Westmont Magazine Using Her Communication Skills for Public Service

In 2004, Lauren Bianchi Klemann ’04 traveled to the Middle East with former Westmont professor Bruce Fisk. A graduating senior, she wanted to visit places such as Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. “It fed my soul,” she says.

“The experience combined my passions: looking at political and religious landscapes. Exploring physical history and the political landscape from a Christian perspective shaped my priorities and how I communicate with people, communities and culture.”

Since then, Lauren has led a life of volunteerism and public service while raising a 9-year-old daughter with her husband, Daniel Klemann. She works as the government affairs and public information manager for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), which oversees regional transportation and housing planning.

After Lauren graduated from college, she began serving with the American Red Cross. “Westmont’s liberal arts education helps students find the nexus of making a difference in people’s lives while earning a paycheck,” she says.

She worked in volunteer services and public affairs when Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans and during several Southern California fires. “I was trying to help by giving those affected accurate information during traumatizing events,” she says.

Her journey then led her to Ventura County, where she served as chief of staff for Ventura County supervisor Kathy Long for more than a decade. Then she moved to Goleta and accepted another dream job as public information officer for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

“Talk about learning the heart of a community,” she says. “Working with 15,000 families was an eye-opening and rewarding experience.”

She has led communication teams during some of the region’s most disastrous moments, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Thomas Fire, which forced the closure of schools for the first time ever.

Unhealthy smoke forced the closure, and the subsequent Montecito debris flow claimed the lives of two S.B. Unified students. “It takes a toll on your soul,” she says. “People need to be informed to find healing. Westmont helped create a strong foundation for moments of service during difficult times.”

Lauren is involved with major projects affecting the region, communicating about the Highway 101 expansion and the construction of roundabouts in Montecito.

Recently, she worked on a public-outreach campaign in Isla Vista, Guadalupe and the Santa Ynez Valley to understand housing priorities and develop innovative solutions for building affordable housing. SBCAG received more than $5 million for creative pilot projects such as a 3D-printed house.

Lauren also helped market the EZ Bike Project, which allowed residents to try out electric cargo bikes, cruisers, city bikes and folding bikes to reduce traffic and air pollution. “We’re trying to get folks to switch to different ways of commuting,” she says. “What better place to do that than in Santa Barbara County?” The demonstration project succeeded and became a statewide and national model.

“At SBCAG, we tackle issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries — which is what a liberal arts education is designed for — to make connections, interact and solve problems,” she says.

Active in the community, Lauren serves on the board of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Association for Women in Communications, which recently honored her as the 2022 Member of the Year. A past president of the Public Relations Society of America – California Gold Coast Chapter and a National and Community Service Americorps volunteer, she advised the California YMCA Youth and Government Program for nearly a decade.

“I try to make a difference and empower people to celebrate our community,” she says. “My Westmont education helped me mature and evolve in my Christian faith. It continues to inform every choice I make and how I interact with the world.”