Santa Barbara’s municipal general election, held on Nov. 2, culminated in a win for Randy Rowse as mayor.
James Joyce III was the runner-up with almost 26% of the vote. Incumbent Cathy Murillo came in third, garnering 24.5% of the vote, according to the county’s official election results.
Rowse, described by the Santa Barbara Independent as a moderate candidate with mysterious political convictions informed mainly by his personal experiences, steps into his new mayoral responsibility with nine years of City Council service in his back pocket. He also owned and operated the Paradise Cafe in downtown Santa Barbara for 37 years.
With the election of a new mayor, Santa Barbara faces the possibility for change in the State Street layout, environmental policies and strategies to fight homelessness.
Dr. Katherine Bryant, political science professor at Westmont, commented on the importance of the recent local elections despite the fact that citizens often overlook them in favor of state or federal elections. “Local elections can often have a more direct impact on our daily lives than we might imagine. Our next mayor will make critical decisions about key issues such as infrastructure, development and education.”
Rowse plans to bring “firm leadership, energy and a commitment to non-partisan focus” to Santa Barbara, according to his campaign website. He emphasized some of the city’s most pressing issues, including “our reemergence from the pandemic shutdown, attention to our public areas and careful stewardship of the myriad of capital projects in the pipeline.”
Even with a four-year term, mayors have limited power in the city. Much of the role consists in the mayor’s effectiveness in leadership.
Dr. Bryant acknowledged the difficulties the newly elected mayor will face, saying, “There’s no doubt that the outcome will determine much of how Santa Barbara deals with ongoing questions and challenges … Clearly, the task won’t be an easy one.”
The mayor of Santa Barbara heads a team of six city council members, who also serve for four years. Among the council members elected Tuesday are Kristen Sneddon for District 4, which includes north Santa Barbara toward Montecito, and Meagan Harmon for District 6, which encompasses much of downtown surrounding State Street.
While the election results will not be certified for almost a month, remaining votes are not expected to alter Rowse’s win.