Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles on the candidates running for mayor of Santa Maria in the Nov. 3 election. In the coming weeks, profiles will also be published for mayoral candidates Alice Patino and Will Smith, as well as the five candidates for the City Council 1st and 2nd District seats.
After barbering for 10 years in Santa Maria and forming strong community connections along the way, Alberto Ugalde is ready to make a difference in his hometown in a new way — by running for mayor in the Nov. 3 election.
Ugalde will be running against incumbent Alice Patino and challenger Will Smith for the seat in an election that includes races for the City Council District 1 and 2 seats and the positions of city treasurer and city clerk.
Sitting in Landmark Barbers Shaving Parlor and Lounge on South Broadway, which he has owned for the past five years, 30-year-old Ugalde discussed the deep connections he has made with clients over the years, his involvement in the community and his passion for the city.
"I want to give back to the community that’s been so good to me, so that’s why I’m running for mayor. I’m trying to do what’s right for this community," he said.
While working as a barber, Ugalde has made a point to help the community, offering free hair cuts to kids who committed to getting good grades in school and volunteering his services to clients at the Veterans Hall and Harvest Community Center.
With a growing passion to continue giving, he realized he was ready to take the next step.
"I quickly realized that in order to continue serving my community, I had to step into the role of a city official. And I chose mayor because change starts at the top and it trickles down," Ugalde said.
Each morning, he walks his dogs Peanut and Butter along the Santa Maria riverbed, making time to discuss the campaign with Janz Garcia, his longtime friend turned campaign manager.
A foundational aspect of the campaign, he said, is the importance of not only introducing people to his goals and policies but helping them get to know him as a person.
"Where we’re focusing on now in the campaign is not just on policies but on getting people to better know me as a person, because I feel like that’s more important. Yeah, I could have all these policies and ideas, but at the end of the day they’re going to ask me, 'Who are you? Why do you want to be mayor?'" Ugalde said.
One of the ways he shares about himself is by holding Fun Fact Fridays on his campaign Facebook page, posting videos that reveal little-known facts about himself such as his passion for cooking or history of bull riding.
While he loves Santa Maria, he wants to see it develop to its full capacity, and said he will fight to make that happen if he is elected.
"A lot of Santa Marians … ask me, 'Why do I have to go out of town to work? Why do I have to go out of town to shop? Why do I have to go out of town for entertainment?'" Ugalde said. "Santa Maria is the biggest city in Santa Barbara County. I feel like for being the biggest city, we have a lot of potential. We have to come together as one community and unlock that potential."
One way to improve the city, he said, is to plan out development in a way that will draw in more businesses and contribute to the city's revenue for much-needed programs.
"Once we have better city planning, we’ll get more businesses, more planning to fund our public services and our public safety. That’s some of our policies right there."
When family and friends ask how they can help, he said he tells them to register to vote and then make their voices heard on Nov. 3, regardless of who they end up choosing.
To follow updates from Ugalde and his campaign for mayor, follow his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AUforCityMayor.