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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 20th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 50

Hancock instructor Willie Green appointed to the Santa Maria City Council

BY AMY ASMAN

After 3 1/2 hours of tense deliberation, presentations from 14 applicants, and Q-and-A sessions with four candidates, the Santa Maria City Council finally filled its vacant council seat on Feb. 19.

Willie Green, currently a part-time instructor at Allan Hancock College, will serve a two-year term on the council. Green also worked for 19 years in the labor and delivery division of Safeway grocery stores, where he negotiated labor contracts. For the past 10 years, he’s served as a neutral arbitrator for Costco teamsters.


A FRESH FACE
Part-time Allan Hancock College instructor Willie Green spoke to the Santa Maria City Council about the qualities he could bring to city government. In a rare showing of agreement, the council voted 4-0 to appoint Green to the seat vacated by Mayor Alice Patino. His appointment ends a two-month deadlock over how to fill the vacancy.
PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
Green—who spoke at length during his presentation about the importance of teamwork verses individualism and his ample mediation experience—will now bridge the gap between members of what appears to be a deeply divided City Council.

“Why should I be the next person to fill the vacancy on the City Council?” Green said during his presentation. “I am committed. When I decide to do something, I stay with it to the end.”

The council has been deadlocked since December over whether to appoint Etta Waterfield—who lost to Bob Orach by two votes in last year’s election—to the vacant seat. The city started advertising for applications for the position on Feb. 6. Approximately two dozen people requested applications, but only 14 made it to the interview process.

City Manager Rick Haydon kicked off the Feb. 19 meeting by explaining to the council the interviewing and appointment process. Haydon recommended that all 14 applicants give five-minute presentations, after which the council would narrow down the selection pool by casting public ballots.

Council members Jack Boysen and Terri Zuniga butted heads with Mayor Alice Patino over whether they would have the option to ask the candidates impromptu questions. Patino felt the council should stick with the process outlined at its last meeting, but Boysen and Zuniga felt there should be more discussion on the matter.

“I want [the process to be] consistent, I want it to be transparent, I want it to be open,” Patino said. “I didn’t support the application process, but I think if we’re going to do it, let’s do it clean.”

Ultimately, the council voted 3-1, with Patino dissenting, to allow Zuniga to ask one more question. Each member had prepared two questions, but one of Zuniga’s was redundant, prompting her desire to ask a new one.

After listening to all 14 applicants, the council narrowed their choices down to four candidates, including former City Council member Mike Cordero, Waterfield, Green, and Henry Grennan, a former Allan Hancock College trustee.

All four candidates answered questions from the council about a range of topics, including their professional backgrounds, essential city services, city funding, and what they feel are the most important issues facing Santa Maria.

All four candidates spoke about the importance of public safety and job creation. Green specifically mentioned the need for neighborhood policing, fire safety, gang and gun suppression, afterschool activities for children, and improved emergency response times.

Waterfield, an obvious crowd favorite, mentioned the prevention of crime and traffic accidents, prosecuting unlicensed drivers, and job and business retention.

She closed her interview by saying she had no qualms with anyone on the council.

“I just want to get to the business of Santa Maria and start moving in a forward direction with everyone,” Waterfield said.

That didn’t seem to sway Zuniga and Boysen, who blocked Patino and Orach’s nomination of Waterfield. The two senior council members blocked a similar nomination of Cordero.

The stalemate led Orach to nominate Green—an appointment on which all four members finally agreed. After the nomination passed, Green was immediately sworn into his position on the dais.

The next council meeting is scheduled for March 5.