This election season, the seats for District 3 and 4 of the Santa Maria City Council are on the ballot in November. We caught up with each of the four candidates who shared their individual qualifications and plans for progress in Santa Maria.
Current District 3 councilmember, Gloria Soto, is looking to extend her tenure on the City Council with a second term, while local businessman Steven Funkhouser has his eyes on the seat.
“I am really looking forward to just continuing the work that we started and continuing to serve the residents of my community,” Soto told KSBY.
“If you are happy with the way things are going, then vote for my opponent. If you are unhappy, vote for me. Give me four years like you gave my opponent so I can see what I can do for you,” Funkhouser said.
If re-elected, Soto says she would like to budget for more childcare and youth outreach resources, while also expanding on her efforts to create more affordable housing options in Santa Maria. She points to accomplishments in her previous term that she says made strides in addressing the issue.
“These last four years we have been successful when it comes to the housing front,” Soto added. “Alongside my colleagues, we were able to pass and approve some housing developments for our special needs community and those who were most at risk of homelessness.”
Funkhouser, who is an active board member for several nonprofits and organizations in town, says his platform is primarily focused on reducing crime and homelessness.
“We do have a problem and of course, we have been watching the news. You’ve seen that we have had stabbings, we have had shootings lately. We have a lot of things going on in our city and we have to do something about it,” Funkhouser stated.
Meanwhile, two additional candidates are vying for the open District 4 seat on the City Council.
“I am running for the City Council because I have a lifelong service of commitment to the community, and I love my hometown of Santa Maria, California,” said candidate, Dr. Carol Karamitsos.
“I think that the City is at a critical point that we need to turn the direction. We are a big city with big city problems and so it is time for new leadership,” remarked fellow candidate, Maribel Aguilera-Hernandez
A practicing attorney in Santa Maria, Aguilera-Hernandez says if elected to the City Council, she would set out to provide more resources for first responders, prioritize local economic development, and continue the City of Santa Maria’s youth outreach efforts.
“If the City focuses on increasing recreation, we can see a big difference. The gangs do a really good job at recruiting our young people. It is time to counter that and have the youth have positive opportunities,” Aguilera-Hernandez told KSBY.
Dr. Karamitsos, who currently serves as president of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s Board of Education, says she would address local livability issues by improving access to healthcare and education. She adds that her professional background as a physician gives her a different perspective than her competitor.
“I am very used to taking complex data, looking at it objectively, also finding out from patients what are their needs, and taking all that data and really finding out what the root of the problem is, and being able to formulate a solution for that,” Dr. Karamitsos said.
The two victors in the Santa Maria City Council races will hold the positions for four years. The winner of the District 4 seat would assume the role currently held by council member Etta Watterfield.
Other local issues the City Council candidates have prioritized include supporting small businesses and addressing public safety needs.