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In this Dec. 6, 2018, file photo, outgoing Lompoc mayor Bob Lingl hands the gavel over to new mayor Jenelle Osborne during a special meeting of the Lompoc City Council at City Hall. The council will meet Tuesday night to evaluate the applicants and potentially appoint someone to fill the council seat that was vacated by Osborne when she became mayor.

A total of 10 people submitted applications to fill the vacant seat on the Lompoc City Council, making up a diverse field that includes one 2018 council candidate, a former four-term councilman, and residents with a wide range of backgrounds and professional experience.

The applicants are each seeking to serve out the remaining two years on the seat that was vacated when former Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne was sworn in as mayor last month following her victory in the 2018 midterm election. Osborne and the three current members of the council are scheduled to evaluate the applicant pool, and possibly appoint their next colleague, during a special meeting of the Lompoc City Council slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lompoc City Hall.

The field of applicants, listed alphabetically, includes: Edwin Braxton, Stephen Bridge, Gilda Cordova, Robert Cuthbert, Robert Dunlap, Thomas Fair, DeWayne Holmdahl, Sasha Keller, Nikolai Nikolenko and Darrell Tullis.

Residents seeking the appointment had until Jan. 3 to submit applications to the city.

Here is a look at each applicant, based on information provided in his or her application:

Edwin Braxton

As chief human resources officer at Lompoc Valley Medical Center, Braxton focused on his professional experience in his application. He noted that he felt the city’s pension liability was its most concerning challenge and suggested that his current job puts him a unique position to address that challenge. He also noted that he has managed multimillion-dollar budgets during his career and is well-versed in financial reporting statements.

“I believe that in being appointed to City Council, I will bring a well-needed perspective on fiscal issues that challenge the city, especially with regard to pension obligations, staffing and budget issues,” he wrote. “I want to see this city succeed and flourish.”

Among his other community involvement, Braxton is also the current president of the Rotary Club of Lompoc; is a past member of the boards that oversee the Lompoc Family YMCA and Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce; and was appointed in 2018 to the city’s Economic Development Committee.

Stephen Bridge

A retired engineer and consultant, Bridge noted in his application that he has “extensive engineering, small business, large business and government experience.”

He wrote that he worked for more than 20 years at Vandenberg Air Force Base in the aerospace industry, which he said gives him insight into developing relationships between the city and base. He is a member of the Lompoc Parks and Recreation Commission and is also a volunteer with the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival Association.

“I have been blessed to live the last 30-plus years in Lompoc,” he wrote. “I have children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren that live here. One of my biggest disappointments is when one of these members of my family leave because they feel Lompoc fails in some way to meet their needs. Now at this point in my life I want to focus on helping our community strive to improve and, where possible, create better opportunities for more children to stay in our community.”

Gilda Cordova

A hotel operator with Legend Hospitality Inc., Cordova noted that she has worked as a general manager, director of sales, revenue manager and in human resources.

Cordova is the president of the board for Explore Lompoc, which promotes local tourism, and noted in her application that she has extensive experience in management and managing budgets, ranging from $3 million to $30 million.

“As a female of Hispanic heritage, I bring a unique perspective and voice to the current council make-up, along with first-hand knowledge and understanding of the struggles and needs that many in our community face on a daily basis,” she wrote. “With a relentless drive to serve, I have worked as a volunteer to help those in need in our community, creating opportunities for them when possible. … I am an independent thinker who can observe and evaluate situations fairly and bring my own opinions and ideas to the table with a strong, but caring, voice.”

Cordova currently serves on the Lompoc Economic Development Committee and the Lompoc Family YMCA board of directors. 

Robert Cuthbert

Cuthbert, a retail supervisor, is no stranger to Lompoc politics, as he has waged seven campaigns for city council. His most recent attempt was in the 2018 midterm election, during which he finished behind Councilman Dirk Starbuck in the race to represent Lompoc’s third district.

Though he hasn’t ever served on the council, Cuthbert noted in his application that his involvement in community organizations — including 10 years on the Public Safety Commission and 10 years as the president of a local political party club — and his various campaigns have given him an up-close view of the needs of the community.

“All of my political activities make me a ‘known quantity’ and public person,” he wrote. “I have expressed my opinions on virtually every issue facing the community. These opinions and accomplishments are in the public record. … On council, I will be a team player seeking solutions based on the facts, a consensus builder, and amiable participant only interested in the public good.”

Robert Dunlap

A current utility commissioner and member of the Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation, Dunlap said in his application that he would fight on behalf of Lompoc.

“To me, the No. 1 thing missing right now is a firm and coordinated effort to get the county government to treat Lompoc equally and not as a dumping ground without proper funding. … We need to stand strong and fight back and I will bring that to the group,” he wrote.

He has volunteered with the Lompoc Police Foundation, Fallen Warriors Memorial committee and is the treasurer for the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park project.

As a retiree, Dunlap said he would have the time to perform his due diligence on city matters. He also noted he would listen to all sides of a discussion.

“I don’t do well with people lying and have heard many a tall tail from city staff during city council meetings and would love to set up strict guidelines and training for staff to better control this problem,” he wrote. “Doing this would really help with public opinion and hopefully bring back some much need trust.”

Thomas Fair

Fair noted on his application that he worked in the Air Force for 20 years and said he currently works in quality assurance for Lockheed Martin.

“I will bring a fair and unbiased opinion to this dais,” he wrote.

He also added: “I feel that I will bring fresh ideas to the city council. As a citizen of Lompoc, I listen to people on social media. There are good ideas that never make it to the light of day.”

DeWayne Holmdahl

Holmdahl listed his long history of local service on his application. Among other roles, the 50-plus year Lompoc resident served as a Santa Barbara County supervisor from 1981 to 1989 and served on the Lompoc City Council from 1996 to 2008, and then again from 2012 to 2016.

He said he will bring “a good working relationship among the city council and city staff.”

His priorities, he wrote, are to preserve public safety, encourage economic vitality, attract jobs, and promote Lompoc as a “great place to visit, live and do business.”

Sasha Keller

The director of nursing at Lompoc Valley Medical Center’s Comprehensive Care Center, Keller noted in her application that she grew up and has spent much of her life in Lompoc. She left to serve in the Army but has since returned to her hometown, where she is now raising her two children.

“Professionally, my career has included extensive experience engaging with Lompoc residents through the delivery of health-care services,” she wrote. “I have made it my goal to focus on developing my ability to listen, problem solve, and communicate the needs of our community members to key stakeholders, often requiring that I use diplomacy, tact and patience.”

She noted that she has experience working on budgets in the health-care industry and said she wants to serve on the Lompoc City Council because “I realized there is an opportunity to actively serve the members of the Lompoc community by listening to individual and group concerns, gathering and weighing input and feedback about important community matters, and helping to make a difference by being an advocate for a community that I believe in.”

Nikolai Nikolenko

Nikolenko noted on his application that he is not currently working due to disability, but said he can bring a unique perspective to the council.

“I live in a part of town that needs attention,” he wrote. “I see things that others might be blind to. I’m not afraid to make hard choices for the better of the city.”

While he noted that his experience managing budgets is limited to his own personal finances, he suggested he can help the city progress.

“I believe we as a community can move forward,” he said. “We can grow financially with the cannabis industry. We can make cuts while growing resources and public safety. We can encourage industry to come here. I believe we can make Lompoc great again.”

Darrell Tullis

A 21-year Air Force veteran, Tullis has previously waged three campaigns for a seat on the Lompoc City Council, most recently in 2014.

Among his many professional roles, Tullis currently works for the nonprofit United Way Home for Good, and has also worked as a minister, spent time as a basketball coach at Lompoc High School, and has served on the Lompoc Parks and Recreation Commission and the Community Action Commission.

Tullis wrote that he believes he can “enhance the council” with his experience.

“I have given briefings on networking and the importance of being connected to many different resources,” he wrote. “I call the rich and not so rich, friends. The young and the old, as well. I make it a point in my life to communicate with people from all walks of life, different races, genders, religions, as well as those who choose no religion at all.”

He also highlighted his experience managing budgets and programs in the Air Force and with nonprofit agencies after his military retirement.

“My desire (to serve on city council) comes from a lifelong commitment to serve my fellow man and a desire to afford as many who will make their desires known, an opportunity to achieve the goals they set for themselves,” he wrote.

Editor's Note: Council applicants' responses are verbatim, as taken from their applications. 

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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