New Sheriff, New Supe, First Female DA Take Office

by Martha Sadler

County-Swear-in.jpgThe largest swearing-in ceremony in
recent local history took place Tuesday morning in a packed county
boardroom, where newly elected District Attorney Christie Stanley,
Sheriff Bill Brown, 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, and 11
reelected incumbents raised their right hands and swore to protect
the U.S. Constitution amid pomp, ceremony, and high spirits.
Following the UCSB Surfrider Battalion’s presentation of the colors
with military precision, 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone
and the rest of the Santa Barbara Choral Society rendered “This Is
My Song” and “America the Beautiful,” with Firestone singing bass.
The 14 local officials elected in November took the oath of office
from Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille; former California
governor Pete Wilson then delivered an almost half-hour keynote
address in which he mostly praised local government and decried
unfunded federal mandates — a tune he has carried throughout his
career. Only once did he refer to Santa Barbara as San Diego, the
city where he once served as mayor.

Wilson is a personal friend of Brooks Firestone, who was
responsible for choosing the speaker. Past speakers — who have run
the gamut from a cowboy poet to a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist — have been selected by county staff and have not had
such a partisan flavor, but Firestone was interested in planning
the event and carried a certain amount of privilege as the Board of
Supervisors’ new chair. One of Wilson’s claims to fame was his
championing of Proposition 187, the voter initiative that passed
overwhelmingly and would have barred illegal immigrants from
receiving public education and other services had it not been
overturned in federal court. Given Firestone’s locking of horns
this year with proponents of tenants’ and immigrants’ rights, some
observers wondered if Wilson’s presence wasn’t a poke in the eye to
his Isla Vista and UCSB constituents, who fought to stop the mass
evictions from the Cedarwood Apartments.

When the neophyte Wolf and her new colleagues finally mounted
the dais and outgoing chair Joni Gray — vivid, brisk, and
bossy — handed over the gavel to Firestone, the sense of goodwill
and celebration was clearly carrying the day. It was hard to coax a
discouraging word even from the public interest environmental
lawyers. They are gloved and ready to resume boxing next week,
though, over agricultural land-use rules and the fate of the
Gaviota coast — critical issues on which Firestone now has the
gavel as well as the swing vote.

Later in the day, Sheriff Bill Brown again took the oath, this
time before a huge crowd of law enforcement officers and their
families at the Earl Warren Showgrounds at an event jointly hosted
by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — which
endorsed Brown during the election — and the Deputy Sheriff’s
Association — which didn’t. The pomp and circumstance were again
pronounced, with a conspicuous display of highly polished
vehicles — including the forensics van — and one deputy on
horseback. (Three mounted deputies had been expected, but the two
who never made it out of the parking lot sparked rumors that they
were Jim Anderson loyalists commemorating the defeated sheriff’s
support for the equine division.) By the end of the ceremonies,
however, Brown seemed to have dissipated most of the tension
remaining from a bruising campaign. He had his pastor onstage to
preach about leadership, Judge James Iwasko to roast him, and his
wife and children to pin the bars and stars on his collar. Brown
also re-swore Undersheriff — and Anderson appointee — Ken Shemwell,
a 26-year department veteran well-known and trusted by

But the most disarming part of the presentation, ironically, was
Brown’s own long speech. It consisted of a story about a British
officer in the colonial Indian police force — a charming true tale
that Brown researched and wrote himself — which described “men of
rare character and valor” facing criminals who were “determined to
sell their lives dearly.” It was a crowd-pleasing bedtime story
that could have come straight out of Boy’s Life, the moral being
that law enforcement is a “unique and universal brotherhood and
sisterhood.” SEIU organizer Walt Hamilton’s quip perhaps sums it
up: “Today you’re being sworn in,” he said to Brown, “but tomorrow
you’ll be sworn at.”


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