ANALYSIS: What Will New Mayor Mean For Business?

Santa Barbara apparently has a new direction in the form of the mayor-elect: former city councilman Randy Rowse, the first man to claim that seat in three decades. 

A two-term councilman, Rowse is also a three-decade businessman who ran the Paradise Café. He could be seen bussing tables, but gave most of the business over to his spouse after initially elected to office. 

Make no doubt about it. Rowse is a pro-business elected official. Perhaps he’s the first person in years who can be called that. And, that comes at a key time since Santa Barbara is in dire need of business leadership. By the way, Rowse won the mayoral race with 40 percent of the vote, which means 60 percent of the voters did not favor him. 

However, it appears the business community did. 

He calls himself non-partisan with a quite liberal city council to preside over. Rowse had the backing of top business leaders, such as Pete Jordano, supplier of most of the food and beverages to restaurants in town and elsewhere. Rowse raised some $260,000 in his campaign war chest. 

While the mayor has just one vote on the city council, he still lines up the meeting agenda and has other powers. 

On the other hand, incumbent Mayor Cathy Murillo, who fished third in the race, raised a bit more than $140,000 and garnered Democratic Party support. This is the second time in a year that she has lost a race after losing a bid for a state Assembly seat earlier. Mayoral contender James Joyce III raised the least amount of campaign funds in the race, but finished ahead of Murillo. 

It should be remembered that four years ago former Deckers Brands chief Angel Martinez raised more than $300,000 in his unsuccessful mayoral bid and finished fourth. Martinez refused to court support within city hall, while Rowse knows the ropes quite well. 

In other developments, city council challenger Nina Johnson lost to incumbent downtown district Councilmember Meagan Harmon. Johnson has worked as a senior assistant to the city administrator and has been in city hall for some 25 years.  If Johnson leaves her position now, that means the council has to find a new city administrator (Paul Casey left earlier this year), an assistant and a new police chief. 

Rowse and the rest of the council members have their work cut out for them in the wake of Covid-19, the future of State Street and the need for a new police station, among other issues. 

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