Land Trust for Santa Barbara County — Executive Director–Completed

Land Trust for Santa Barbara County

Executive Director

Position Description

Painter Executive Search is supporting the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County (Land Trust) in their search for an Executive Director to lead the implementation of their newly adopted Strategic Plan and partner with the community to ensure that the beauty and bounty of the county landscape is healthy and thriving.  

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County (Land Trust) conserves natural resources, agricultural land, and open spaces for the benefit of future generations. For more than 35 years the Land Trust has collaborated with willing landowners to conserve important properties, restore natural habitat, preserve agricultural lands, enhance recreational access and provide education and other programming to inspire, engage and enlighten people of all ages and from all walks of life. Working together with more than 50 families, as well as public institutions, community groups, open space advocates, and countless supporters, the Land Trust has conserved almost 30,000 acres of prime agricultural lands, critical wildlife corridors, coastal bluffs, rolling hills and community trails.

Based in the city of Santa Barbara, the Land Trust is the leader in conservation efforts across the county. With the support of an engaged and experienced Board of Trustees, the Executive Director (ED) will oversee an annual budget of $1.3 million and a professional staff of 12 full and part time employees. On June 30, 2019, the Land Trust held $17m in assets including nearly 900 acres of fee title land holdings and over 40 conservation easements. The Land Trust was one of the first fully accredited Land Trusts in the U.S. and has just completed its latest 5-year renewal.

Recently, the Land Trust helped lead the development of the Santa Barbara County Conservation Blueprint, a new county-wide land conservation tool. Building on this effort, the Land Trust created and adopted an ambitious 5-year Strategic Plan for the Land Trust which outlines strategies for increasingly effective conservation and deepening relationships across the region.

In the last five years the Land Trust has dramatically increased its visibility, relationship network and internal capacity. The future of the Land Trust is seeded with strong and growing support, healthy financial reserves and endowments, and unprecedented conservation opportunities. With tens of millions of dollars’ worth of conservation projects and associated funding in the pipeline, the Land Trust has never been in a stronger position to advance its mission.


The Executive Director (ED), reporting to the President of the Board and accountable to the Board of Trustees, will lead the execution of the Land Trust’s mission. Building upon a reputation as a trusted and reliable partner, the ED will engage the varied communities of the county to conserve land through fee-title acquisitions, easements, and other land conservation tools. Working together with Board and staff, the ED will achieve the conservation and fundraising goals set forth in the new Strategic Plan and continue to be aspirational in pursuit of the mission.

The Land Trust works collaboratively with a wide range of partners including federal, state, regional, county and city agencies and a variety of funding sources. The work engages multi-generational farm families, conservation-minded landowners, developers with mitigation requirements and others who align with the Land Trust’s goals. The ED will need exceptional communication skills and a broad understanding of conservation strategies and land use patterns in order to navigate, execute and build support for this work. The ED will lead the Land Trust as a resource to the community, innovating and thinking creatively about problem-solving.

The ED will have responsibility for all the Land Trust functions including fundraising, operations, transaction development, stewardship, public education and engagement programs. Of primary importance, the ED will be an important external face of the organization engaging landowners, agricultural leaders, partners, governmental agencies, donors, and volunteers, as well as the public in order to grow visibility and support for the Land Trust.

The ED will inspire and support the work of a dedicated and passionate staff. The ED will share an authentic commitment to the community and to preserving the unparalleled beauty and critical working lands of the county. As an enthusiastic mentor to a dynamic team of professionals, the ED will build upon an internal culture of trust and appreciation to achieve the tremendous growth and robust pipeline of conservation opportunities currently under development.


Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County is located along the Central Coast of California spanning 110 miles of pristine coastline. The Santa Ynez Mountains rise steeply just behind the coastal cities in the south, and the San Rafael Mountains and Sierra Madre Mountains define in the interior and northeast. Most of the mountainous area falls within the Los Padres National Forest and offers extensive hiking trails, quiet canyons, streams, and stunning ocean views. Santa Barbara County is home to an incredible array of species, sensitive and threatened habitats, and ecological transition zones. This diverse landscape is recognized as part of the 35 global biodiversity hotspots.

Santa Barbara also has a long history of thriving agriculture. Rich loamy soils and moderate coastal climate combine to create micro-climates with near perfect growing conditions for a wide variety of crops including strawberries and other row crops, wine grapes, nuts, avocados, citrus and cannabis. Cattle and other livestock graze on family ranches as they have for generations. Working farms and ranchlands are iconic elements of Santa Barbara County’s landscape and they contribute significantly to its economic vibrancy and underpin its world-renowned food and wine scene.

Like many places in California, Santa Barbara County is experiencing a demographic shift and an expected population boom in the next 25 years that could bring 75,000 additional residents to the county and heighten the pressure on agricultural lands and open space. Currently, historic water limitations, a strong agricultural and ranching tradition, and deeply held conservation values have contributed to the preservation of more open landscape than many other California counties. There is still much to accomplish, and the Land Trust has a robust pipeline of high-value conservation deals under consideration. Among the opportunities is working with Vandenberg Air Force Base to further conservation goals.

Santa Barbara County Conservation Blueprint

The result of over two years of design, research, data collection, interviews, focus groups, and public input meetings, Santa Barbara County Conservation Blueprint and its companion interactive online Atlas and web resources provides a robust tool for multi-benefit land conservation for the county. The Blueprint report focuses exclusively on the land base and terrestrial natural resources with detailed views on Water Resources, Flora and Fauna, Agricultural and Ranchlands and the Community and the Land. Each of its four views focuses on a major land conservation theme but also addresses climate impacts, interconnections to other themes, community values, elements of resilience and stories of multi-benefit solutions to resource challenges. The Land Trust was among the partners who developed this tool and the Land Trust’s Strategic Plan is derived from its findings. With the support of the project funders and continued Land Trust stewardship, the blueprint will evolve as an invaluable tool for countywide planning.

5-Year Strategic Plan

The Land Trust’s Strategic Plan is organized into five frameworks that describe five-year outcomes in areas of Conservation, Stewardship, Education, Development and Organizational Capacity. The plan contains significant detail on strategies and tactics contemplated to achieve the stated outcomes. In addition to affirming the Land Trust’s mission, it set forth these important core values to guide their efforts and ensure integrity:

Homegrown. The Land Trust was founded by people with deep roots in Santa Barbara County, and the organization continues to be funded largely by residents of this diverse region. Our Board of Trustees and staff live here, and we care deeply about the character of our county, its residents, and the unique quality of life that we are privileged to enjoy. We share with our members, partners, funders, and committed landowners, a sense that we are more than just collaborators—we are neighbors.

  • . Conservation requires deep collaboration and strong partnerships. Our success depends on the enduring quality of the relationships we build with people from all over the county. We work to be transparent, responsible, and ethical, and to respect the privacy of those with whom we work.
  • . The legacy of conservation begins with respect for private property rights and for those who have cared for the county’s precious lands for generations. We recognize the landowners whose stewardship provides quality-of-life benefits to our entire community. We strive to create conservation solutions that meet the needs of landowners and their families who chose to work with us, as we strive to provide lasting benefits to the broader community.
  • We protect and care for special places—forever. We take seriously our responsibility to maintain and enhance the quality of life and community character of Santa Barbara County for future generations. A commitment to sustainability and permanence runs through everything we do: negotiating transactions, planning for conservation needs, managing finances to support perpetual stewardship, and most importantly, in developing respectful relationships with our landowner partners.
  • We believe that the best conservation outcomes emerge through creative problem-solving and open, collaborative communication. Our staff and Board are committed to listening and responding to questions, concerns, and information about opportunities from all who care about the conservation of special places. We interact with a network of other land trusts, appraisers, real estate professionals, wildlife managers, farmers, ranchers, educators, and other experts in their fields.
  • Conservation in Santa Barbara County is exceedingly complex. Lasting results depend on broad expertise born of extensive experience. Land Trust staff and Board bring decades of know-how, hundreds of transactions, thousands of hours in negotiation and diligence, and uncounted encounters with challenges of every magnitude and description. Working together, we get the job done.

A major theme in the Strategic Plan is growing the visibility and reach of the Land Trust to ensure the capacity for working across the diverse county. The development of a new Council of Advisors has been undertaken and the ED will be critical in engaging with this new council to further expand key relationships, particularly in the northern part of the county. The shift from opportunistic land conservation to a proactive multi-benefit conservation strategy will require disciplined relationship development efforts to more prospective land partners and funders.

Santa Barbara County has a long held and deep commitment to land conservation. Continuing to steward long-term supporters while including new and diverse conservation opportunities and relationships will mark the success of the strategic plan goals.

Executive Director


Leadership and Strategy

  • Be a visible leader; represent the Land Trust actively, broadly and with integrity, building upon its reputation as a trusted partner;
  • Inspire the community to continue to support all aspects of the Land Trust’s work;
  • Together with local, regional, state and federal partners pursue resources, policies, programs and strategies that will ensure the goals set forth in the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan and the broader mission of the Land Trust;
  • Work closely with the Board to ensure strong board governance and capacity, establish clear lines of communication and organizational transparency; provide well-defined opportunities for committee and staff engagement; and actively inform and engage the Board in issues of importance to the operations and strategy of the organization;
  • Assist the Board in the recruitment, selection and evaluation of Board members and Council of Advisors members and leverage their expertise and networks for the benefit of the Land Trust.

Fundraising and Communications

  • Marshall the resources of the whole organization to raise the funds required to maintain sound operations and facilitate the current land conservation and stewardship goals;
  • Actively participate in fundraising including growing individual support, developing foundation relationships and critical contacts in local, regional, state and federal government and agencies;
  • Work closely with the Director of Development in advancing the Land Trust’s fundraising and volunteer programs;
  • Motivate, orient, and provide ongoing training to support the Board’s and staff’s contributions to the Land Trust’s work and success;
  • Play a lead role in securing funding for land conservation projects;
  • Engage and lead the Council of Advisors to achieve development and outreach goals.

Land Protection, Stewardship and Education Programs

  • Establish and maintain effective working relationships with organizations involved in land conservation; ensure that the Land Trust’s interests are advanced through government relations and work with local, state, and federal officials and agencies;
  • Cultivate and enhance positive relationships with diverse landowners throughout the County; work with the Conservation Director and others to evolve discussions and opportunities for conservation projects;
  • Empower and assist the land conservation staff and volunteers in designing and implementing effective land-acquisition and conservation easement transactions, including developing financing plans, and undertaking due diligence to close transactions;
  • Oversee conservation transactions, monitoring and enforcement and ensure compliance with the highest standards of land trust practice;
  • Ensure that the Land Trust has adequate capacity to provide responsible professional stewardship of land and conservation easements that it holds;
  • Support the Land Trust’s education and restoration programs and deepen generational learning, knowledge, and value of the landscapes of the county.

Internal Leadership and Operational Management

  • Evaluate the Land Trust’s progress in meeting its strategic goals, facilitate any required updates to the strategic plan; create annual work plans for effective implementation;
  • Recruit, nurture, and challenge a motivated professional staff; delegate specific responsibilities with appropriate authority and establish accountability; foster open, positive communications;
  • Lead the Land Trust in prioritizing organizational needs and functions and strategically identify and implement paths to achieving organizational development and growth; build institutional and professional capacity to assure success and stability;
  • Annually develop and monitor the Land Trust’s budget and provide oversight of the fiscal operations of the Land Trust in cooperation with the Board Treasurer, Deputy Director and Operations Manager;
  • Oversee adherence to Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices to maintain accreditation;
  • Oversee development of organizational policies, procedures and systems as needed;
  • Oversee Deputy Director, Operations Manager and Administrative staff to ensure effective management of HR, Accounting, IT, and administrative functions;
  • Ensure clear and effective communication, reporting and feedback between Board and staff though various committees and organizational structures.



A successful Executive Director candidate will likely have:

  • Passion for land conservation; affinity for working lands and the people who depend on it and champion the value of open space for healthy, thriving communities;
  • Experience effectively leading a nonprofit organization of similar size; ideally with experience in conservation of working lands and habitat and the development of trails and recreation spaces;
  • Experience as the face of an organization; well-developed interpersonal skills; superb oral and written communication skills, ability to present ideas clearly and persuasively;
  • Experience in and or ability to learn the nuances of real estate transactions and land conservation including easement transactions, funding, and monitoring requirements;
  • Demonstrated success achieving fundraising goals including developing, sustaining, and identifying new sources of financial support;
  • Evidence of developing and implementing an effective strategy and creative problem-solving;
  • Demonstrated leadership and management skills and can build a team which bridges Board, staff, and volunteers for a united effort to achieve established goals;
  • A history of strong collaboration; someone who is trustworthy and seeks strategic, effective relationships; maintains a high level of tact and confidentiality;
  • Ability to work well under deadlines; exercises good judgment and is able to hear and value alternate opinions and make informed decisions;
  • Strong financial and organizational management skills; a track record of managing on time and on budget;
  • Proficiency with standard software, including MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe products, Internet applications and e-mail; familiarity with geo-spatial data programs helpful;
  • A Bachelor’s degree in related field and ideally, a graduate degree such as JD, MBA, or resource or ag/business management, or equivalent combination of education and experience;
  • Knowledge of and/or experience with the central coast of California and its physical, social, and cultural environments would be advantageous but is not required.


  • Someone who is authentic and inspirational in their work and derives strength from his or her commitment to shared values, love of the land and concern for the communities (plant, animal and human) that are dependent upon the land;
  • Politically astute and able to professionally and respectfully communicate and work with a diverse group of farmers, ranchers, developers, governmental officials, and others critical to the work; nonpartisan with a highly collaborative style;
  • A team builder with both vision and strong management skills; one who can motivate and direct diverse partners while establishing accountability and shared success;
  • Emotionally mature with a good sense of humor, someone who is at ease, confident and competent and genuinely enjoys working with people and appreciates volunteers;
  • An optimistic person who communicates a compelling and inspired vision and sense of core purpose; patient and able to keep the long view while achieve ongoing successes;
  • Someone who highlights and supports the successes of others, builds effective and lasting relationships; a team builder who creates high morale and fosters feelings of belonging;
  • A good listener and strategist; comfortable receiving input from many sources and executing sound decisions and thoughtful plans;
  • Able to accept criticism and deal calmly and effectively with high stress situations; cool under pressure and a settling influence when needed;
  • Resourceful—able to set priorities and act opportunistically;
  • Socially graceful and able to be at ease with a wide range of people;
  • Exercises high ethical standards with honesty, directness, and a good-natured approachability;
  • Able to attend morning, evening, and weekend events/meetings outside of normal office hours.

Compensation and Benefits

The Land Trust offers a competitive salary and benefits package commensurate with experience:

  • Medical, Dental, Disability and Vision Insurance and access to FSA account
  • Retirement plan with employer match
  • Generous paid time off (vacation, sick, and holidays)
  • Generous housing assistance which could include the opportunity to reside in or acquire an interest in a home owned by the organization.

For additional details or to submit your experience for review, please contact;

Nancy Painter

(415) 202- 6240