response to some residents in the Santa Ynez Valley raising concerns about the industry. In July 2019, the Board of Supervisors passed ordinances that Hartmann pushed for capping the amount of cannabis cultivation that can take place in the county and prohibiting projects on smaller parcels of land within rural areas.

Hartmann hopes to be part of efforts to continue changing cannabis regulations while pushing for renewable energy and more parks. 

“I think eight years would be enough time to follow through and really leave a legacy,” Hartmann said. 

The runner-up

Porter moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in 2001 after a 25-year career in the Army Corps of Engineers where he was involved in a variety of work, including construction jobs, environmental projects, and firefighting. He said while being involved in that line of work, a lot of people helped take care of his family, and now he wants to give back. 

Bruce Porter lost the supervisor race in 2016 to Joan Hartmann in a runoff election.

“So after we moved out here … I wanted to make sure I became a part of the community where I could give back,” Porter said. 

He joined a number of organizations including the Santa Barbara County American Red Cross chapter and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. He also served on the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District board for eight years. His time with some of these organizations led him to run for 3rd District Supervisor in 2016.

“I was able to look at my community through the eyes of a lot of different people, and it became really apparent to me that our county has a lot of imbalances and gaps between different groups of people,” Porter said. 

He’s tried to approach his campaign as a series of mini-campaigns because each community in the district is so different. This means speaking with people in the Santa Ynez Valley about their concerns over highway safety and cannabis cultivation; residents in Guadalupe about the state of roads, parks, and county buildings in the area; and students in Isla Vista about their struggles with food insecurity. 

When it comes to cannabis, Porter said he’s not a prohibitionist, but would like to see the county stop accepting cannabis permit applications while re-evaluating the entire ordinance.  

He said that the county also needs to re-evaluate how it sets its budget and allocates funding. The county has a more than $400 million backlog of maintenance projects that continues to grow.

As for county’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, Porter said this is a process that needs to take place, but that the county should let technology lead the way. He said his position on an oil project would depend on the proposal itself. 

“Ideologically, stopping oil production here would just mean that we buy more oil overseas, and that would be a really stupid thing to do,” Porter said. 

Despite losing to Hartmann in the 2016 election, Porter feels confident after making an effort to reach younger people in Isla Vista who didn’t show him much support the last time around. 

“We can do better with economic vitality, helping the homeless, and building infrastructure to build a much more dynamic and fair county,” Porter said.

The underdog

Having been born in nearby Kern County, before moving to the Santa Ynez Valley in 1995, Jones said she has local insight that gives her an edge over her two opponents. 

Karen Jones, who won 5 percent of the vote for 3rd District supervisor in 2016, is running her campaign without any donations.

Jones describes herself as a “hardcore, free the slaves Republican,” and not the “chamber of commerce, get off my lawn Republican.” She said she’s always been politically active and has organized protests and rallies, but her first foray into running for public office occurred when she ran for 3rd District Supervisor in 2016.

After an unsuccessful bid, Jones was elected to the Santa Ynez Community Service District Board that same year. Her term ends in August, and whether she runs again depends on the outcome of this supervisor race. She also serves on the board of directors for the Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority.

Jones’ top priority isn’t a specific issue, but rather a belief that would influence each decision she would make as a supervisor. She said she would view each issue that comes before the board through the filter of whether the topic at hand protects the rights of the individuals living in Santa Barbara County. 

When it comes to dealing with the homelessness issue that’s affecting the county, Jones said she’s the only candidate with firsthand experience. When she was younger, she was homeless and lived in a Salvation Army housing unit before earning her GED diploma and working at a psychiatric ward in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I know about homelessness both from the standpoint of having been a homeless person and also from somebody who spent a significant amount of time treating mentally ill people,” Jones said. 

She thinks the county needs to allocate resources for more treatment beds where homeless individuals can receive care, rather than funding more affordable housing. The county should only focus on assisting local people who become homeless here, she said.

Jones said she also has firsthand knowledge and experience in the oil industry. She was born on an oil lease in Kern County and has multiple family members who have worked in the industry. She acknowledges the climate is changing, but thinks the alarmist approach to move away from fossil fuel production is overblown.

Although she’s not opposed to renewable energy, Jones doesn’t think it should be an area of focus for the county. Instead, she said, let the private market play out.  

While Hartmann and Porter have collectively raised more than $558,000 for their campaigns, Jones hasn’t accepted any donations. She’s funded her effort herself with a self-imposed $2,000 limit. But Jones said if she’s part of a race that heads to a run-off, she would regroup and think about hiring staff. 

“If I get into the top two, that would be inspirational … that would really send a message,” Jones said. 

Reach Staff Writer Zac Ezzone at

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What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

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