Montecito Citizen: Called to Serve

By Judy Ishkanian   |   September 6, 2018

Judith Ishkanian here, candidate for re-election to the Montecito Sanitary District (MSD). Thank you all for the wonderful responses to my article last week (MJ #24/35). Many of you suggested that I say more about myself. Okay… But first, let me state that I am not going to defile our wounded community with yard and road signs, Also, I would hate to see my name ending up like road-kill along the side of the road!

I have lived my entire adult life in Montecito. Byron and I always lived near the beach and we currently live in the Hedgerow. We raised our children here, and I have always been active in volunteer work, learning about how organizations are run. When our children were in grammar school, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the private school. It had a $500,000 budget, and I learned from experts on that board how to read and manage a budget and formulate policy.

In the 1980s, I went to graduate school in the UCSB History Department. I was recruited into the Ph.D. program. While in grad school, I worked as a T.A. at UCSB, and as an hourly at Santa Barbara City College. (I was what they call a “freeway flyer.”) I received my Ph.D. in 1993 and continued teaching at UCSB and the City College almost to the end of the century!

In 2004, I organized the county-wide Neighborhood Defense League with two friends and we built up a wonderful board of directors. This nonprofit was primarily concerned with state mandated housing and other quality of life issues affecting our county. During those 10 years, I became acquainted with how counties and cities work, and met many lifelong friends both in and out of government service. What we all came to realize was that mandated policies were coming from our State Legislature and Executive bureaucracies, not originating in the counties.

Special Districts intrigued me because they were business enterprises concerned with one essential service. I was invited to fill a vacancy on the Montecito Sanitary District in 2005 and loved learning the business, working with intelligent unassuming people and serving on county-wide organizations. The Santa Barbara County chapter of the California Special Districts Association elected me to its board of directors. In 2016, I was elected president. That association elected me to be a commissioner on LAFCO, a State commission that gives local control in matters such as cityhood, consolidations, and urban/agriculture boundaries.

I always signed up for re-election on the Montecito Sanitary District but was never opposed, until now. I am proud of the AA+ Bond rating the Montecito Sanitary District earned on my watch. I am proud of all the modernization we accomplished with the one bond we acquired (that we have since re-financed to sunset seven years earlier than originally negotiated). We have given 20 to 30 years of new life to our operation, including a state of the art laboratory, maintenance building, all modern vehicles and equipment, generator and back-up generator, all new electrical system, and many other mission critical projects. 

Now is the time for our essential services headquarters. Our Slate campaign opponents ridicule “a 3.5-million-dollar building for four employees.” Wrong. We cannot finish our master planned modernization without a building to house all our employees, install state-of-the-art IT and telecommunication systems. Upon completion, we are ready to consider options for water re-use, as outlined in our Master Plan.

Our employees deserve the improvement to their working environment that our administration building will provide. Speaking of employees, our operations team was shocked at the irresponsible Slate campaign talking point printed in every local outlet: “The MSD dumps partially treated wastewater into the ocean.” Our plant operators, who have all achieved top certification, responded, “Is that what Montecito thinks of us?” My heart was broken to hear that. I told them, “The citizens know the work you do that takes the worry of their wastewater problem off their minds. And they see it in the cheerful efficiency of our Collections team, seen every day doing their maintenance of the infrastructure in our community.”

Yes, I am proud to be part of a top-notch team, and I am not through serving until every mindless danger to our District and community has passed and the co-operative spirit we have always had will prevail.

Again, thank you for the calls and emails – and please do vote for me on November 6.


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