Businessman Sandy Smith, beloved former Ventura mayor, dies at 72
Business and politics in the City of Ventura won’t be quite the same without the outsized presence of Sandy Smith, who died on July 15 after battling cancer for the past several years.
For the official record, Smith was elected to Ventura City Council in 1997 and he served until 2005, including two years in the rotation as mayor, from 1999 to 2001.
But informally, Smith, a former bar owner and chef, was way more than that. He was a big guy with a friendly face who was unfazed by financial or political roadblocks, shrugging off adversity with a laugh or a smile. He was also a true believer in the power of markets, and profit incentives, to provide economic opportunity for all.
After stepping down from Ventura city council he made a successful career as a land-use consultant for Sespe Consulting and as an adjunct professor at California Lutheran University.
More than once, he single-handedly saved a project from political extinction with a powerful talk before a city council or the county board of supervisors. He gave countless hours to support the Ventura County Economic Development Association and helmed its government affairs committee for many years, believing that the county needed a strong, center-right voice for business.
His death at age 72 drew a strong response from business leaders. Longtime VCEDA board members Nan Drake of E.J. Harrison, Mike Silacci, formerly with AT&T and Tracy Perez with Manpower, described him in an email to the Business Times as “larger-than-life and always a positive force for what was good and right.”
After he left city council, his office at Sespe Consulting was just across Poli Street from city hall, with a view that overlooked downtown Ventura’s increasingly vibrant East Main Street business district. His vision for what would make Ventura County a better place stretched all the way from the hillsides to the horizon. He will be missed.