Cathy Murillo sworn in as SB’s 50th mayor
By Joshua Molina
On a day that was darkened by the tragic mudslides and flooding in Montecito, three council members and a new mayor were sworn into office Jan. 9 in Santa Barbara.
Kristen Sneddon, the top vote-getter in District 4, acknowledged the mood of the moment in her opening comments.
“I know we are in the midst of a devastating natural disaster right now, and my heart is really with the families in need right now, and with gratitude to the first responders and our exemplary city staff and emergency workers,” Sneddon said.
“It’s been quite a whirlwind since the election. We have had fires and now flood, and I got to learn very quickly first-hand how amazing our city is.”
Sneddon, who attended Santa Barbara High School and raised three children with her husband, thanked her family, including her late father-in-law, former Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who she said was very much with her “in spirit.”
Sneddon also thanked former mayors Helene Schneider and Sheila Lodge for their support during her City Council run.
“I treasure the city,” said Sneddon, an environmental science instructor at Santa Barbara City College. “I take this responsibility very seriously. I am here to serve you with an open door and an open heart.”
On the same day, Schneider stepped down because of term limits, and Cathy Murillo, elected in November, took her place as mayor.
Schneider served 14 years on the City Council, including the past eight as mayor.
She was first elected in 2003 as a feminist progressive, alongside Das Williams and Brian Barnwell. Over time she moved to the middle and gained new supporters in the political middle and on the right, who respected her for intellectual acumen and the ability to listen to perspectives other than her own.
Schneider thanked her mother, Diane Sadowy, who has watched every one of her daughter’s public meetings over the past 14 years.
“Being mayor of Santa Barbara is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Schneider said. “The opportunity to serve in such a spectacular place is something I will treasure forever. Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve you as your mayor.”
Murillo also praised Schneider.
“You’re a powerful role model for girls and teens, and young women and middle-aged women and older women, and we sure need that sense of empowerment right now,” Murillo said.
Murillo thanked the community, city staff, first responders and her family. She spoke with the same sense of hope and optimism that she carried during her mayoral campaign, saying she stands ready to lead Santa Barbara to an “ever-brighter” future.
“I hope we can welcome 2018 with renewed spirits and a sense of optimism,” Murillo said. “I am honored to serve as your mayor.
“It is humbling to serve as the first Latina mayor of Santa Barbara,” said Murillo, who delivered part of her speech in Spanish.
Harwood “Bendy” White, who has served more than 30 years for the city, as a councilman, planning commissioner, water commissioner and on other city boards, became emotional during his farewell speech.
“I have been doing this for half of my lifetime,” he said, pausing to pull out Kleenex from his suit pocket.
White thanked a long list of former city employees and public servants, including Don Olson, Brian Barnwell, Bill Mahan, Steve Mack, John Jostes, Grant House, Jim Armstrong and dozens of others.
White then broke into tears: “I want to thank my wife, Kathy, and I want you to stand up, Kathy.”
Eric Friedman and Gregg Hart were also sworn into office. It’s Hart’s fourth term on the council, although they were not consecutive.
“I am proud to be here to serve you all,” Friedman said.
Hart noted that he has lived in Santa Barbara his entire life, and that he was inspired to go into public service by his father, the city’s former library director.
“I am extremely proud of Santa Barbara,” Hart said. “I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent our community and the residents of the 6th District. I look forward to working with all of you to help the citizens of Santa Barbara for the next period of time.”
Councilman Frank Hotchkiss also said goodbye after eight years of service.
“For all the times that you, whoever you are, you came to listen to us, listen to me, I am sure it wasn’t always easy, but I thank you very much for doing it, and I thank you for listening now,” Hotchkiss said.