Who I am & Why I Serve
The Values that Guide Me – Joan Hartmann, Third District County Supervisor
The experiences and values that shape us can explain a lot about the policies we pursue—and how we work day-to-day and respond to unforeseen challenges. They may reveal as much or more than just a recitation of specific accomplishments or biographical facts.
I spent my first 10 years in rural Wisconsin, exploring streams and fields, picking berries, riding my bike to school. I’ve carried that love of independence and the outdoors forward as a lifelong advocate for increased recreational opportunities for children and adults. And too, it has driven my advocacy for protection of wildlife and open spaces.
My family then moved to Southern California; soon after, my father became ill as a result of service injuries during the Korean War. His death left my mother with two young daughters to raise, so she took a nursing job at the City of Hope to work with children suffering from cancer. Although I struggled at first with her choice, over the years, the lesson behind it became clear: the purpose of life is to take on hard challenges, to grow, and thus be able to offer more in service to others.
Because of my mother’s example, I was working towards a career in medicine: then the Santa Barbara Oil Spill happened, reawakening that childhood love of nature and turning my goals towards healing the earth—protecting our air, water and oceans. I earned a Ph.D. and later a law degree, first teaching Environmental Policy and Law before going to work for a number of government agencies (Department of the Interior, EPA, the California Coastal Conservancy). This was where I developed a commitment to creative problem-solving skills, as an advocate for government collaboration with the private and non-profit sectors. One achievement of which I am particularly proud was to help found the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. This novel public-private partnership among government agencies, business, and environmental interests secured over $700 million to restore coastal rivers and wetlands from Gaviota to San Diego, increasing water supplies while creating jobs and improving quality of life.
In 2004, my husband and I “retired” to the Santa Ynez Valley, where I quickly got involved at the local level on issues of community engagement. I was able to use my experience in policymaking to work on measures that hold local government more accountable to the people it serves. In 2008, I led the successful Buellton Urban Growth Boundary Initiative, which requires a vote of the people before the City can expand its boundaries. This was the first such initiative in Santa Barbara County. It has resulted in preserving prime agricultural land and protecting the community’s commitment to both agriculture and affordable housing, while avoiding the ills of sprawling development. That success led to advising the Goodland Coalition in its winning campaign for a similar initiative in Goleta. Not long after, I was appointed as the 3d District representative to the County Planning Commission.
Why I am Running
I’ve spent my life making government more responsive to the people it serves. When former Supervisor Doreen Farr announced her retirement, many local residents encouraged me to run for her seat, which I won in 2016. That led to the current chapter in my life of service, with all the excitement and challenges that this position brings.
As 3d District Supervisor, I have demonstrated my ability to take a balanced, pragmatic approach and actively engage with people throughout the County. Seventy percent of 3d District residents do not live in a city; they look to me as their primary local elected official. To be accessible, I hold regular office hours throughout our expansive district, from UCSB/Isla Vista in the south to Guadalupe in the north, as well as the Santa Ynez Valley and Burton Mesa communities in between. I made and have kept a commitment to respond to constituent concerns within 24 hours. I attend countless neighborhood and community activities, which gives me a chance to meet and connect with the diverse people who live here, and to be as informed and responsive as possible to their needs.
A Supervisor must constantly consider how best to use limited resources. I have focused on prudent management of the County’s budget and critical assessment of the County’s operations to institute best practices and innovative programs—including in mental health, criminal justice, and homelessness. I am keenly interested in public health and safety, sustainability, and housing and economic vitality. I helped launch the county-wide Recreation Master Plan, and I co-chair the Ad-Hoc Library Committee, both the KIDS and Adult and Aging Networks, and the newly formed Highway 154 Safety Committee, and I serve on the Fire Safe Council Board.
As a child, I regularly attended church classes and those lessons still guide me. The lesson that left the deepest impression was that “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” This has renewed meaning for me as a Supervisor because the fundamental role of County government is to protect all our residents and to help vulnerable people in need of food, shelter, health care, and a helping hand. The County is the social safety net and how we join together to provide for “the least of these.”
But of course there are ways outside government to help others. Before joining the Board of Supervisors, I made significant volunteer commitments to community organizations. I served for six years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children. I also served on the Wildling Museum’s Board of Directors, the Fund for Santa Barbara’s Grant Making Committee, and the Santa Barbara Foundation’s LEAF Advisory Committee. I encourage anyone who can to find a connection to a local organization that helps others and advances the causes you care about!
In office—with my third district team, County staff, and residents in communities throughout the Third District who I am privileged to serve—I daily seek to keep faith with these values and make a positive difference in our communities and our County. I am grateful to do this with the support of my husband Jim (James Lawrence) Powell and our daughter Joanna Powell, and my two stepchildren, Dirk and Marla. They, and our horses, rescue burro, rescue dogs and cats, as well as our chickens and honeybees, are the foundation that keeps me strong as I serve our shared community.