Alumni Spotlight

Forging His Own Path

Lawyer and public affairs consultant, former Associated Students Executive Vice President, and proud Republican, Jim Gazdecki ’74.


Jim Gazdecki

While at UC Santa Barbara, Jim Gazdecki ’74, had a finger in many pies. He was the executive vice president of Associated Students, president of his fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, and chairman of the Student Advisory Health Committee. He was also involved with the Communications Board and the college Republicans.

Over the years, Gazdecki has held multiple elected and appointed positions for the GOP. He was elected chairman for the Republican Party in Santa Barbara County for several years, was president of the Santa Barbara Republican Club and still serves on the board, and was appointed by Governor Wilson to head California’s OSHA Appeals Board, the judicial side of California’s OSHA program.

Gazdecki graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and received his J.D. from the University of Southern California Law School. He is now vice president and senior legal counsel for Sand Canyon Corporation, in Irvine, California.

6  Questions

What were your first impressions of the campus as a freshman?

I felt I had been transported into just the best place I could be. I was fortunate to have a roommate in San Miguel who was a great guy. We had a lot in common in terms of political interest and philosophy. He was someone who helped me grow a lot. He helped me become a very good writer actually. I loved everything about my classes. I pledged my fraternity fall quarter. It was a whole awakening to a new life.

Did you have any initial ambitions when you chose your major?

I don’t think I had any ambition to be a lawyer. I thought it was a possibility, but back then I think a lot of us were of a mind that you studied what you were interested in and a career would follow. Today I think that people have to be much more strategic when they look at the future, they don’t have the luxury that we had, or thought we had. In fact, I finished my major by winter quarter of my junior year. I just zipped through it, I was so enthralled in the subject.

What was being conservative in Associated Students like for you?

It was a great learning experience. I ran as a conservative, and won.

I was basically outnumbered of course, but I had a lot of respect for other people and eventually accomplished some good things. It wasn’t easy to always be in the minority, but it’s an important lesson to have in life, because everyone is in the minority at some time or another.

Jim Gazdecki

What were your goals as a member of the Republican Club?

It was to network with other students who were definitely in the minority. At one point I was the campus representative for our assemblyman who was a conservative, Don MacGillivray. I was his campus rep and education adviser. That came about because I was active in college Republicans.

I got to meet with Governor Reagan. The governor’s office was asking whether he should continue to fund the foot patrol. I told them that was important, as opposed to having the sheriff there in a more muscular way. We had just gone through the riots.

Being in the college Republicans enabled me to have that opportunity to be the education adviser for an assemblyman and to advise the governor’s office on continuing to fund the foot patrol.

At that time there was a sentiment among most conservative people that the foot patrol wasn’t a good idea. Having the foot patrol was viewed as something more responsive to students' needs for law enforcement.

What did you do as the chairman of the Santa Barbara County Republican Party?

I chaired the Republican Central Committee, which is the governing body of the official party in the county. That included increasing voter registration, getting out the vote for Republican candidates and generally building party membership and bringing elected officials to the area to meet constituents. I co-chaired the re-election campaign of Congresswoman Andrea Seastrand. I also helped the UCSB administration reach out to Republican legislators.

Do you have any advice for current UCSB students?

To try to keep balance in their lives. Striving for academic excellence is obviously important, but it’s also important to develop good relationships with other people, some of them close and intimate, some of them not. To take in all the richness of the campus and broader community. To keep themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Reasons We're Proud to be Gauchos


I’m proud to be a Gaucho because I recognize that UCSB is at the very apex of public higher education, and it just does awesome things to prepare men and women to make great contributions to our society, and that’s so important to me. This university continues to evolve in very dynamic ways, and it’s a great honor to be part of that, and I have the utmost respect for and gratitude to Henry and Dilling Yang for the leadership and personal sacrifices they made to get us there.

It makes me proud that UCSB doesn’t stay content to rest on its laurels. UCSB strives to excel and grow. It truly is a treasure of our community.

Read his Coastlines spotlight here.


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