Friday, December 4, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 17th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 38

Solvang voters recall City Council member, and he's OK with it

By Karen Garcia

Solvang’s citizen-led effort to recall City Councilmember Chris Djernaes on the Nov. 3 ballot passed with approximately 86 percent of voters supporting his removal. 

Solvang residents’ efforts to recall city councilmember Chris Djernaes was approved by voters Nov. 3 but Djernaes says he’s done a good job on council.

Djernaes told the Sun that he’s accomplished what he set out to do when he was elected in 2018 and will continue to support his community regardless of the recall. 

The recall prevents Djerneas from completing his four-year term on the council. But, he said, in just two years he’s been able to work with the council to ensure transparency and remove decision-makers who were influenced by what he called “the old guard”—a tight-knit group of individuals with a long history and friendships in the community. 

He voted in favor of reducing city staff from 40 people to 20 and redirecting funds from the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau and Solvang Chamber of Commerce to direct marketing and advertising efforts for businesses on Alisal Road and Copenhagen Drive. Djernaes said he supported and pushed for the Solvang Fall Fest and JuleFest, additional activities, and revenue-generating events for the city.

In doing so, Djerneas said he’s been able to support a more economically vibrant vision—his vision—for the future of Solvang. 

“I was the one trying to change the economy of Solvang to move away from these micro-businesses because they’re selling all this kitsch stuff that is reminiscent of the ’90s and 2000s that people aren’t necessarily interested in. The demographic that comes to Solvang has completely shifted,” he said.  

Djerneas said he argued for change at the city level, the downtown area, and the business owners and that’s why the citizens effort began to remove him from the council. 

“There’s a battle for the soul of Solvang going on right now,” Djernaes said. “Are we going to continue to be the quasi-Danish capital of America or are we going to move in a brand new direction and leave behind the Danish traditions? Because if we don’t fight to restore the cultural identity of the Danish brand, Solvang won’t survive another generation.”

He argues that Solvang needs to create an overall memorable experience for visitors of all demographics to keep the tourist-driven community going. 

The citizen-led recall effort was organized by resident Lammy Johnstone, who said Djernaes wasn’t respectful to Solvang residents and disregarded voters’ wishes.

Djernaes told the Sun those were a couple of many ridiculous and untruthful accusations that Johnstone and many others made about him. It was all just part of their plan to remove him from office, he said. 

For now, Djernaes said he’s going to focus on caring for an ill family member, but he won’t discontinue his support for the community. He advises the city and the community to work together to build a lasting vision for Solvang, create a sustainable revenue-generating plan that includes new businesses, and open a stronger line of communication with one another. 

“You would see me at the council meetings demanding more community engagement, more discussions about the big issues the community is facing,” he said. “It’s OK to have arguments but at the end of the day we need to learn to agree to disagree, shake hands, and work together tomorrow.” 

Weekly Poll
Would a second stay-at-home order be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19?

No, pandemic fatigue is too high to get people to follow a stay-at-home order.
Yes, we need it, otherwise our hospitals will be in rough shape.
Local governments should get a say—not all purple tier counties are the same.
It would be bad news for the economy.

| Poll Results

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