Bob Kallman, former three-term county supervisor and bulwark of countless community organizations, died this Tuesday at the age of 87. Kallman, a Santa Barbara native who served in the Navy during World War II and who ran a successful landscaping business, would emerge as a cornerstone of the area GOP scene when Ronald Reagan was in the White House during the golden age of the Republican Party both nationally and in Santa Barbara. Kallman first ran for the school board back in the early 1960s as a rock-ribbed conservative concerned that liberal outside groups — like the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions — were pushing schools in a leftward leaning direction.
For years, he was the Jaycees. In 1968, he served as Fiesta’s El Presidente. He later served three terms as 2nd District supervisor. As an elected official, Kallman was a formidable presence, tough-minded, well prepared, and unfailingly gracious. With his extensive community connections, Kallman proved impossible to beat, and his opponents expressed grudging admiration for his ability to work the backyard barbecue circuit.
Kallman left the board on his own terms, after securing an appointment during the Reagan administration to a high-ranking post within the Department of the Interior, where he enjoyed considerable oversight over offshore oil development, a subject about which he’d written one of his many books. His tenure with Interior extended after Reagan was replaced by George Bush. Aside from his political interests, Kallman was indefatigable on the many community organizations he served, most notably the Santa Barbara Zoo and Alpha Resource Center. In later years, he remained politically involved with groups like the County Taxpayers Association, endowing them with clout and credibility by his presence.