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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 21st, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 23, Issue 30

Election requirements spark debate at Santa Ynez Airport

By Taylor O'Connor

The Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority decided against holding annual elections this year, frustrating some community members and raising questions about its voting laws. 

Santa Barbara County owns the airport, and it’s operated by a board of nine elected volunteers who oversee around 260 members made up of airport users and non-users. Board members also attend monthly meetings to discuss airport operations and follow a set of bylaws. 


IMPORTANT DECISIONS
The Santa Ynez Valley Airport Board of Directors makes decisions about safety, educational programs, and hangar lease requirements—impacting pilots and others who use the airport.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT PERRY

Every year, three seats are up for election, and candidates are required to fill out an application and biography by Aug. 15, Santa Ynez-based pilot Robert Perry said. This year, the board voted 9-0 to cancel the election because no new applications were received and all incumbents said they would want to continue serving, but the incumbents didn’t prepare biographies and took away voters’ write-in option—which Perry said he believes violates the authority’s bylaws.  

“When I brought this up at the Sept. 1 [meeting], the [board] president went off on me and called me a jerk. It rankled me a little bit, but I’m thick in the skin and I’ve been called worse,” he said. “[This decision] subverted the election process, and [took] all of the rights of the 260 electors away. I said I wanted a motion that we will elect the incumbents sitting on the board.” 

There were people who wanted to run, Perry said, but they didn’t know how to do that due to a lack of communication from the airport. Once the election was canceled, Perry said he sent an email to the members asking them to show up to the Oct. 6 meeting—when the vote would have taken place—to ask for ballots. 

“I don’t consider myself a leader, but I’m not quiet on the subject. I challenge the board to do good work, and this has been met with a challenge from the president,” he said. “They want to keep it private and a little country club of their own where they can operate.” 

Airport Authority board President Jourdi de Werd said nothing “nefarious,” is happening on the board and that Perry is a resident who “loves to nitpick.” 

Meetings follow Brown Act regulations, de Werd said, by uploading agendas and information to the airport’s website, and members are notified by email three days before an event. Canceling the election made sense because results were going to be the same with or without ballots, he said. 

“I would have an issue if we had any applications, then the board would have had to reschedule the process and hold a special election, [but] the outcome is going to be exactly the same,” de Werd said. “Was it [an] oversight to not prepare a biography? Absolutely, and I take full responsibility. But it doesn’t say anywhere in our bylaws that there has to be a reapplication.” 

According to airport bylaws, the board of directors will prepare biogrophies no later than Aug. 15, and board members already had biographies from previous election cycles. If the board wanted to reopen applications and re-create biographies, it would required amending the bylaws—which doesn’t make sense to the board, de Werd added.   

“It would be unfair to the incumbents because they had submitted their intentions to run before the deadline. It’s pretty unfortunate that I have an all-volunteer board and people do things like this,” he said. “It’s a lot of work and it doesn’t pay anything at all. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time with Bob [Perry] dealing with issues like this.”  

However, de Werd said that Perry made a good point about write-in ballots and added in an email to the Sun that there will be a motion during the Oct. 6 meeting to hold a special meeting for the next election and allow the board to receive candidate applications beforehand. 

“I do not believe anyone addressed that issue during the discussion. I cannot speak for the board if the motion will pass or not,” de Werd said via email. “However, as president of the SYVAA [Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority] board, it is my duty to make [sure] all our governance is completely transparent.”










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Homelessness. Our state needs to address this growing issue and come up with creative solutions.
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