Thursday, June 24, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 17

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 14th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 33

If recall vote of Solvang city councilmember prevails, two candidates look to fill the seat

By Karen Garcia

Solvang residents get to vote on whether to recall current City Councilmember Chris Djernaes in November, and if that recall passes, residents can choose between candidates Jim Thomas and Jaime Baker to fill the seat. 

Jim Thomas retired Santa Barbara County Sheriff (pictured) and local businessman Jaime Baker are vying for current city councilman Chris Djernaes’s seat if recalled by voters in November.

The recall question and candidate choice will both be on the ballot this November.

Both candidates say they have the approval of the community group that successfully carried out the petition to put the recall on the ballot. 

Thomas said the way he sees it, Djernaes is running against himself and his activities.

“I’m running against a man named Jaime Baker and he’s a nice guy. I believe either one of us would be a vast improvement,” he said. 

Thomas said he was in contact with the group after seeing several incidents during City Council meetings in which he felt Djernaes didn’t act appropriately. 

The most recent incident, Thomas said, took place during the July 13 City Council meeting when the council was deciding on the business license renewal for the Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company 

“He went on a rant for about 10 minutes, made some pretty questionable comments I think directed at the young woman that made the presentation, and then he packed up all his gear and walked out with only half the meeting over,” Thomas said. 

At that moment Thomas said to himself, “I can do better than that.” 

Thomas has been a resident of Solvang for 30 years, is a retired Santa Barbara County sheriff, and filled a vacant fire chief position at the request of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for three years in 1993. Recently, he was a consultant on the Aera East Cat Canyon Oil Field Redevelopment Project. 

“In my own view of my capabilities, I have the ability to go into a situation where I may not know everything, but I know how to listen, I know how to gather information, and I know how to make decisions,” he said. 

In terms of his experience in local government, Thomas said he might not be completely knowledgeable of general plans or land use plans, but he’s not afraid to do the research and gather viewpoints from constituents. 

“I think I have a sense of what the majority of the people in the city want, which is to maintain the value of Solvang as it is and as the founding fathers envisioned it to be,” Thomas said.

Council candidate Baker told the Sun he first came to Solvang in 1979 when he was 17 years old and fell in love with the magic of the town. If the recall passes and the voters elect him to the council, he also would like to restore that magic to the community.

Baker is the business owner of Space VR, a virtual reality entertainment center that due to COVID-19 hasn’t had as many visitors as previous years. He was approached by the community group petitioning to recall Djernaes because he has the time and the ability to speak with city staff, other members of the council, and the community with civility. 

For the past three years, he said he’s attended City Council meetings to get the pulse of the city.

“I’ve watched [Djernaes] for the last two years. He’s had some really good ideas and some outbursts that are not what you want to see up on the council. In that position should be someone with more control,” Baker said. 

A council member, he said, should be able to communicate with all, have healthy debates, come ready with researched ideas, and a willingness to collaborate. 

The other issue he sees on the council is a lack of diverse backgrounds that represent the community. 

“In the last 10 years I’ve been here, I’ve seen very little creativity up on that board,” he said.

One of the main ideas that Baker has is changing back the dynamic of the town from being a tourist attraction four months out of the year to having it be active to the community and out-of-towners year round.

“If you’re a town that’s based on revenue-generated activities, you’ve got to create happenings and magical moments. If you create events that bring people here on the off-season, that’s going to be a safety net for the general fund,” Baker said. 

Djernas was not available for comment before the Sun’s deadline.

Weekly Poll
How did you survive the heat wave?

By staying indoors: This is why I have air conditioning.
I got out in nature (but stayed in the shade, of course).
I enjoyed the Santa Maria pool's first rec swim in more than a year.
I took advantage of the warm evenings and ate outdoors at a local restaurant.

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