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Health-care manager highlights need to diversify job market in run for 1st District council seat
Election 2020: Santa Maria 1st District

Health-care manager highlights need to diversify job market in run for 1st District council seat

From the Election 2020: Profiles and stories on Santa Maria City Council and Mayoral races series

Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles on the candidates running for 1st and 2nd District seats on the Santa Maria City Council in the Nov. 3 election. 

With a passion for Santa Maria's 1st District and a history of local involvement in politics, Brian Billones is eager to take the next step in advocating for his community by running for the Santa Maria City Council. 

Billones, who works as a health-care business manager, is one of four challengers hoping to represent the 1st District in what will be the first term with four district seats on the City Council.

Chris Diaz, Osvaldo Sotelo and Carlos Escobedo are also seeking the position, with no incumbents eligible to run.

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After graduating from Santa Maria High School, Billones left the city to attend UC San Diego, and saw the level of opportunities that exist elsewhere.

Unlike others in his position, however, Billones decided to return to Santa Maria, remembering his experience working on the campaign of former Councilwoman Hilda Zacarias. 

"That was the turning point, where I said, 'I really want to come back to Santa Maria after college and I really want to serve the local community," Billones said. 

Seeing the areas of need in the city, he then formed a platform focused on affordable housing, education, youth safety and diversifying the job market.

Billones described housing, education and the job market as dependent on one another, with more living-wage jobs needed in town to keep people in their homes and in the area in general, he said.

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"We need to diversify our jobs, for people to not only afford homes but to be able to maintain homes in the area," he said. "We have almost a brain drain, because people go off to different communities … and they don’t really come back to Santa Maria because there’s no opportunities in the job market."

Along with representing the city as a whole, Billones hopes to advocate for the district where his family has lived for generations, and where he believes residents' concerns about developments, parking and other issues have been ignored.

"That really struck a chord with me: We really don’t have representation in this district, no one cares about the concerns of that specific neighborhood. So, how do we do that in City Council? How do we get our voices heard?" he asked. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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