The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors officially appointed Second District Supervisor and UCSB alumna Janet Wolf as its new chair this Monday.

During the Jan. 5 meeting, outgoing chair and Fifth District Supervisor Joe Centeno gave his seat to Wolf in a “Passing of the Gavel” ceremony. Wolf and Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray — who claimed the position of vice chair — were unanimously voted into their new positions.

Although Wolf does not have special voting privileges that differentiate her from other supervisors, the position of chair entails running meetings, maintaining order and ensuring that meetings run smoothly. Wolf will also serve as the primary contact and spokesperson for the board.

Despite the county’s current budget woes and other obstacles, Wolf remains optimistic about the abilities of herself and the board to tackle the issues effectively.

“We’ve had difficult issues and we will have difficult issues in the county,” Wolf said. “But one of the jobs of the chair is to respect the public and my colleagues and to be consistent.”

Wolf identified the budget as one of the largest issues last year and anticipated that it would remain so for the board in 2010.

“At UCSB, you’ve seen what’s been happening in the state,” Wolf said. “What happens as it relates to UCSB with [rises in] tuition and all those things also hits local governments. The state budget from last year had a huge impact in the county. We’re expecting the same thing this year.”

While acknowledging the state budget’s role in local economic woes, Wolf also said the county has suffered from a failure to see a significant increase in taxes, most notably property taxes.

“The bottom line is we’re going to have some budget challenges in front of us,” she said.

Wolf says that she hopes to push forward with tackling budget issues early this year. The board has arranged to hold a budget workshop in February to hear from departments in regard to “what the budget looks like and on cuts they’re planning.”

According to Wolf, the Central Coast Energy Independence Program will also be finalized this year. The program will work to bring “green jobs” to Santa Barbara by retrofitting homes and businesses for energy efficiency.

“It will put people to work and, also, people will be buying things,” Wolf said. “It’s an exciting initiative.”