Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Santa Barbara City Council started the tall task of filling 43 vacant positions on city advisory boards, interviewing candidates on Tuesday for everything from the Architectural Board of Review and Harbor Commission to lesser-known advisory groups such as the Mosquito and Vector Management District Board.

So far, nearly 60 applicants have applied to fill the positions available in 17 different city advisory boards. The city council will hold public interviews over two weeks, making final appointments for all positions on June 27.

Luckily, the city has plenty of applicants, some of whom brought notable experience and expertise to support their applications. The Santa Barbara Youth Council, which is intended to encourage young people to participate in government, has 14 applications for its 10 open positions. Kavya Suresh, a junior from San Marcos High School who currently sits as vice chair of the Youth Council, asked to be reappointed. “To me, it’s imperative that youth are centered in the work that the city does, considering … that these are the problems we’re going to inherit,” Suresh said. “We’re also going to have to start thinking of solutions for those problems.”

The Arts Advisory Committee also had several informed candidates bidding for its one vacancy. Mosaic artist Betsy Gallery spoke about her support for public art in open spaces. 

UCSB Ethnomusicology lecturer and performing artist Nicholas Ragheb, and former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Chryss Yost both said they hoped to expand the committee’s interests beyond the visual arts. Yost, who is also the co-editor of Gunpowder Press, said she was looking forward to “helping to make sure that our literary artists are part of that conversation … in our community.”

There were multiple applications for the one opening on the County Library Advisory Committee as well as for the city Library Board, which also only has one vacancy. Amber Caldwell, who is applying for both, noted that when the library opens the new Michael Towbes Plaza, “it has the potential to be the cultural epicenter of the city.”

The Harbor Commission has received six applications for its one vacancy, including former Santa Barbara Unified School Board president and current Maritime Museum Board of Directors member Kate Ford. On Tuesday, an applicant, marine transportation and engineering specialist Conrad Metzenberg, told the council that the “Santa Barbara harbor has turned from a seaport into almost exclusively a parking lot for the toys of the wealthy.”

The Mosquito and Vector Management District Board’s lone applicant, Teri Jory, had served on the that board for nearly three years when mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile virus were found in the Westside and Hope neighborhoods. She described how the board oversaw setting up traps, inspecting the neighborhoods, eliminating standing water, and “got the situation under control.”

And despite the fact that the Single Family Design Board has become ground zero for neighborhood development battles, the current board chair, Leslie Colasse, asked the council to allow her to continue on the board. “While it’s been a little bit of a tumultuous time,” she said, “we’ve made it through, and I continue to enjoy trying to mediate and moderate the conversation.”

City Council will hear another round of interviews next week, and will appoint all 43 positions on June 27.


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