Monday, August 22, the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District Board announced the appointment of Louis David Van Mullem Jr. as its new district director and air pollution control officer. After his first day on the job, he said he predicted a bright future for him and his team.
“It’s like drinking water out of a fire hose. I really had a good first day,” he said. “I met everybody, and what a fantastic team. It’s a great group. I’m going to have a lot of fun, and we’re going to have a lot of fun together.”
According to a press release announcing his appointment, “[He] brings to the District extensive experience with air quality issues and regulations, as well as a rich background in business and environmental management.”
Van Mullem took over from Terry Dressler, who held the position for seven years before retiring in late June and returning to serve as interim director. Dressler is not the only one leaving the County Air Pollution Control District: According to Van Mullem, several others are resigning in the near future. And though the senior staff is “the backbone of the company,” he looks forward to bringing in what he calls “the young guns.”
“The young people I meet today are so competent. There are people who have been working here a very long time, but I want to keep building the team. I want to build a team that is moving in the right direction: protecting Santa Barbara.”
The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District has worked to protect the county and its residents from the harmful effects of air pollution since the 1970s. Its team includes meteorologists, engineers, chemists, environmental scientists, planners, inspectors, and administrative personnel, who control air pollution from all sources except motor vehicles. The district became independent from the county government in 1995.
Van Mullem, who has settled in Orcutt and has family in Goleta and Santa Barbara, attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where he got a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Statistics, before continuing on to receive a Master of Science degree in Systems Management from the University of California as well as a Master of Science degree in Environmental Management from West Coast University.
After college, Van Mullem became a U.S. Air Force Pilot and was assigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1991, where he managed the air quality program. He achieved the rank of colonel and become the base’s director of environmental management before leaving in 1998 to lead the Santa Maria office of AECOM, an international environmental consulting firm — his last stop before joining the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.
Both his membership on the district’s five-member volunteer Hearing Board (since 2002) and his earlier position at Vandenberg have prepared Van Mullem well. “At Vandenberg I had a terrific job, which prepared me great for this job. I had about 50 people under me and oversaw 100,000 acres,” he said.
Furthermore, he said that his 20 years of experience in the environment business have led him to “this chair I’m sitting in now.” He said he looks forward to working on issues facing Santa Barbara County.