After serving Santa Barbara County in various capacities for more than 20 years, Elizabeth Farnum will retire Thursday from her most recent role as the Santa Ynez Valley representative for the 3rd Supervisorial District.
During her tenure with the county, Farnum served as an attorney in the County Counsel’s Office and a member of the Planning Commission, with her last 10 years as the 3rd District representative for both supervisors Doreen Farr and Joan Hartmann.
She was recognized for her years of service with an honorary resolution at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting in Santa Barbara.
Santa Ynez Valley native Meighan Dietenhofer, who is currently serving as a member of the County Park Commission representing the 3rd District, will take over for Farnum, said a spokesman for Hartmann’s office.
Farnum began her career with the county as a deputy county counsel specializing in land use, air quality and California Environmental Quality Act issues.
She was then appointed to the 3rd District seat on the County Planning Commission by Supervisor Gail Marshall.
When Farr was elected 3rd District supervisor in 2008, she appointed Farnum to district representative for the Santa Ynez Valley, a position she held through Farr’s entire tenure and for the past two years with Hartmann.
Farnum’s extensive experience at the county, her “encyclopedic knowledge of Santa Ynez Valley issues” and her close relationships with Valley residents were instrumental in providing “wise counsel and practical advice” on a wide range of policy issues, said Jefferson Litten, Hartmann’s chief of staff.
Those included the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, water, parks and open space, libraries, seniors, the Gaviota Coast and Highway 154 safety improvements, he said.
“Throughout all of the challenges and emergencies that arose over the years, Elizabeth remained stalwart, calm and unflappable and became not just a trusted and loyal member of my staff but a good friend and confidant,” Farr said.
“Her retirement is certainly well deserved, but she will be sorely missed by so many residents for whom she worked incredibly hard to make Santa Barbara County a better place to live for everyone,” Farr added.
Litten said Farnum forged strong relationships with staff from the cities of Buellton and Solvang, county departments, the California Highway Patrol and other public safety advocates.
Constituents got used to dropping by or calling the 3rd District office in Solvang, where Farnum “worked tirelessly to address their varied and sometimes complex problems,” Litten said.
She seemed to know “just about everyone” and was “always cool under pressure,” he said, adding the only time she became frazzled was when someone suggested using her small office for remote public testimony during Board of Supervisors meetings.
“I will dearly miss working with Elizabeth every day,” Hartmann said. “I am deeply grateful for her years of service to both the 3rd District and the county.
“She has played a tremendous role in preserving the rural character of the Valley and has helped hundreds — if not thousands — of Valley residents,” she said. “She has been our rudder.”
Farnum said she plans to do more adventure traveling, swimming, snorkeling, hiking and gardening and just spending more time outside.