Rafael Gutierrez, Candidate 4th District, Santa Maria City Council
Meet the Candidate:
Rafael attended Ernest Righetti High School and Allan Hancock College. At Righetti, Rafael studied drafting and architecture design and he received several awards for his skills in those areas. As a high school and junior college student, Rafael supported himself by working as a carpenter for a local construction company. His experience in construction and love of architecture led Rafael to become proficient in other areas of construction, including electrical, plumbing, and finish carpentry, in addition to architectural design, a field he has continued to pursue. After graduating from Allan Hancock College, Rafael attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Art degree in political science. Rafael then attended Columbia Law School in New York. (More below *)
Why am I running?
Rafael Gutierrez — who runs a private law practice from his office on Main Street — said he was running because he is disappointed in the current City Council.
“Santa Maria is a city with great potential. Many of us who live here have noticed that Santa Maria has big city problems without many benefits that big cities enjoy. We have seen an increase in violent crime as well as drug and gang activity. We have overcrowded and deteriorating neighborhoods, congested streets and highway exits. Despite having the cheapest real estate of almost all the surrounding communities, we have a complete lack of affordable housing.”
“The people in City Hall right now are not thinking ahead. The city lacks good-paying jobs, and needs to revitalize the city’s economy as well as implement mentorship and apprenticeship programs for the city’s youth.”
“We have a dilapidated downtown that does not entice people to come and visit. We need to revitalize the downtown and make it so people want to live, work and shop here. We can’t have projects like the ones at Enos Ranch that take away from the small businesses on Main and Broadway.”
(* Continued “Meet the Candidate” from above)
In reverence of his mother’s example, when Rafael was at Hancock, he began volunteering to work for the benefit of the community. From the early to mid-1990s, Rafael served on the County of Santa Barbara Superintendent of Schools’ Alternative Education Committee, which functioned as an advisory body on issues pertaining to at-risk youth. Later, Rafael served on the Santa Barbara County Kids Network, an advisory body on children and family issues created by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Besides running successful campaigns for student government at Hancock, Rafael also volunteered to work in Judge Rogelio R. Flores’ campaign and eventually served as the campaign manager.
After graduating from Allan Hancock College, Rafael attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Art degree in political science. The subject matter of his honors thesis was California’s Three Strikes Law. While at Berkeley, Rafael volunteered to work at La Raza Centro Legal, a legal aid organization in San Francisco where he served as a labor and employment advocate for low income clients and often represented clients at Labor Commissioner hearings.
Rafael then attended Columbia Law School in New York. At Columbia Law School, Rafael joined the editorial board of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and edited several legal articles for the journal. Rafael also served as editor of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, in addition to serving in other law school student organizations.
Following his graduation from Columbia Law School, and prior to embarking on his legal career, Rafael worked in the fields of real estate, banking and finance in Los Angeles and Orange counties, which included working as a financial planner and financial advisor at Smith Barney.
Rafael’s unwavering devotion to giving back continued, and when residing in Orange County, he served on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County, where he worked closely with the administration and faculty of local law schools to increase access to higher education for disadvantaged students. Rafael also volunteered to serve as a pro bono advocate for children with developmental disabilities and their families. While working as such advocate, Rafael came to the realization that there was an enormous need for knowledge of the applicable laws and negotiating skills among parents of children with disabilities. Consequently, Rafael started conducting seminars teaching parents the law and how to effectively advocate for their children. At first, Rafael conducted the seminars at his home, and later at the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County and Fiesta Educativa, Inc., an organization serving primarily Spanish-speaking parents of children with developmental disabilities. In 2012, Rafael served as the Master of Ceremonies for Fiesta Educativa’s annual conference, a conference attended by over 500 parents of children and adults with developmental disabilities and which featured speakers such as Rosario Marin, former Treasurer of the United States, and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
More recently, prior to opening his own law practice in the heart of Santa Maria, Rafael worked as an attorney for a law firm in Arroyo Grande with a focus on civil litigation and as a deputy public defender with the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office in the City of Santa Maria.