Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr announced Friday she will not seek re-election next year.
Farr, who has represented Santa Barbara County’s largest district — which spans across Isla Vista, along the Gaviota Coast, and to the Santa Ynez Valley — for seven years, said Friday after serious consideration she decided she would retire at the end of her second term in December 2016. Farr, who is 64, lost her sister in the spring, and said she wants to spend more time with her aging mother, two grandchildren, and friends.
“This is the best decision for me at this point in my life,” Farr said, adding she and her staff will “just keep going and not miss a beat until the very last day.”
Originally from San Jose, Farr holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history. She first moved to Santa Barbara in 1977 and lived in the unincorporated areas of the Goleta Valley, raising three adopted sons with her ex-husband Jim Farr, who is a Goleta city councilmember.
In 2008, the year of the presidential election, with an especially high voter turnout, Farr beat valley resident Steve Pappas by a slim margin. Pappas disputed the results, relentlessly alleging voter fraud in precincts in Isla Vista and UCSB. A lawsuit and multiple appeals were struck down, but Farr had to raise an additional half-million dollars to defend herself. Pappas ultimately had to pay Farr for attorney’s fees.
The 3rd District, made up of 60 percent unincorporated county area, is not only vast but also diverse. Though the seat is technically nonpartisan, the 3rd District supervisor determines the balance of power at the board.
Farr said she is very proud of her record. She said she strengthened environmental review for fracking applications after discovering an oil company was fracking outside of Los Alamos; helped balance the budget during the height of the recession; pushed for a ban on transporting hazardous materials on Highway 154 after a tragic trucking accident; installed streetlights and sidewalks in Isla Vista; and led the effort to retain Isla Vista buildings formerly owned by the community’s redevelopment agency, which will soon be renovated and function as community centers.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to influence public policy and land use and help people with day-to-day constituent concerns,” Farr said, “and to make county government work better for the people we serve.”
Farr’s son Richard made headlines over the summer when he was arrested on drug and weapons charges after concerns he was experiencing a mental health emergency.
Unfortunately, Farr said, so many stories follow the same pattern: distraught parents who have an adult child who struggles from mental health and substance-abuse issues. “That’s a common theme,” Farr said. “A lot of times the child will do something that will end them up in jail and exacerbates the problems and complicates all of it.”
On the dais, Farr has advocated for improved mental health treatment, fighting for the county to implement Laura’s Law, which would allow judges to order help for mentally ill people at risk of harming themselves or others. At this year’s budget hearing, Farr advocated for $121,000 for a pilot program. Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) is currently going through a “systems change,” and the item will be returning to the supervisors soon.
Farr would not say who she hopes will succeed her. “I just hope that people, when they go to the polls, will understand what is needed for the job,” Farr said. “Somebody who is going to care about all parts of the district” and not “one set of issues. … That is not what the job is about.”
In an interview last year about the gender gap, Farr said women can probably “have it all,” but maybe not at the same time. “It’s sequential,” she added Friday. After she retires, she also plans to travel and work on a few writing projects.
Bruce Porter, who chairs the board of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District and is a financial adviser, is rumored to be interested in running for the seat. Porter could not immediately be reached for comment.