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OCSD appoints Steve Montes as new board member 

Having one eye on the AGP Video camera and an ear on City Council meetings across southern San Luis Obispo County proved to be the winning combination for Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) resident Steve Montes.

On May 20, Montes beat two other candidates—April Dury and Gary Hamel—vying for a position on the OCSD board of directors. His appointment fills the vacant seat left behind by former OCSD Director Cynthia Replogle after she resigned a couple of months ago.

PEOPLE PERSON Steve Montes, the newly-appointed OCSD board member, said he's ready to boost Oceano's tourism image and engage with the area's Spanish-speaking residents. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE MONTES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Steve Montes
  • PEOPLE PERSON Steve Montes, the newly-appointed OCSD board member, said he's ready to boost Oceano's tourism image and engage with the area's Spanish-speaking residents.

"I've read and heard that Oceano is the stepchild of South County. It's very derogatory," Montes said. "We have been neglected. I would like to lift Oceano. We're known for the dunes, but we should be known for other things like the Melodrama. We offer comfortable living, right off the Pacific Coast Highway."

Originally from the Central Valley, Montes moved to Oceano in 2009 and lives in a coastal trailer park with his family. His first plan of action, he said, would be to boost tourism in the area as a way to revamp public perception of the town and bring in more revenue because Oceano often receives the short end of the financial stick from San Luis Obispo County.

"Oceano should be lit up, not so much glittery, but just so that we can get dollars pumped into here. When you have businesses coming in, the economy grows. It's similar to how cannabis came in and lifted the economy for Grover Beach. A great hotel would be nice," he said.

Montes wants to dive into Oceano's water and fire services issues. The hot button item he's observing now is the contentious fire tax called Measure A-22 that will reappear on primary election ballots this month. Montes hopes voters support the flat parcel tax so that Oceano can retain its emergency services from the Five Cities Fire Authority.

One great way to build voter trust? Being bilingual, he said. The Hispanic community is Oceano's largest racial group after white people. According to data collected by the National Demographic Corporation, Hispanic people make up 47 percent of Oceano's population. Thirty-four percent of Oceano's total voting age population is Hispanic.

"I speak Spanish. I don't see a lot of Spanish-speaking people sitting in the audience listening to the meeting. I probably wouldn't either if I didn't know the language or wasn't comfortable," Montes said. "How is an only English-speaking member of the board going to speak to someone who only speaks Spanish? There's a barrier gap there. I would like to reach out to the Hispanic population and find out what their views are."

OCSD President Karen White told New Times that Montes' Spanish-speaking skills sealed the deal on a unanimous vote in his favor.

"That, to me, is a big plus in our community. He comes from the Central Valley where many of our residents come from. He lives in one of the mobile home parks, and we've not had a representative from that large constituency along Highway 1," White said. "I know he has people skills. He has really monitored us for more than a year working for AGP Video. He's the one who has sat in on a lot of our meetings, believe it or not, in the back."

Montes will finish out the remainder of Replogle's term, which expires later this year. In November, he will be on the ballot for the seat's next two-year term. He said he plans to start campaigning soon.

"Some people just aren't comfortable walking into a situation not knowing anybody. I don't have a problem with that. I'm comfortable knocking on doors," he said. Δ

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