By Raiza Giorgi
As he prepares to retire on June 28, City Manager Marc Bierdzinski says he’s proud of Buellton’s balanced budget, solid fiscal situation and a staff that excels at helping the city’s residents and businesses.
“I will miss the people the most, as they are funny, intelligent and highly capable,” he said.
Bierdzinski will retire after spending 30 years in government. He worked for Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County before becoming planning director for Buellton in September 2005. He then became interim city manager and planning director in May 2013 when City Manager Steve Thompson retired.
“Steve is a great friend, and we still talk often. He has really been one of my mentors along the way and helped me in this leadership role. I learned quite a bit from him and his easy-going nature,” Bierdzinski said.
Originally from Redlands, Bierdzinski graduated from UC Riverside with a degree in geology.
“I love studying nature and rocks, but when I graduated I couldn’t find any work in geology and took a job at an engineering firm. They placed me in planning, and that is where I started my career,” he said.
Being a planning director or city manager involves a lot of puzzle solving, he said, and he loves the challenge of finding solutions to problems before even considering saying “no.”
“I think what we do best in Buellton is try to help people come up with solutions and think outside the box,” he added.
One project Bierdzinski said he is very proud of was the several years he spent creating the driveways between the Albertson’s shopping center and the neighboring property, allowing traffic to flow between them without entering Highway 246.
“I think that took a few years off my life, but it was so worth it. People love that they can drive from Pattibakes to Albertson’s,” he said with a smile.
As Bierdzinski has been checking off his calendar, counting down how many City Council meetings he has left, he has been reflecting on all the changes he’s seen in the past several years.
“Whether you were for or against the Urban Growth Boundary, it really helped the community define what they wanted and didn’t want. I think it propelled the visioning process and finding an identity for the downtown Avenue of Flags,” Bierdzinski said.
The UGB, passed in 2008, requires voter approval for any expansion of the city limits that would require extension of sewer or water services.
Bierdzinski said he is proud of all the departments that have worked hard on turning Buellton into a well-rounded community.
“The Recreation Department has been exploding with growth and programs for people of all ages. We are staying on top of employment laws, and the council has been efficient and smooth. Even though we had to raise prices for water and sewer in the last few years, we are still affordable and in good shape,” Bierdzinski said.
Revenue from property taxes and transient occupancy taxes are helping Buellton maintain a healthy budget with a surplus close to $1 million, he said. The city has a budget of $15.5 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year. General fund revenues are projected at $7.5 million and general fund expenditures at $6.6 million.
Several new projects are in the development pipeline, including the Village Hotels, Live Oak Lanes, The Hub, The Network, and new homes being built on Central Avenue.
“I think we have a great variety of housing options and business types, from retail to industrial. Buellton continues to grow,” he said.
A project Bierdzinski said he wished he would have seen get at least partly completed was a trail system, but he is hopeful that whomever the council chooses to replace him will finish the project.
“I am also excited to see where the arts and culture committee takes the future of events. Under Kyle Abello’s leadership, I think it will be a great addition to the town,” he said.
Bierdzinski said he will miss his favorite restaurants, including Firestone Walker, Industrial Eats and La Tequila, but he will be stopping in often, especially for the Buellton Brewfest.
His first plans after retirement are to sleep in, play more golf and travel with his wife, Sandra.
“We want to go back to New Zealand and see the south island and hopefully to Scotland and other spur-of-the-moment trips. Who knows where the wind will take us?” he said.