Santa Barbara County’s general election ballot is set, with many incumbents campaigning to keep their seats on North County special districts, but the level of competition varies.

While some races didn’t see enough candidates to fill available seats, others, like the Vandenberg Village Community Services District and the Santa Maria Public Airport District, saw more than enough attention, and it’s up to voters to decide who will take the open seats.

Vandenberg Village has two spots coming up for election at its community services district. Incumbents Charles Blair and Anthony Fox are trying to hold onto their positions as Robert Bumpass also tries to take a seat at the table.

And Santa Maria’s Airport District, with its two seats on the ballot, will turn to voters to decide between incumbents Carl Engel Jr. and Chuck Damiano, who are joined on the ballot by Michael Spingler and Hugh Rafferty. 

However, the Cuyama Valley Recreation District’s five seats coming up for grabs are being sought by four candidates, including incumbent Kim Eichert, former short-term director Troy Carpenter, Nicole Rodriguez and Maria Medina, who is running for another stint as a short-term director.

Three candidates filed for spots on the Lompoc Valley Medical Center board, matching the three seats up for election. Incumbents Mary Sharp and Roger McConnell joined the ranks of district hopeful Linual White Jr.

The numbers also aligned at the Mission Hills Community Services District, with Bruce Nix and incumbent James Mackenzie vying for the two available directors’ seats.

In Los Alamos, two incumbents filed to retake their seats at the community services district. Craig Snell and Susan “Susie” Gregg will get another term, but one seat remains unclaimed.

The Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District has its own unclaimed seats as divisions 3, 4, 5 and 6 come up for election. Incumbents Deborah Askew and Casey Conrad stepped up to take back their 5th and 6th Division seats, respectively, but candidates did not file for the 3rd and 4th Divisions.

Incumbents Barry Marks and Stephen Daugherty make up the field running for four seats on the Santa Ynez Community Services District. Marks and Daugherty are running for short-term seats.

The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District needs to fill seats in its 1st, 4th and 5th divisions, and incumbents Jonathan Mundt, Art Hibbits and Jeffrey Newton have registered as candidates. Newcomer J. Brett Marymee is vying with Newton for the 5th Division seat, and voters will have to decide.  The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1 will fill one at large seat, which is being campaigned for by Lee Rosenberg and R. Brad Joos. Meanwhile, the improvement district is also looking to fill the 2nd and 3rd Division seats, with incumbent Kevin Walsh currently registered.

For more information on the upcoming elections, visit

August 25, 2014  •  Erin Lennon

The skies above the Santa Maria Public Airport were filled with smoke, black-and-yellow parachutes and the rumble of radial engines Sunday afternoon as the 26th annual Thunder Over the Valley air show wrapped up.

A highlight for many spectators was the display of aerial teamwork by the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, whose members performed a series of maneuvers as they fell earthward, slowed only by their skill and colorful canopies.

The team also impressed spectators from the ground by demonstrating how they pack their parachutes and explaining how they skydive in tight formation.

Spectators also thrilled to the aerobatics of Bill Cornick in his Pitts biplane and John Collver in his SNJ5 War Dog, both trailing colorful smoke as they performed loops, dives and rolls above the crowd.

The show also included new and historical aircraft displayed on the tarmack as well as food and vendor booths.

8/24/14 2014-08-24T17:41:00Z 2014-08-24T18:23:18Z Thunder Over the ValleyStaff report Santa Maria Times

•  Santa Maria Times Staff report

Believe it or not, the weather gurus say there is a 10-percent chance of rain today. Rain means clouds, and clouds sometimes produce lightning and thunder.

But we’re not talking about that kind of thunder today. We’re talking about the kind that has stirred the emotions and imaginations of North County folks for many years — the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show at the Santa Maria Airport today and Sunday.

There will be action and displays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days — weather permitting — and for a modest admission fee, you and your family can enjoy a microcosmic look at the state of winged flight.

Ah, but there will be so much more than airplane wings and the rumble of prop and jet engines.

This year’s featured attraction is the Army’s elite Golden Knight parachute squad. If conditions are right, the team will perform three to four times each day, giving spectators an up-close-and-personal view of the skills and courage needed to dive out of an airplane and float down on the modern equivalent of silken canopies.

Another major attraction is sure to be special guest Bill Cornick, widely considered to be the grandfather of aerobatics. Cornick will be at the controls of a Pitts biplane for his part of the show.  It’s difficult to say whether trick flying was the forerunner of combat fighter tactics, or if it was the other way around. But Cornick’s skills translate completely to the skill sets needed by military pilots during combat.

There will be just as much to see on the ground as in the air.

Nearly a dozen historic aircraft will be on display, including a Lockheed Electra, similar to the one in which Amelia Earhart attempted to circle the globe during her mid-1930s flight that ended in mystery. Despite many claims of unraveling the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance somewhere over the Pacific, the question of what happened and where she vanished remains unanswered to this day.

So much to see and so much to do. A typical Thunder Over the Valley experience — and one that was sorely missed when the show didn’t take place last year.

Money problems and a dysfunctional U.S. Congress prevented the show from going on last year, and organizers vowed to bring it back, even as they worried about the funding and other issues. The show’s restart this year is a positive sign for the city, region and for the overall economic outlook.

There are so many reasons to take yourself and/or your family out to the airport today or tomorrow. Proceeds from the two-day event help fund operations at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, while numerous vendors at booths will use their profits to support programs and services throughout North County.

This weekend’s resurrection of the air show also is a special tribute to all branches of our military, ranging from retired veterans to fallen and wounded warriors. If you or a member of your family fall into such elite company, you are welcome to enjoy all the air show has to offer, without an admission fee.

There are folks who don’t care for such shows, in part because of the noise airplanes make. To us, those whirring props and whooshing jet engines represent the sounds of freedom — the freedom we enjoy as citizens of a great nation, and the freedom air travel has provided for tens of millions of Americans in recent years.

Carve out some time today or Sunday. Go out to the airport and enjoy the Thunder.

8/23/14  Santa Maria Times

Golden Knights to showcase aerial maneuvers during weekend show

See the show

Thunder Over the Valley Air Show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday at the Santa Maria Public Airport with displays by the Golden Knights at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. both days.

Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 to 12, or $25 for a family of four. Children 6 and younger and members of the military are admitted free of charge.  For more information about the event or the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, visit

Yellow and black parachutes dotted the Orcutt sky Friday in an impressive display of aerial maneuvers, as the United States Army Parachute Team — the Golden Knights — gave a small audience a peek at its upcoming show.  The Golden Knights will highlight the 26th annual Thunder Over the Valley Air Show this weekend at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

Sgt. David Flynn said the team will perform a mass formation, followed by four different maneuvers, one of which involves a cutaway where someone will cut away a parachute and initiate emergency procedures. The maneuvers involve a ton of skill but also a lot of trust.

“What you do is a teamwork job. Doing formations in the sky, trusting everyone to be in the right spot and do the right thing, because it’s just like in the Army (where) we work in squads and sections. You’ve got to be able to trust your teammate,” he said.

Pfc. Jason Wenger agreed with the teamwork aspect, adding that team members are there for each other for support and safety. Though strong teamwork increases safety, there are still other challenges.

For instance, the Golden Knights are on the road 270 days a year, and most of them have families, like Pfc. Wenger who has a wife and 2-year-old child at home. For Pfc. Wenger, family understands the significance of what he does.  “It feels great to be the connection between America’s Army and the audience,” he said.

For David Echeverry becoming a Golden Knight fulfilled a dream. He saw them when he was a freshman in high school and told his parents that was what he wanted to do in life.  “They told me I can do anything I set my mind to. So now that I’m actually doing it, I get the most thrills from seeing the looks on little kids faces because I used to be one of them,” Echeverry said.

The team was formed in 1959 by 19 “Airborne” soldiers from various military units. The team was officially recognized, designated and activated as the U.S. Army Parachute Team in 1961. The Golden Knights have performed more than 15,000 shows across the country and in 48 countries.

Grover Cox, one of the show’s organizers, said they’ve been trying to get the Golden Knights for the last four years.  “We’re excited to have them, Cox said. “It’s really a great to get an opportunity to meet the Knights.”

The air show is back after an absence last year as a result of budget restraints, but even though there was no show last year there was a lot of planning.  “We’ve been planning this since last year. These things take a year to put together. We’re already laying the groundwork for next year right now,” Cox said.

Along with the Golden Knights, the air show will feature static displays including several historic planes, and food and vendor booths. The show will also play host to special guest Bill Cornick, the grandfather of aerobatics, who will pilot a Pitts biplane for the show.

August 23, 2014   •  Santa Maria Times – Shelly Cone Contributing Writer

Skies were clear and the wind was in our favor Thursday afternoon as I climbed into the rear seat of Capt. Jim Bergman’s AT-6 Texan, a single-engine advanced aircraft used to train military pilots in the 1940s and ’50s.

After locking my harness, and pointing out the escape lever and the parachute release, “Capt. Jim,” climbed into the cockpit, got a signoff from the tower at the Santa Maria Public Airport, and we were airborne for a 30-minute cruise up the coast line.   And yes, we did rolls.

Bergman, who lives in Huntington Beach, is in town for the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show this weekend in Santa Maria.  He’ll be the one making “banana passes,” or curved flybys, over the flight line in his bright yellow warbird with the red tail.  Bergman flew C-130s for the U.S. Air Force for six years, and then flew commercially before retiring from Delta Airlines as an A-330 captain in 2009.  “There will be a lot of veterans who flew these things for real,” he said. “It’s a community outreach.”  Bergman has been participating in the airshow for about 12 years and served on the board of the Santa Maria Museum of Flight for several years.  “I became kind of like the warbird liaison,” he said. “Being retired, it gave me more opportunities to work with the museum.”

The air show, which is back after a year’s hiatus due to sequestration and budget challenges, has attracted some 7,000 to 8,000 visitors each year for 25 years, according to officials. 

This year’s featured attraction, in addition to Capt. Jim, of course, is the Army’s Golden Knight Parachuting Team that will make three to four jumps daily.

Thunder Over the Valley runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Maria Public Airport.  Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 to 12, or $25 for a family of four. Children 6 and younger and members of the military are admitted free of charge.  For more information about the event or the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, visit

August 21, 2014  •  Santa Maria Times – Marga K. Cooley

As the Nov. 4 general election approaches, residents looking to run for special district seats around Santa Barbara County rushed to get their candidate paperwork submitted before the 5:00 p.m. deadline Friday.

A number of candidates joined the ballot in the last week of the filing period, with the Cuyama area’s special district elections seeing activity for the first time since the filing period began July 14. Nicole Rodriguez, Troy Carpenter and incumbent Kim Eichert filed paperwork to campaign for spots on the Cuyama Valley Recreation District, and incumbent Maria Medina also submitted paperwork to run for one of the recreation district’s short-term seats.

The Santa Maria Public Airport District saw another familiar name join the race last week when incumbent Carl Engel Jr. filed his papers the day before Michael Spingler filed, bringing the total to four candidates who are now vying for two seats. 

The field of candidates sparring for two seats on the Vandenberg Village Community Services District also grew after incumbent Anthony Fox pulled his papers Aug. 7.

And days ago, J. Brett Marymee jumped into the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District Division No. 5 election, joining incumbent Jeffrey Newton on the ballot. Meanwhile, Lee Rosenberg and R. Brad Joos got into the race for the one at-large seat on Improvement District No. 1.

Incumbent Susan Gregg also pulled papers to campaign again for her place on the Los Alamos Community Services District.

For those races in which incumbents didn’t file their nomination documents by 5 p.m. Friday, any person other than the incumbent has until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, to file.

The Nov. 4 ballot also will include the highly contentious Measure P, which would ban new high-intensity oil operations in the county’s unincorporated areas if passed by a majority of voters. Countywide voters will see Measure O on the ballot as well, which, if passed, would raise the hotel bed-tax in the county’s unincorporated areas from 10 percent to 12.5 percent.

The 24th District Congressional race and the 37th District State Assembly election also are set to be decided during the general election.

For more information on the upcoming ballot or the Nov. 4 general election, call 568-2200 or visit

August 8, 2014  Santa Maria Times Staff


SANTA MARIA, Aug. 23 and 24: The Santa Maria Museum of Flight brings “Thunder Over the Valley” Air Show to the Santa Maria Airport, entering on Foster Road, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. The Army’s Golden Knight Parachuting team will be make 3-4 jumps daily. Bill Cornich, the Grandfather of aerobatics, John Collier & War Dog and many other military planes for static review. Car show, Budweiser Beer garden, and many other vendors. Cost: $12 for adults, $3 for 7 to 12 yrs., $25 for family pack of four. Active Military is free! Info: or 922-8758.

A&E Calendar Santa Maria Times

August 8, 2014  Santa Maria Times

Army’s Parachuting Team Featured Attraction This Weekend

2014-08-18T00:00:00Z 2014-08-18T20:25:22Z Air show thunders back after hiatusJennifer Best Santa Maria Times

Thunder Over the Valley runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24 at the Santa Maria Public Airport.  Admission is $12 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 to 12, or $25 for a family of four. Children 6 and younger and members of the military are admitted free of charge. For more information about the event or the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, visit

History, pride and aeronautical prowess will roar to life Saturday and Sunday when warbirds descend upon Santa Maria Public Airport for the Santa Maria Museum of Flight’s 26th Thunder Over the Valley Air Show. The air show returns with renewed vigor and excitement after a one-year hiatus.

“Our mission encompasses not only the historical side of aviation, but honoring our fallen and wounded warriors, and helping support current troops, our veterans and their families,” said Santa Maria Museum of Flight Chief Executive Officer Mike Geddry Sr.

The annual event attracts some 7,000 to 8,000 visitors, Geddry said. Last year’s sequestration and budgetary challenges brought dozens of air shows to a halt, he wrote in a letter last year, but renewed community support, a return of full service in the Federal Aviation Administration and affected military branches, and a rebounding economy have breathed new life into the show.

This year’s featured attraction is the Army’s Golden Knight Parachuting Team that will make three to four jumps daily.  “It took us 10 years to get ‘em,” said Geddry, a former airborne trooper who hooked team with a personal plea during the International Council of Air Shows convention.

If weather permits, Geddry said, the 19-member team representing the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions will perform a special jump Friday between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. The 45-minute jump will feature a practice succession with a tandem jump including either Santa Maria City Councilman Jack Boysen or County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino.

In Saturday’s opening jump, paratroopers will pass a baton among themselves before handing it over to a select member of local government upon landing.

Thunder Over the Valley Air Show is also honored to host special guest Bill Cornick, the grandfather of aerobatics, who will pilot a Pitts biplane for the show.  “Bill Cornick is a former U.S. Air Force pilot who, in his everyday life, helps military pilots learn fighter tactics and acrobatics,” Geddry said.

Static displays will feature 10 historic aircraft including a Lockheed Model 10 Electra like the one Amelia Earhart flew to infamy in 1937, one or two military aircraft on training missions, a car show, Budweiser beer garden and other vendors

“We’ll have an overabundance of food — we always do — including hot dogs, tri-tip barbecue, Boy Scouts cooking and doing root beer floats. There’s a ton of stuff going on,” Geddry said.

Proceeds from the air show support museum operation and special events including barbecues, military welcomes and others throughout the year in support of military, both active and retired.

“When you’re deployed, whether in combat or peacetime, there’s a certain amount of loneliness, homesickness, you get,” Geddry said. “We give them a piece of Santa Maria that sticks with them not just while they’re deployed, but their entire lives.

“They’re treated not as strangers, but as one of our own,” he added. “That goes a long way for the guys and girls in the military. It seems like it only takes a day here for them to realize this has become their second home, a place they can come, visit with people, be thanked for their service, be treated like they’re family.”

August 18, 2014  •  Santa Maria Times  Jennifer Best

After a year hiatus, Santa Maria Museum of Flight is bringing the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show back to the Santa Maria Public Airport on Aug. 23 and 24. A wide variety of military aircraft will be on view from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at the show designed to honor the military pilots and aircraft of the past and inspire pilots of the future. The featured attraction will be the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, which will make three to four jumps daily, a museum spokesman said. Aerobatics demonstrations also will be presented by Bill Cornick, known as “the Grandfather of Aerobatics,” in his Pitts S-2C biplane dubbed Big Bad Green and John Collver in his 1944 AT-6/SNJ Texan advanced training aircraft nicknamed War Dog. A show-and-shine car show will include classics, customs, antiques and muscle cars, a variety of vendors will offer their wares and a Budweiser Beer Garden will be open. The show is held at the Santa Maria Airport entering on Foster Road. Admission is $3 for ages 7 to 12 and $12 for all others, although a $25 Family Pack will admit a family of four. Active military personnel are admitted free. Entry to the air show is off Foster Road. For more information, call 922-8758 or visit

August 16, 2014 Santa Maria Times

The list of potential candidates vying for special district seats in the Nov. 4 general election continued to grow this week, with the candidate filing period set to expire next Friday.

Santa Barbara County Elections staff saw multiple incumbents from local water conservation districts stop in throughout the sunny, dry week to begin the filing process.  Jeffrey Newton began his candidate paperwork last Monday, trying to work his way onto the ballot and possibly back into his seat on the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District.  Art Hibbits, Kevin Walsh and Jonathan Mundt previously filed papers to again run for their seats overseeing the water district’s efforts.

Incumbent Deborah Askew filed papers this week to begin her run at the Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District’s 5th Division seat, with Casey Tuttle Conrad running for the 6th Division. Candidates have yet to file papers for the district’s 3rd and 4th Divisions.

Outside of the water districts, Roger McConnell pulled his papers early in the week to run for another stint on the Lompoc Valley Medical Center’s board, possibly joining Linual White Jr. and incumbent Mary Sharp on the ballot.

About 20 miles east, David Higgins and David Seymour have begun the paperwork to once again campaign for their seats on the Santa Ynez Community Services District, with Stephen Daugherty and Barry Marks pulling papers for short term seats at the service district. The short-term seats are good for two years, with the traditional terms stretching to four years.

And incumbent Chuck Damiano, a pilot and aerospace engineer, filed his candidate papers Friday to run for a spot at the Santa Maria Public Airport District.

Interested residents have until 5 p.m. Aug. 8 to file their candidate paperwork.  The races in which incumbents do not file on or before Aug. 8 will remain open until 5 p.m. Aug. 13.  Candidates can file their paperwork at the Santa Barbara Elections Office, 4440-A Calle Real in Santa Barbara, or at the Santa Maria Elections Office, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway. The Lompoc Branch Office is not collecting candidate materials. 

Voters will also see Measure O, which could raise the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax rate, on the Nov. 4 ballot as well as Measure P, which could ban new high-intensity oil operations in the county’s unincorporated areas.

For more information on the upcoming election or filing candidate paperwork, visit or call 568-2200.

 August 1, 2014  •  Erin Lennon