Staff Writer

Zoraida Abresch is Santa Barbara County's new top planning official for the North County, and among the projects she'll be handling is the Valley Community Plan.

Abresch was selected as the county's deputy director of the Planning and Development Department, in charge of the petroleum and North County development-review divisions, county officials announced last week.

The North County post is one of six deputy director positions, answering directly to Dianne Meester, assistant planning director, and Val Alexeeff, the department head. Abresch replaces Steve DeCamp, who left the post in late October for a job in Nevada County.

She won the position out of a pool of seven applicants, including four county employees and three external candidates. Abresch is scheduled to begin the new job Jan. 3.

Alexeeff said choosing a candidate was difficult because the applicants were so qualified, but that Abresch's vision for the future was what made her stand out.

"She really impressed the panel with talking about the future of the department, and about the different ways in which we're going to engage in process improvement," Alexeeff said.

"We see that that particular (North County) office is going to be undergoing a lot of change, with the shift in the board," he said.

Brooks Firestone and Salud Carbajal will join the county Board of Supervisors in January, replacing retiring supervisors Gail Marshall and Naomi Schwartz, respectively. Political observers expect the balance of power to shift north as a result, tipping more toward the needs of agricultural groups and recognizing the wishes of North County constituents.

"I think we're going to have some very theoretical discussion about property rights vs. community rights," Alexeeff said.

Specifically, he expects the new board to revisit the on-going Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, as well as look at streamlining rules for agriculture.

Abresch has worked for the county for 15 years, the past four as a supervising planner in the North County. She also has worked in the energy division and in the South Coast's development-review division. Abresch has been involved in the county's ongoing planning-process improvement effort.

Abresch is a Panama native and is fluent in Spanish. She could not be contacted for this story.

n Staff writer Erin Carlyle can be reached at 739-2218 or by e-mail at ecarlyle@pulitzer.net.

Dec. 21, 2004

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