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Former Santa Maria Mayor, Police Chief Joe Centeno dies at 86

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Posted at 9:11 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 00:11:38-04

Former Santa Maria Mayor and longtime community leader, Joseph “Joe” P. Centeno, died at home Thursday evening, October 14th at age 86.

Centeno served the City of Santa Maria for five decades as Mayor, Councilmember, Police Officer, Police Chief, and as a Santa Barbara County Supervisor.

“He was a pillar of strength. He was always well-liked,” Mayor Alice Patino said. “He made sound decisions, and always in the best interest of Santa Maria, the City which he loved.”

Centeno won a Santa Maria City Council seat in 1994 and was re-elected in 1998. While on the City Council, he was chair of the West Main Street revitalization committee, established a task force on overcrowding, supported building youth programs including handball courts at Evans Park, and helped establish Los Adobes de Maria, a low-income housing project for agricultural workers.

Upon leaving the office of Mayor in 2003, he wrote: “Over the many years of service to the City … I must confess that nothing has given me greater joy than serving the great citizens of Santa Maria.”

He married his high school sweetheart, Sylvia, when he was 20. On his 21st birthday, he joined the Santa Maria Police Department as a Police Officer and served as Police Chief from May 1980 through 1988.

The Tuesday, October 19th Santa Maria City Council meeting will be adjourned in his memory.

A Rosary will be recited on Sunday, October 24th at 6:00 p.m. at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, 414 E. Church Street.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, October 25th at 9:30 a.m. Interment will follow at the Santa Maria Cemetery.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Dudley-Hoffman Mortuary in Santa Maria.