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  • A Reflection on the Life & Leadership of Joe Centeno

    Former Chamber President/CEO Bob Hatch was kind enough to share some very kind words after the passing of former Santa Maria Mayor, and police chief, Joseph Centeno.

    "I was deeply saddened to learn of the Death of Joe Centeno. My sincere condolences to his entire family.

    I first met Mr. Centeno when I arrived in 1994 to run the Chamber of Commerce. It was probably the Cop in him that kept him at arm’s length. After all, this was his community and a newcomer would have to demonstrate his ability to fit in. This was especially true because organizational operations were at EBB.

    As both of our careers advanced, I soon discovered that he was most interested in one thing…..how to make life better for the citizens of the City he so deeply loved. Over the years, our relationship became close. Mr. Centeno learned that the organization I represented was most able to assist in the accomplishment of his vision. Once our programs became aligned, his support as a member of the City Council, and later as the Mayor, did not waver. He had ideas…he asked tough questions…..and a true public-private partnership was galvanized.

    20 years ago when the Chamber set out to build the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial, a place where all the men from Santa Maria, who died in the service to their community would be memorialized, Joe was one of the first to throw the City’s support behind it. He was a regular speaker at the annual remembrance event and his name is listed on the founder’s plaque.

    Over the many years, we were friends, one thing remained in focus for Mr. Centeno and that was how to ensure his community was safe and prosperous. He had no political ambition other than that. He spoke with authority and his research always led to the right decision.  His respect and legacy were forged throughout the region and on that cold and rainy day when he was laid to rest, God wept as Joe was remembered.

    It was an honor to call Joe Centeno my friend. A man like him will not pass this way anytime soon. We are all better for having known him"