October 4, 2022
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Pappas vies for Santa Barbara Co.'s 3rd District seat

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Entrepreneur Steve Pappas said he believes his independent position will carry him into office in the race for the Santa Barbara County’s 3rd Supervisorial District.

“I think people are getting my nonpartisan message,” Pappas told the Business Times. He has been in business for 22 years and currently owns and operates Vocational Trends and Employers’ Advocate Services in Santa Barbara.

“I am not a politician,” Pappas states prominently in his campaign literature. Like his general election opponent, he has never sought elective office.

A Santa Ynez Valley resident, Pappas, 47, surprised some observers by besting Dave Smyser in the June 3 primary by 5 percentage points and finished 10 points behind frontrunner Doreen Farr, a former business owner and county planning commissioner. The 3rd District race outcome is expected to decide who will be the swing vote on many key issues in the coming years.

Smyser was endorsed by Republican 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who earlier decided against seeking re-election and recently was hospitalized with a heart ailment. Smyser was Firestone’s chief of staff.

In August, Firestone cast the swing vote in a largely symbolic move to ask California’s governor to support offshore oil drilling and exploration, in part, as a move to help solve the county’s multi-million-dollar budget shortfall.

Pappas said he’s not so sure the vote was a good idea.
“My position on lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling in Santa Barbara County is that I would only consider it under extreme circumstances and under strict and concrete assurances such as a definite, substantive economic advantage for all the residents … and reliable safeguards against all potential environmental threats,” Pappas said in prepared statement. “I … was not convinced that such circumstances currently exist.”

Pappas said he believes 3rd District constituents would prefer to have an independent supervisor. “They want someone who is open-minded and not beholden to a political party,” he said. “I intend to stay open-minded.”

Pappas admitted that he would be unable to outspend his opponent in the campaign. However, he said he is encouraged by the support he is picking up from reading his e-mails and attending events. Pappas said he expects to raise some $250,000 for his campaign for the Nov. 4 election.

While pointing to his ability to make a payroll and balance his company’s budget, Pappas has used his business sense to help manage the $6 million annual budget for the 750-student Los Olivos School District, of which he is president of the school board.

Of the county’s embattled spending plan, Pappas said, “I continue to be concerned.” He has called for an audit to see more clearly where the county’s revenue has gone.

In trying to find out exactly what the county’s budget deficit is, “I can’t get a straight answer,” Pappas said.

Meanwhile, the candidate said he is meeting with small groups of 10 to 12 people in hopes of gaining more support while not actively seeking the endorsements of any particular organizations.

Pappas is the founder and executive director of the Preservation of Los Olivos and Preservation of Santa Ynez community nonprofit groups.

His involvement with these groups has prompted him to attend many meetings of the county supervisors, planning commission, planning department and other agencies, he said.

One issue Pappas and Farr agree upon is a stance against more legalized gambling in the Santa Ynez Valley.

While not willing to attach an “environmentalist” label to himself, Pappas said he is a vocal opponent of the contamination threat at the Santa Ynez Airport Landfill.

After running a jewelry business in Los Angeles, Pappas started his Santa Barbara County business in 1990 and lived in the area part time before staking out a permanent residency in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1998.

His company developed programs to protect California employers from fraud and negligence in claims regarding workman’s compensation issues.

Pappas holds a bachelor’s in business administration and management from California State University, Northridge.

Even though his opponent took most of the Isla Vista votes in the primary, Pappas received the endorsement of the Daily Nexus, the student-run newspaper at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Pappas lives with his wife and two sons.