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Leaders Changing Places

Puddicombe Passes, Cronk Retires, and More

This week are changes blowing in wind of Montecito’s leadership
landscape — some planned for, others not. mm%20half%20staff.jpg

The death of 21-year Montecito Water District (MWD)
board veteran, Robert Puddicombe, left a large and
unexpected void in Montecito’s water service agency. Puddicombe, a
civil engineer and longtime public works specialist, was re-elected
to the board at last November’s general election. He was installed
as MWD vice-president in December, but became ill shortly
thereafter, passing away on January 1 at the age of 85.

“Bob enjoyed mentoring and he was happy to share information. He
had a tremendous amount of knowledge and he was generous with it,”
said MWD President Jan Abel, who has worked
closely with Puddicombe, sitting next to him for all of her 16
years on the MWD board. “The chair to my right will be forever
empty—he was a very special friend,” And, indeed, at the Montecito Fire District meeting
on Tuesday, Director Puddicombe’s chair, to the right of Abel’s was
empty, a simply floral bouquet marking his spot.

The remaining board, who, along with Abel includes Sam
Fry
,
Dick Shaikewitz
and Larry Wilson,
resumed business and voted on Tuesday to elect Wilson as the
replacement vice president. Puddicombe’s board position will remain
unfilled until the board has an opportunity to publicize the
vacancy and seek qualified candidates. Abel said applications would
be accepted by the MWD until 5 p.m. on February 12.

She said the only absolute requirements for candidacy are that
the applicant lives within the boundaries of the Montecito Water
District and that they be registered to vote at that address.
However, she added other qualifications could enhance the
applicant’s odds of being selected.

“While it’s not required, a desirable candidate would have
experience in engineering, finance, planning, or other suitable
training,” Abel said. She added MWD board members are expected to
attend monthly meetings (scheduled for 2 p.m. on the second Tuesday
of each month) and serve on auxiliary committees. The appointed
candidate will fill Puddicombe’s seat for two years until the next
general election in 2008.

“While it’s not a requirement, we will certainly give preference
to someone willing to run for the seat in 2008. Experience helps
keep the board solid, because it takes some time to learn about the
tapestry of water in our community,” Abel noted.

Along with professional experience and teamwork weaving, water
board candidates might be advised to have good swimming skills.
Water boards notoriously face controversial community issues,
including upstream paddles over issues such as MWD’s newly proposed
rate hikes, getting its first public comment airing on February 20
at the Montecito Fire District Community Hall.

IN THE LEAD: Newly announced leadership
positions in other in other community organization include
Deirdre Cannata, elected president of the
Montecito Sanitary District; Roy Jensen, staying
on as the longtime president of the Montecito Fire District; and
Troy Harris, new head of the Montecito Emergency
Recovery and Rescue Action Group (MERRAG).

After 22 years of balanced budgets, cronk.jpg Westmont vice president of finance
Ron Cronk retires from the VP position, but stays
on as a special advisor to the college’s president. Cronk is well
known for podium power, advocating in public meetings on behalf of
Westmont various expansion needs.

And, while the members of the
Montecito Planning Commission were sent to the bench
last week
by the Board of Supervisors pending further review, First District
Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner Michael
Cooney
’s reappointment sailed through without a hitch. The
Montecito statesman (often sent to calm Montecito’s troubled waters
by Supervisor Salud Carbajal) has been elected
chairman of the Santa
Barbara County Planning Commission
for 2007.

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS: When Santa Barbara harpist
Mary Jane Barton died in February 2005, few knew
that a harmonic building music she owned on Coast Village Road
would be creating such a euphony. It seems Barton sold her building
at 1111 Coast Village Road and donated the $2 million proceeds to
Curtis Institute
of Music
. The Philadelphia college says the bequest came as no
surprise, because Barton frequently showed the building to Curtis
visitors.

mm%20smith%20barney.jpg

Barton was an accomplished harpist, under contract to MGM and
20th Century Fox, and playing the harp in such films as Victory
at Sea
and Sayonara. She also played as soloist for
the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Now
the building houses a symphony of stockbrokers from Smith Barney,
whose tunes, we hear, go up and down with the market.

OUT OF THE FOG: Several columns ago, I
mentioned new Montecito neighbor Priscilla Presley
was a longtime supporter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Montage must
have been in a fog because I was quickly apprised she is better
known for her work as the Dream Foundation’s
ambassador.

The Dream
Foundation
makes wishes come true for terminally ill adults,
and Priscilla became involved with the Dream Foundation in 1997,
when she hosted a dream recipient whose final wish was to go to
Graceland. Other local celebs that support the Dream Foundation
include Jeff Bridges, Rob Lowe, Kenny Logins, Julia
Louis-Dreyfuss, John Cleese, David Cosby, Kathy Ireland
,
and Michael Douglas.

For more information on this organization’s good works visit
dreamfoundation.org.

MONTECITO MEANDERING: Montecito’s Santa Barbara International Film
Fest
insiders are buzzing that Tom Cruise will
be on hand for the Film Festival along with Golden Globe-snatcher
Sacha Baron Cohen….

Montage will not tell all, but dust off your copy of
Thomas Friedman’s The World is
Flat
because you could get it personally autographed very
soon …

Our TV remote control screeched to a halt this week to find
Montecito resident Rob Lowe mugging with
Calista Flockhart in the new TV hit Brothers
& Sisters
. Lowe, who plays a senator (is he rehearsing for
a real-life run?), recently decided to stay on with the show.
Meanwhile natural history film maker Michael
DeGruy
, who’s in charge of the Reel
Nature sidebar
for the film festival, was mugging underwater
with killer squid on the Discovery Channel….

dawg.gif If you, however, are left to pucker
up with your friendly pooch, you’re in luck! DAWG’s photographer is
taking appointments for family portrait sittings (both human and
canine members) just in time for Valentines Day! The $100 cost will
benefit DAWG’s medical fund. Email bbaker123@cox.net for info or see
sbdawg.com.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE

LOWDOWN ON COUNTY SUPES’ MPC REVERSAL: At the
Montecito Planning Commission on Wednesday
morning, Planning and Development Director John
Baker
said the Board of Supervisors’
blockage of Montecito Planning Commissioner’s appointments has been
resolved. Baker said MPC incumbents Bob Bierig and
Michael Phillips and new appointee, Sue
Burrows
, will be confirmed via administrative agenda at
the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on January 23.

Phillips, who was present at the January 6 showdown where he and
the other MPC appointees’ approvals were delayed by the BoS, asked
Baker for clarification. “The Board of Supervisor asked for a
discussion of this item. Does this mean there will be no hearing?
Is it just an administrative item?” Phillips inquired.

Baker said County CEO Michael Brown had asked the same question,
and the BoS’s clear direction was that the appointments be placed
only on the administrative agenda for simple and routine
approval.

This action is a 180 degree reversal of the BoS’ January 6
mandate, in which Supervisors Brooks Firestone,
Joni Gray, and Joe Centeno
requested that a discussion of the MPC, it’s appointees, and its
future be placed on the BoS’ January 23 agenda. At the time
Supervisor Firestone, in particular, expressed concern and wanted
public discussion over prior MPC actions. He sited particular angst
over a controversial decision about a Ty Warner / Biltmore Hotel
seawall staircase design, which the MPC denied. Their action was
reversed by the BoS at a spirited, well attended public
hearing.

While the MPC seemed visibly surprised (and relieved) by turn of
events, Carbajal seemed confidently nonchalant about the board’s
hasty retreat. “I think my colleagues had some time to reconsider
the importance of the appointments and they were happy with them,”
Carbajal said, adding he had personally spoken with Firestone
concerning the issue. “I did have meeting with him to try to
understand his concerns and educate him on my insights on the
Montecito community.”

Carbajal said he has worked a long time with the Montecito
community, both as a supervisor and as a staff member under former
Supervisor Naomi Schwartz. He said his experience
has afforded him a unique appreciation of the community — one that
his fellow supervisors may not be privy to.

“I am not new to controversy in Montecito. Dissent and
discussion are healthy and part of the normal decision-making
process in any community, and Montecito has always had healthy
debate,” explained Carbajal. “It is par for the course, and I am
not new to bringing together and working with divergent viewpoints
in Montecito.”

He added emphatically, “I try to review issues in depth, and
listen and meet with all constituents and try to find a balance and
common ground. Then, as I was elected to do, I make a decision on
behalf of the entire district. The Montecito Planning Commission is
constructive for the community.” He then he reconfirmed that the
BoS’ prior enthusiastic interest in discussing MPC policy has been
calmly and summarily eliminated from the agenda, proving experience
and education may go a long way in local politics.

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