Despite the ongoing legal efforts of opponent Steve Pappas, Doreen Farr was officially sworn in as the new 3rd District Supervisor yesterday.
Farr, a Democrat, won November’s election by a 806 votes – though Pappas disputes this number – and gained legislative authority over Isla Vista, Goleta, and the Santa Ynez Valley. Farr succeeds Brooks Firestone, who won the seat in 2004 but opted not to run for reelection.
Although Pappas, an independent candidate, has contested her victory, Farr maintains the legitimacy of her election and said she is optimistic about her tenure on the board.
“I do want to thank the people of the 3rd district for electing me, ” Farr said. “I am looking forward to the challenges ahead and providing the very best service to the residents of Santa Barbara County.”
According to election results, Farr received overwhelming support from the UCSB student community, obtaining nearly two-thirds of the student vote. However, Pappas has filed a legal petition to have approximately half of the student votes in 18 Isla Vista and UCSB precincts discarded due to alleged voter registration errors. Pappas brought the suit to the California Superior Court on Dec. 31, and if the court finds in his favor Farr will have to vacate the seat.
In addition to Farr, three other elected officials – 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray, and Superior Court Judge Jed Beebe – were introduced and sworn into office at yesterday’s ceremony. Carbajal and Gray are both returning members of the board, having recently won their reelection bids.
Judge Arthur Garcia administered the Oath of Office and reiterated the responsibilities of the elected government to serve the community.
“It’s not just words you’re repeating,” Garcia said. “It’s an affirmation to protect the public and put the needs of the public before your own. They’re not just words, they’re a solemn obligation.”
The new board will face a wide array of issues, but none will be more pressing or severe than the county’s current budget crisis.
“This year is all about the economy, budget, budget, economy, budget, budget,” Carbajal, the 2008 chairman, said after being sworn-in. “And did I mention budget?”
The keynote speaker, Thomas Tighe of the Goleta-based nonprofit agency Direct Relief International, reiterated Carbajal’s point in his speech, which focused on the challenges facing the Board of Supervisors.
“Since you’ve run for office, it’s gotten worse – much worse,” Tighe said. “There is less money available to do more things that need to be done.”
However, Tighe remained optimistic about the potential for the local leaders to enact beneficial change in the upcoming year.
“One of the great intangibles we’ve seen has been the quality and strength of local leadership,” he said.
As Supervisor, Farr’s plans include agricultural and environmental preservation – including protection of the threatened Gaviota Coast. Additionally, Farr and the other District Supervisors will be responsible for redrawing district lines in 2010 to reflect new population figures.
The inauguration ceremony included an introduction of the Board of Supervisors by County Executive Officer Michael Brown, an invocation by Sister Janet Corcoran, a video presentation entitled “The Best of Santa Barbara County,” and a musical presentation by the Saints Jazz Choir from Santa Maria High School.
Despite all the challenges facing the new board, Farr’s fellow supervisors are optimistic about Farr’s election. Joseph Centeno, the 5th District Supervisor and newly appointed chairman of the board, said he is confident Farr will be a positive addition to the board.
“I know that she will be a great asset and that we will work well together,” Centeno said. “We look forward to 2009.”