By Raiza Giorgi
Brad Vidro says he hadn’t seen as many parades in his life as he has during his 12-year tenure as Solvang’s city manager, and this year he will be the grand marshal of the Julefest parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.
Vidro, who will retire on Dec. 28, said he will miss being an official part of the city but plans on continuing to be involved.
Still, he said, he will be proud to “hand over the keys’ to whoever is chosen to replace him.
“I have had a hand in the process of choosing who will follow, and I think the council has a great set of candidates to pick from. I just hope that whomever they choose really becomes part of the community as I feel I have,” Vidro said.
The council might have to hire an interim city manager if one isn’t hired before Vidro leaves, but he is confident a good person will be found.
Vidro said one of the projects he was very excited during his tenure was the building of Sunny Fields Park. He called the park a great community asset and expressed gratitude for all the organizations and businesses that stepped up to create it.
Vidro was born and raised in Michigan and got his degree in civil engineering from Michigan State University. For his first job he moved to San Francisco to work for Caltrans, which was a big transition. After five years there his family relocated to South Lake Tahoe, because they had spent winters skiing there and loved it. He became the city’s public works director for 17 years before an opening in San Luis Obispo drew him to the Central Coast.
Marlene Demery, then Solvang’s city manager, happened to be on the panel and asked Vidro to apply to be public works director in Solvang. A year after he came to Solvang, he stepped into Demery’s shoes when she retired.
“I had visited Solvang before briefly, and coming here I pretty much knew the territory as Tahoe is also a tourist destination,” he said.
In his time as city manager, Vidro said, he was glad to see the city’s volunteer fire department consolidate with Santa Barbara County Fire so that residents had access to 24/7 protection.
He is also proud of the reconstruction of Copenhagen and First streets and recent sewer system repairs to avoid flooding in heavy rain storms.
“I know it’s not glamorous, but having a city that runs efficiently and not flooding is important to me,” Vidro said.
The biggest change he has seen in his time is the explosion of wineries and tasting rooms. When he started there were six tasting rooms in town and now there are 17, he said.
Vidro said that he has heard people say Solvang isn’t very business friendly, but he disagrees. He points to numerous improvements.
“I don’t make up the codes, the state does, and we have to enforce them,” Vidro explained.
The city’s sign ordinance process, for example, became more flexible when the city recently modified the regulations to get approvals more easily.
Vidro says his routine involves walking the city often to talk with business owners and residents to hear issues or get ideas.
“I feel like I am leaving the city in a great spot with solid processes in place,” he added.
Next, he plans to spend a year traveling with his wife, Debra.
“Right after I retire we plan on going on a several-week long-camping trip to visit a few national parks. We also plan on spending our 25th wedding anniversary in Spain and Portugal later in the year,” Vidro said.