Santa Maria Airport board seat still vacant

By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer Santa Maria Times | Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011

The seat on the Santa Maria Public Airport Board of Directors held by the late Ted Eckert will remain vacant for at least another two weeks because the members could not agree on a replacement Thursday night.

The four board members — President Hugh Rafferty, Carl Engel, Chuck Damiano and Chuck Adams — were split on their choices to replace Eckert, who died June 7. Rafferty and Engel picked former board member Donald Lahr, while Damiano and Adams chose Girard Brenneman.

With the decision still deadlocked after the selection process and discussion, Rafferty decided to postpone the choice until the next board meeting July 28.

If the board is still deadlocked at that time, Airport Counsel Raymond Biering told the board it could move to conduct a special election or pass selection on to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. He said the special election probably wouldn’t get onto a ballot until the November 2012 general election.

Six men submitted applications to fill the position — Brenneman, Lahr, Denis Breslin, Ken Dally, Richard Jensen and Timothy Larson. Breslin and Jensen were unable to attend the meeting.

Experience and commitment appeared to be the two most important factors to the board, which said three candidates demonstrated those characteristics.

Damiano said Brenneman had shown a strong commitment to being part of the board by twice running for vacant seats. He finished third in the November 2010 election when only two seats were available and was fourth in the 2008 general election when three seats were vacant.

Brenneman has been a pilot for 38 years and is a local dentist with his own practice.

Rafferty and Engel chose Lahr because he had served on the board from 2004-2008.  Rafferty also pointed out Lahr’s commitment to the community as another reason for his decision.  Lahr has also been a board member on the Santa Maria Economic Development Association, Boys and Girls Club of Santa Maria and the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association. He is also a member of the Hancock College Welding Advisory Council and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Each member was asked to pick his top three candidates for the appointment. Dally’s experience as a pilot, business owner and member of several governing boards in Big Bear made him the second choice of all four members.

Larson was the third choice of three of the four board members.

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