Joe Holland, a 17-year veteran of the county assessor’s office, recorded a huge victory over Assistant County Clerk Larry Herrera in the race for Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor.
Holland took 56 percent of the vote to beat Herrera by nearly 7,000 votes in a contentious race in which each candidate accused the other of poor management in their last job. Both work in the Clerk-Recorder-Assessor’s office, Herrera serving as the assistant county clerk and Holland working as a business division manager in the assessor’s office.
The Clerk-Recorder-Assessor runs elections, records births, deaths, marriages and property taxes, and assesses land value. The offices were split until 1994, when the county combined the Clerk with the Recorder-Assessor to save money.
During the campaign, Herrera said Holland had failed to properly assess taxes, while Holland said it took much longer for assessment documents to go through the county bureaucracy under Herrera and outgoing County Clerk Kenneth Pettit.
Holland also accused Pettit of politicizing the office by offering public opinions on campaigns. Pettit has spoken out several times against the recall of 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall and endorses candidates. Holland pledged not to make endorsements while in office; Herrera, whom Pettit endorsed, did not.
Voters responded to Holland’s apolitical message.
“I’m not surprised that I won,” Holland said. “I think it says that the people of this county believe in my message of a non-partisan office without endorsing candidates.”
Holland spent Tuesday night at home with family and friends. The magnitude of the win took him off guard, but he said he looks forward to taking office next January.
“I really just plan to work hard, improve the quality of services provided throughout this office,” he said. “I want to utilize the fine staff we’ve got in this office.”
A subdued Herrera appeared briefly at the Beachside CafŽ, but did not stay long.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “It’s disappointing to lose. It means I didn’t get to do the things I wanted for students in the county.”
Herrera said he would head back to the clerk’s office Wednesday to begin preparing for the November general election.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to go to work,” he said. “And then there’s the November 2002 election. I’m going to do what I can to make sure Lois Capps wins that.”