For Eric Peterson, SBCC was the place where he gained confidence in his academic and administrative skills in the pursuit of a career in the fire service. Today, Eric makes fire safety a priority in his role as the fire chief of Santa Barbara County.

Who: Eric L. Peterson

Profession: Fire Chief, Santa Barbara County Fire Department

How long were you at SBCC? 2 years

What was your focus while at SBCC? I was interested in getting my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, and pursuing a career in the fire service. Along the way, I needed to get an associate’s degree. SBCC was the first place I can remember actually enjoying academics. I had a creative writing class where it was required that we read “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger. I remember thinking how great it was that this incredibly moving and hilarious book was required reading, and being thankful for the exposure to something I otherwise would have never known about.

Best Memory? Being young and in shape, running up and down the stairs at La Playa Stadium, and getting to appreciate the amazing view at the top after the workout was over. Being astounded that I was able to go to school at such a beautiful place.

How did the SBCC experience influence your professional path? SBCC gave me confidence in my academic and administrative skills that I would not have gained otherwise. I never cared much about my grades when I was in high school. At SBCC, I was out on my own for the first time, and it was the period in my life where I realized that if I was ever going to be successful, I was going to have to earn decent grades and focus on something other than going to the beach and tending bar. (Also, my mom was a professor in the Communication Department, and I didn’t want to embarrass her too much.) I recently graduated from Cal State Northridge with a master’s degree in public administration. Without my experience at SBCC, that would never have happened.

What are you doing now? Professionally, I am the fire chief of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Personally, I am raising six year old twins with my wife Kit. I am one of the few of my group of high school friends who was lucky enough to be able to stay and make a life here in beautiful Santa Barbara.

How are you making an impact on the world? I’m doing everything I can within my role as fire chief to make our county as safe as possible from a fire and life safety perspective.

Why is SBCC an important educational institution for the Santa Barbara community? SBCC is a jewel in our community and one of the things that makes Santa Barbara such a sought after place to live.

Are you proud to be a Vaquero Alumni? Absolutely! When my family is spending the day at Leadbetter beach, I’ll sometimes grab my kids, point up to the school and say, “Do you know why you are lucky? That is where you will get to spend your first two years of college!”

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