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Claudia Orona

Claudia Orona
Claudia Orona - Solvang City Council Candidate

Solvang City Council

Why are you running for office?: I love Solvang. I love the small-town feel, its closeness to nature, history, and charm. I've had the opportunity to grow here as a hospitality worker and small business owner here that I might not have had anywhere else. I want this opportunity to be present for all other residents and generations to come. Solvang is a unique town in which it is both a tourist destination, and the home to a close-knit community. This calls for a lot of input on the part of our locals. Communication between City Hall and the community is essential. I want to help preserve our city, and also bring a much-needed representation of hospitality and retail workers, business owners, and Latinos to our local government, so that their voices are heard and taken into consideration.
What makes you qualified for the job?: I have 13 years of experience as a business owner in Downtown Solvang, where I have managed as many as 30 employees. I have gone through the process of applying for a variety of licenses and remodeling projects at local, county, and state level, and understand the hurdles that are faced when trying to run a business in the current economic climate. My studies in art, theater, and languages give me a broad perspective on a variety of issues. I have spent time working retail and hospitality, from the hot line in a kitchen to tour-guiding and dining room management. I am familiar with the challenges of the people that are the backbone of our economy. I have also 10 years of experience in arts and music festival production, and have spent much time volunteering for nonprofit organizations and public functions. 
What are your two main priorities if you win?: First, we need to bring in qualified staff that can properly advice the council and community members on running the city and upcoming developers. A city needs proper management and clerical support, as well as engineers and technicians. Many of these positions are unfilled, taken by staff that is overwhelmed with taking on more tasks than they can manage, or filled by temps that are not familiar with our city laws, history, or records. This is particularly crucial while we are dealing with COVID-19, and we need to support our residents and businesses through it.

My other priority is to reestablish amicable, cooperating relationships between the city and the community again. At the moment, there is no communication between the business community, schools, nonprofits, and members of the community, and the City. Many people have complained about being treated with disdain by current local officials when voicing their opinions. The Solvang Chamber of Commerce has no relationship whatsoever with the City of Solvang. This is no way to run a city. Everybody should feel welcome and heard when addressing the council. I bow to always treat everybody with respect, and consider their wishes and needs as part of our community.
How will you interact with other governments?: Working, amicable relationships include other levels of government, whether it is our county supervisor, representatives in Washington, or neighboring cities. It became clear that we need to work with our neighbors during tough times, like COVID-19. If Solvang is to stay relevant as a multi-night destination, it needs to collaborate with the rest of the Santa Ynez Valley. Attending or watching other boards meetings, speaking with other officials, and attending functions and seminars from higher levels of government is also important to stay informed about things that might have an impact in our city. Lastly, as a representative of our cities, it would be an honor to speak on behalf of Solvang and its residents before State and Federal officials.
What are your plans to help overcome COVID-19?: Before making decisions on whether Copenhagen Drive should remain closed for longer, or inviting new developments into town, we need to reach out to our residents and businesses to find out what it is that they currently need. As a city, we haven't done enough research on the effects of the street closure, or shifts on sales or clientele. This information would be invaluable in coming up with a long term plan. Also, while there has been an emphasis on trying to attract multi-night stay visitors, we must not forget the potential in appealing as a destination to 20 million people that live within a car ride's time. Solvang must stay relevant to overcome COVID-19 by remaining beautiful, charming, and attractive. A cozy place to visit and live in.
Which two issues are most important to you?: Locals first: We need to consider our community's needs and talents before offering jobs or opportunities to people that are not familiar with Solvang's history and current challenges. We are in need of tourism promoters, event organizers, activities for youth, and planning and clerical staff. We have very qualified members of the community to take on these tasks and there's no reason to outsource these positions to temporary staff or out-of-town companies.

The second issue has to do with engagement. We are living through a very challenging time where our actions are often reactionary rather than proactive. Engagement begins with listening. We are all members of Solvang, no matter where we stand on other issues. I want to strengthen our sense of community and fellowship to get us through challenging times. Great things are achieved through collaboration and understanding. We can do better as a city when listening to those that are underserved by officials. Often these people are our essential workers that keep our economy going. Let's begin by giving our community a voice and a seat at the table.
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