In a unanimous vote of approval, the Board of Trustees appointed Robert Miller, a retired trial lawyer and community organizer, to fill the vacancy for Trustee Area 2 – Goleta.
Miller was chosen over the other contender for the position, Cameron Sublett, who was a communications professor at City College from 2008-2017.
“Reading the applications, I was inclined to support Cameron,” Trustee Jonathan Abboud said during the meeting. “But after the interviews, I believe Robert would bring more to the board in terms of engaging Goleta.”
The position was left open when Dr. Marianne Kugler, who was first appointed to the board December 2012, resigned on Jan. 1, 2018. Under Board Policy 2110, the board is required to fill her former seat within 60 days of her resignation, and it had the option of either holding an election or making a provisional appointment. The board chose to make an appointment, which will fill the vacancy until the next board election.
Miller has only resided in Santa Barbara for four years, but he already has accumulated extensive community leadership experience during his stay. In 2014, he founded and led the Westside Goleta Coalition, which organized to oppose a plan to build a new California Highway Patrol facility in Goleta. Among other concerns, the coalition protested the construction of the facility on a site so close to an elementary school, multiple residential neighborhoods, a butterfly preserve, and a then soon-to-be-built assisted living facility. After a 10-month campaign, the coalition’s efforts were successful, and the Highway Patrol decided to build their facility elsewhere.
Other positions that Miller holds include a position as the president of his neighborhood homeowner association, Hideaway Community Organization, and a volunteer position as a legal mediator for the Santa Barbara and Ventura County Superior Courts. He does not have experience working on public education committees.
In response to questions posed to him by the board during its Friday meeting, Miller replied in an even, measured tone. One question asked him how he would respond if he found himself holding the minority opinion on an issue, and he said that the most important thing would be to listen to what everyone has to say.
“People get hardened in their positions, particularly if you spend a lot of time preparing to push a particular issue,” Miller said. “I have learned over the years that you have to accept that you might be wrong, and you really have to listen carefully to what other people say.”
Student Trustee David Panbechi disagreed with the decision to appoint Miller over Sublett. He said that it was important for a Trustee to have experience on how the school works, and Sublett seemed to know more about the school than Miller did. Moreover, Panbehchi cited how much younger Sublett was than Miller, as many of the current trustees are much older than Sublett and Sublett’s appointment would have increased the diversity of the board in terms of age.
The trustees, however, unanimously voted for Miller.
Two of Sublett’s most attractive qualities to the board were his educational expertise and his experience as a former professor at City College. One trustee commented, however, that in terms of educational expertise, the board could rely on Superintendent-President Anthony Beebe during meetings, and on Trustee Peter Haslund, who has experience as a former City College professor.
Miller is scheduled to be formally sworn in at the Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 8.