Tribute to Bob Lagomarsino

Bipartisan in Service of His Entire Community

Lagomarsino knew Ronald Reagan from the beginning in Sacramento. His unswaying support for The Gipper was a connection to the top that was good for his constituents — including Ronald Reagan. | Credit: CSUCI/John Spoor Broome Library: Lagomarsino Archives

The late Bob Lagomarsino exemplified what can be achieved when politicians put their constituents first and compromise where necessary to get the job done for their community. Political gridlock in the midst of pandemic misery makes one yearn for examples of bipartisanship. During his 35 years of public service as a mayor, state, and federal congressmember, Lagomarsino served his community and that of the entire Central Coast. One might have detested the Republican or Democratic presidential candidates during his long tenure, but when Election Day rolled around, you voted Lagomarsino.

Lagomarsino’s protection of marine resources began early as a state senator when he helped prevent the Russian fishing fleet from decimating anchovy populations by extending U.S. fishing claims from 6 to 12 miles off the coast. Still a state senator, in 1970, Lagomarsino helped pass California’s Marine Resources Protection Act and California Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation. Six years later, as a federal congressmember, Lagomarsino drafted a law extending U.S. fishing claims from 12 to 200 miles off the coast. He called it “the single most important environmental action taken in this session of Congress.” More importantly the bill protected his constituents’ fishing interests.

Regardless of party affiliation, you could count on Lagomarsino to solve community problems. One expects knee-jerk reaction legislation or fealty to the party cause du jour, but a politician’s true measure is impact on home turf — the place you live. Termed-out Hannah-Beth Jackson sat for nine years on the State Parks committee and could not fix Gaviota Pier. A legendary portal to the ocean shut down in Jackson’s backyard and she did absolutely nothing while sitting in the pole position. That never happens to Lagomarsino. He’d have taken some of Prop. 68’s $4 billion we approved for parks and fixed the pier — yesterday.

Moving on to the U.S. Congress, when is the last time a local representative sat on a committee of consequence? Met weekly with POTUS — and actually did something impactful, like creating a university or a national park? Lagomarsino helped make California State University Channel Islands happen — for his people. Throw in the Dick Smith Wilderness near Lagomarsino’s beloved Ojai, Channel Islands National Park, and the Los Padres National Forest for good measure. A politician can achieve big things with bipartisan support. Lagomarsino knew Ronald Reagan from the beginning in Sacramento and his unswaying support for The Gipper through good and bad was predictable. In the end, Lagomarsino’s connection to the top was good for his constituents — including Ronald Reagan.

Lagomarsino vanquished all comers for 19 years including bright and shiny Gary Hart. It took a Texas carpetbagger with daddy’s record 6.6 million energy dollars (adjusted for inflation) to unseat Lagomarsino. Michael Huffington and his then-socialite-spouse cared nothing for Lagomarsino’s community. We were a stepping stone in a doomed political dalliance that disintegrated faster than you can say “Dan Quail.” Republicans traded a seasoned bipartisan politician sitting on powerful committees for nothing. For a pragmatist this was like watching someone perform surgery on themselves and our community with a blunt scalpel. Huffington’s demise ushered in a succession of well-meaning party-line weaklings. Emerging from a brutal pandemic we need powerful bipartisan leadership rooted in community service not political rancor. We could use a Lagomarsino.

Assuming government finally addresses our decaying infrastructure, a Lagomarsino might tap those federal funds to address long-term flood control and shore protection challenges posed by global warming, creating jobs while at the same time enhancing coastal resources and our local economy. Lagomarsino did that over 40 years ago — in Ventura.

Politicians are not perfect, and Lagomarsino had his warts. Regardless he attained a position of power and served his constituents of all party stripes, putting community first and getting things done. That is why we voted Lagomarsino.

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