In addition to weighing in on several local, state and federal elections, northern Santa Barbara County voters will decide on more than a dozen school board races and several local bonds when they cast their vote in the Nov. 6 election.

An official candidate list published at the start of September by the Santa Barbara County Elections Office shows longtime incumbents and political newcomers vying for votes in November.

Hancock College

Two seats on the Hancock College board of trustees are up for grabs this fall, attracting interest from both incumbents and a newcomer. Spanning five trustee areas across the Lompoc, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Cuyama valleys, each member is elected to four-year terms on the college district's governing board.

Area 5 trustee Greg Pensa, first elected in November 2010 for a four-year term, is running unopposed to represent voters in the Santa Ynez Valley and northern Lompoc Valley. 

Area 3 Trustee Larry Lahr was elected to the board more than two decades ago, and is seeking re-election. Lahr, who represents southern Santa Maria and Guadalupe, faces a challenge from Guadalupe resident Jesse Ramirez.

Voters will also decide whether to support Measure Y, a $75 million facilities construction bond, placed on the ballot by Hancock College trustees. College staff say the bond will help finance construction of the forthcoming Fine Arts Complex and improvements to physical education and athletics facilities on the Santa Maria campus, the Public Safety Training Complex in Lompoc and technical theater program facilities in Solvang.

Orcutt, Santa Maria and Guadalupe

Voters in four at-large school districts — Santa Maria-Bonita, Orcutt Union, Guadalupe Union and Santa Maria Joint Union — will decide the fate of nine spots on local school boards this fall.

Santa Maria Public Airport District Director David Baskett will challenge Santa Maria Joint Union High School District incumbents Carol Karamitsos, Dominick Palera and Diana M Perez.

Shannon Clay and Daniella "Dani" Pearce have filed to run for re-election to the Blochman Union School District board. They face a challenge from Thomas C. Gibbons, who filed election papers at the end of July.

Guadalupe Union School District resident Raul Rodriguez Jr. has filed to challenge incumbents Sheila Marie Costa Cepeda, Mary Lou Sabedra-Cuello and Diana Arriola for a seat on the board.

Orcutt Union School District board members Rob Buchanan, James Peterson and Robert Hatch did not file for re-election, leaving three open seats available for challengers. Five district residents — Shaun Handerson, Laurel Ciervo, Mark Steller, Eric Melsheimer and Melanie Waffle — are all running for the open seats. 

Two challengers, Abraham Malendrez and Gary Michaels, have filed to run against Santa Maria-Bonita School District incumbents Ricky Lara and Vedamarie Alvarez-Flores.


Lompoc Unified School District voters will decide this fall on who will fill two four-year terms on the district's board of education.

Incumbents Steve Straight, William "Bill" Heath and Gloria Grijalva have mounted re-election campaigns, prompting challenges from district residents Deb Andrews, Alan Skinner and Nancy Schuler-Jones.

Voters will also decide on Measure E, a $79 million school bond, after trustees voted 4-0 in June to place another bond on the ballot. Measure Q, a similar bond placed on the June 2018 ballot, narrowly failed earlier this year, unable to attract support from 55 percent of district voters. Measure E requires 55-percent approval to pass.

Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez Joint Union High School District incumbent Jan Clevenger will vie for one of three seats on the board this fall, as Kyle Abello and Jerry L. Swanitz have opted against a re-election campaign. Clevenger faces a challenge from retired financial counselor Eileen Preston, freelance writer Lori Parker, retired teacher Tory Babcock, doctor John L. Baeke, association executive Elizabeth S. Breen, and district residents Carl Johnson, Jessica Yacoub, Eric J. Zivic and Tyler Sprague.

Christina Kazali and Stephen R. Jacobs are running unopposed for the Ballard Union School District board after Sandra Knight opted against running again.

Buellton Union School District board members Marcilo Sarquilla and Elaine Alvarado, and challenger Jessie Skidmore, are running unopposed this fall after incumbent Joyce Ann Azevedo did not file. Appointed school board member Andrew Morgan will run unopposed for the remainder of his two-year term. Voters in Buellton Union also will decide whether to approve an annual $99-per-parcel tax for eight years.

College School District board members Debbie Goldsmith, Molly Carrillo-Walker and Craig Litle face no re-election challenge.

Appointee Demory Brown-Fordyce is running for one seat on the Los Olivos School District board. She faces no challenge after incumbent James R Lohnas chose not to seek re-election. 

Benjamin Olmedo, appointed member of the Solvang School District board of education, and Meghan Steed Garvey are unopposed in their bid for one of three seats on the district's board. John Winckler, who was appointed to a vacancy on the district's board, has filed to run for the remainder of his term.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.