Remembering Tom Urbanske

The Santa Maria Valley lost a true dedicated public servant last month when former Fifth District County Supervisor Tom Urbanske passed away after a lifetime of service at age 88.

It was and remains a privilege to have been a colleague of Supervisor Urbanske during the four years (1994-1998) that our time on the Board of Supervisors coincided.

He was one of the most courteous, kind, and respectful elected officials I have ever worked with. He combined an optimistic attitude toward almost everything and everyone with enthusiastic advocacy for important causes that he held dear — such as funding services for those suffering from mental and physical disabilities and support for the Santa Barbara County Probation Department.

His lifetime of service included serving in the U.S. Marines during the Korean Conflict, 31 years as a teacher at Santa Maria High School, five years on the Elementary School Board, 14 years on the Santa Maria City Council (where he was a steadfast supporter of Councilmember Curtis Tunnell Jr.’s effort to secure State Water for the city) and two terms (1994-2002) on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors as Fifth District Supervisor.

Tom, along with his wife, Barbara, also served countless hours as community volunteers both during and after his time in public office.

It may seem difficult to reconcile with the level and tone of public discourse we see today, but if Tom Urbanske was insistent about anything, it was to adhere to a strictly nonpartisan approach to public policy. His policy objective was always to do what was in the best interest of the Santa Maria Valley, North County, and its citizens.

To this end, Tom Urbanske was a strong believer in community engagement and involvement. His precinct walking of Santa Maria neighborhoods is legendary. Tom would walk precincts (sometimes riding his bike) year-round — even in nonelection years — just to listen to residents’ views on various issues. As a result, it seemed as if everyone in town knew or had some personal connection to Tom Urbanske — his political campaigns were not high (campaign contributions) dollar affairs but more word of mouth — something virtually unheard of today.

Tom Urbanske was a tremendous public servant who served our community well. His lifetime of public service made a positive difference for North County and the Santa Maria Valley which still resonates today. He will be missed. It was an honor and a privilege to be his colleague on the Board of Supervisors.

Timothy J. Staffel was Santa Barbara County Fourth District Supervisor, 1992-1998.

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