Roy Lee elected as new 1st District Supervisor

Incumbent 1st District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams called candidate Roy Lee on March 14 to congratulate him on becoming the next supervisor representing Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria, and Cuyama come January 2025. 

click to enlarge Roy Lee elected as new 1st District Supervisor
Photo courtesy of Wade Cooper
NEW FACE ON THE DAIS: Carpinteria City Council member and restaurant owner Roy Lee will step up as Santa Barbara County’s 1st District Supervisor in 2025 after incumbent Das Williams conceded to Lee with 500 votes separating the two.

“I wanted to do what none of my opponents in 21 years had done, actually have a personal concession and wish him luck,” Williams told the Sun on March 21. “There’s still thousands of ballots left to count, but, in my view, not enough to overcome a 500 ballot difference.” 

According to Santa Barbara County’s preliminary election results, 47 percent of voters in the 1st District had their ballot counted, with nearly 51 percent of the vote (12,745 ballots) going to Lee and 48.7 percent (12,180 ballots) to Williams. Certified Santa Barbara County election results are due to the secretary of state by April 4. 

“Statewide, this was the second lowest turnout for a presidential primary in history. Only 47 percent of the voters turned out in District 1. By comparison, in 2020 it was a 65 percent turnout and that difference—18 percent of the electorate were folks who overwhelmingly supported us,” Williams said. “Republican turnout was 10 percent higher than Democratic turnout countywide, which made a more conservative electorate.” 

According to preliminary results, 54.9 percent of Republican voters turned out for the primary compared to 44.6 percent of Democrats. 

“Whether you vote or not, it does have consequences. When I was early in my work in politics, when I was working on my first election … on a campaign that lost by eight votes,” Williams said. “I hope other young folks and folks who want to change the vote for the better take this as a lesson that we always [have to] turn out the vote.” 

Williams served as a Democratic representative for Santa Barbara County both as a county supervisor and at the state level as an Assembly member for more than 21 years where he focused on environmental protections, public safety, and affordable housing. He helped the county design its cannabis ordinance and corresponding tax model, and helped lead both the 2018 Montecito Debris Flows and the 2023 winter storm response and the county’s Housing Element. 

Lee told the Sun that many South County constituents were frustrated with Williams due to a lack of cannabis odor abatement and mitigation for operations’ proximity to homes and schools; issues facing the Montecito Debris Nets put in place after the 2018 debris flow; and the 642-unit La Cumbre Plaza housing project in Santa Barbara. 

“I can’t let this guy continue on; he’s not there for the right reasons. I know I could do better, and I took the chance,” Lee said. “It was very difficult: You have to raise money, you have to work hard, you have to put yourself out there.” 

Lee served as a Carpinteria City Council member for six years and owns Uncle Chen Restaurant. His family emigrated from Taiwan in 1986, and his parents were farmers in the ag industry both in Taiwan and in Santa Barbara County, he said.

He joined the race as a moderate Democrat who wants to see more cannabis odor control measures and effective enforcement; affordable housing development while preserving agriculture and open space; and enhancement of Santa Barbara County’s economic development by creating an economic development department and supporting new agricultural technologies and practices for industry innovation. 

Former District Attorney Joyce Dudley, former Santa Barbara city Fire Chief Pat McElroy, and former county Undersheriff Barney Melekian, among others, endorsed Lee, giving him momentum in the race, Lee said. 

“Part of my strategy, I knew primaries were low turnouts, and I could focus on communities where I wanted a strong turnout such as Summerland, Carpinteria, and Montecito,” he said. 

As supervisor, he plans to draft a cannabis odor abatement ordinance, support changes to the cannabis tax model, and push back on the state to give the county more time to meet its regional housing needs allocation numbers for its housing element. 

“I’m here to serve the community, I’m here to do what the community wants, and I’ll do my best to carry that out. I’m not a career politician, and I think that’s what people want,” Lee said. 

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