Editor's note: This is one of two profiles on the candidates running for mayor of Lompoc in the Nov. 3 election.
As someone who was raised in Lompoc and has personally experienced many of the city’s ups and downs over the past several decades, Victor Vega said his heart and soul are firmly behind making his hometown a better place for all its residents.
It’s because of that, he said, that he decided seek a seat on the Lompoc City Council six years ago, and why he successfully ran for re-election four years later.
It’s also now why he said he’s looking to become mayor.
Vega, who was first elected to his City Council seat in 2014 and then re-elected in 2018, will go up against incumbent Jenelle Osborne for the Lompoc mayor’s seat in the Nov. 3 general election. If Vega wins the mayoral race, he will serve as mayor for the next two years. If he is unsuccessful, he will return to his District 2 City Council seat to serve out the remaining two years of that term.
Vega said this year has highlighted just how badly change is needed in the city, and he is confident he is the person to lead that change.
A large part of Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne’s 2020 platform is focused on community and improving infrastructure to foster racial and economic equity within the city as it attempts to rebound from the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the people who have invested their livelihood and hard work in this town and rely on us [elected officials] to make things better for them now more than ever, I ask for you to let me lead to the best of my abilities and let my ongoing experience be utilized to the full extent,” he said.
“Let us be prepared for tough times and thrive throughout them. No excuses or pandering. Let us throw petty politics and preferential treatment out the window and get back to the common goal of making Lompoc a quality place to live.”
Among the major issues Vega identified for his 2020 campaign are improving public safety, increasing city revenues, planning for sustainable growth, and eliminating the negative view that some people hold toward City Hall and the local government structure.
Vega believes that many of Lompoc’s issues could be successfully addressed by empowering people.
He said that police reform, for example, could be achieved by taking a personal approach and brainstorming ways to better engage the community with its police force.
“We place so much focus on the cost of safety that it overrides the actual intention and purpose of it,” he said. “The bottom line is that nobody wants to live in an unsafe city. We have the power to make Lompoc a safe, welcoming city, so let’s roll up our sleeves and do it.”
Vega noted that growth, done effectively, could help increase revenues and bring about other positive changes that could have direct impacts on local residents and families, such as by improving parks.
“I want sustainable growth, and I want smart growth,” he said. “I know we’ll never be Santa Maria or Los Angeles, and I don’t want us to be that. But without a little growth, you won’t attract others to bring money over here to provide opportunities.”
Vega believes that increasing opportunities, both recreational and educational, in the city are the first steps toward improving the safety and quality of life within the community.
He said he agreed with the popular refrain that there isn’t much to do in Lompoc, but he said that can change with the right leadership in place. He implied that current and former leaders are or were more motivated to help the City Hall workforce than the actual populace of the city. He said that issue goes beyond just the city government.
“Common sense should prevail but, instead, what we end up with is representatives, like on the County Board of Supervisors, that get in there and are supposed to be elected officials for the community but end up pandering to the same infrastructure that they were working for [prior to being elected],” he said.
Regarding City Hall, Vega said he would look to streamline processes and ensure that everyone is treated equally when they approach the counter. He said he has personally experienced the frustration of going to City Hall for a particular permit or license and being told one thing, only to be told something different — with a higher price tag attached — at a later date.
This approach, which Vega described as the antithesis to strong customer service, can have major ramifications for the city if gone unchecked, he said.
“When you have these constant delays, you have other projects that pile up,” he said. “Well, if you let projects pile up and pile up and pile up, now everyone is getting bad service, unless you have a big bucket of money. So basically … you get treated different if you have money or you don't have money. That's the reform I want to change.”
Vega, who has owned several small businesses and currently operates a real estate company, said he’d like to see Lompoc’s government cater to the citizenry, a group he argued should be at the top of the City Hall organizational chart. That could include moving City Council meeting times to accommodate people with jobs or simply performing more outreach to gauge community support for particular initiatives.
Given his working-class Hispanic background, Vega said he was confident his platform would resonate with the Lompoc community.
“I feel like there's enough people who feel the same as me,” Vega said. “The thing that I need most is for my message to go out there to let them know, ‘I hear you, I feel you, I see you, and I'm one of you, so why can't we do this together? You're looking for change and, guess what, change is here.'”
For more information on Vega's 2020 mayoral campaign, visit www.facebook.com/victorvegaformayor/.
The program, which is slated to go into effect at some point before Oct. 2, will begin with 30 days of educational outreach to anyone caught illegally digging through trash, with the possibility for fines for offenders scheduled to begin after that first month. The entire program, which was approved by the Lompoc City Council in early August, is slated to last six months.