The area chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced Monday that after 25 years of service, Executive Director Walt Hamilton will retire. Mark Langdorf, previously of Helena, Montana, will take his place. About 20 people attended a press conference hosted by SEIU Local 620, which took place at the Santa Barbara Courthouse on Tuesday at noon.
Local 620, the union branch for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, represents almost 4,000 public service employees in the two counties. Members include clerical and professional employees, technical employees, healthcare professionals, maintenance workers, road crews, harbor and airport officers, and park workers.
Daniel Vegezzi, the president of the board of directors for Local 620, introduced Hamilton at the conference and announced his retirement, thanking him for his hard work and dedication to the service of local communities.
The mood was light; Hamilton was friendly with those gathered for the conference, many of whom were fellow board members or public service employees he had represented for a quarter of a century. Hamilton repeatedly expressed how much pride he had as a result of being able to support the people providing important services to the community, which often go unnoticed. “I want people to understand there is so much good will and good intention we take for granted,” he said. “We’re just not aware of it. The stoplights work because the technicians are making sure they’re repaired. We naturally go through our lives, we turn on the tap and, gee, there’s water. I just wish our members had the recognition they so richly deserve for the work they do.”
Langdorf, the new executive director, recently moved to the Central Coast. According to Vegezzi, Langford has more than 25 years working in labor, public service, and lobbying. But despite his experience, Hamilton says Langdorf’s toughest obstacle will be fighting the effects of the region’s economic downturn and the state’s growing budget crisis.
“Public services are what are being threatened, and we represent the people who provide those services, so it really comes down to jobs right now,” Hamilton said. “We are trying to be a part of the solution to keep people working and keep the economy healthy and humming, as opposed to being part of the problem and having people out of work.”
Hamilton plans to stay involved with SEIU, staying on contract to work on special projects occasionally.
Katherine Perry is an Independent intern.