Mark Whitehurst: Challenger, Mayor, Santa Barbara

By Nick Masuda   |   October 5, 2021

A native of Iowa, Mark Whitehurst has made his impact on the Santa Barbara community through the use of his VOICE – the newspaper publication, that is.

Whitehurst is a man of the world, having taught in Australia, while also working in Oregon at his brother’s newspaper before relocating to Santa Barbara some 27 years ago.

He’s taken in some of the area’s best education, studying at both the Santa Barbara School of Law, as well as attaining a certificate in mediation from UCSB.

And now he’s looking to take on the ultimate mediator role: the Mayor of Santa Barbara, where he is taking on incumbent Cathy Murillo, as well as fellow challengers in James Joyce, Matt Kilrain, Randy Rowse, and Deborah Schwartz.

While a relative newcomer to the political scene, Whitehurst has spent time as an SBCC Continuing Education instructor, as well as active in the nonprofit sector.

Each of the six candidates were asked six key questions facing the city, with the Montecito Journal and Sonos partnering to expand upon this with a debate on September 29 that is available on demand at mon

Here are Whitehurst’s responses:

What is the most important issue facing the city?

Economic revitalization is the most important issue facing Santa Barbara. Following an economic downturn and a pandemic, the city has about a million square feet of unused retail space and is in need of a marketing plan and more. After 38 years in marketing and three successful start-ups, I begin by asking, “Where is the energy?” 

In Santa Barbara it can be found in the environment, culture, architecture, health, and education. In short, these are the economic engines in place and each comes with lots of energy. Santa Barbara needs to market these engines using a sustainable and green model.

This city acts like a seven-headed hydra… how will you cut through this dysfunction and bring the council together in order to build some consensus?

As the council and mayor develop a strong agenda addressing the needs of each district, a collaborative atmosphere can be developed. This strong agenda and subsequent supporting budgets will create a positive direction that overshadows the peripheral negativity that has been present. As decisions are to be made, my role will first be to facilitate listening to needs and then to pull together the council to take decisive action. 

This requires collaborative planning and relationship building with all the key players, both council and city administration to build consensus at City Hall.

“Economic revitalization is the most important issue facing
Santa Barbara. Following an economic downturn and a pandemic, the city has about a million square feet of unused retail space and is in need of a marketing plan and more. After 38 years in marketing and three successful start-ups, I begin by asking, ‘Where is the energy?’”
– Mark Whitehurst

Santa Barbara area is heavily reliant upon tourism; what is your plan to supplement that in case of other natural disasters or lack of travel? What are you going to do about bringing in good businesses that pay good wages?

I will encourage a multi-prong approach to addressing economic stability, including locals shopping local and valuing what the community already offers. Recruited new businesses need to have marketing plans to attract locals and visitors alike. The city needs to make it as easy as possible for businesses to get their doors open quickly. Business organizations and Visit Santa Barbara need to collaborate on marketing plans. Building community is an attitude. Residents will need to see the value in being a part of the Santa Barbara Community to sustain its economic vitality. 

Do you think Santa Barbara would be better served as a city manager-run city, or a mayor-run city?

I believe our city needs a team, made up of both the council and the administration, to develop an agenda and budget which has the city’s best interests at heart. The mayor should be the facilitator for these important discussions, but a facilitator with a vision that encourages others to share in that vision. When there is no clear goal, the city administration will move forward with maintenance details as the center of their agenda and improvements will not move forward.

Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know.

In the 1980s, I was the pastor (a lay minister) of an inner-city church in Kansas City, Missouri, that worked with Haitian refugees and the Cuban Mariel boat people. We helped to integrate them into the city’s workforce and community activities. The congregation grew from 50 to 200 and was highly diverse. I helped develop programs and worship services that were inclusive and intergenerational.

We believe that one must be willing to lose in order to win. Can you give us an example of a brave position you have taken on principle that cost you politically or personally?

As the publisher of a weekly paper in Oregon, I took an editorial stand supporting the construction of a state-run rehabilitation facility for a nearby prison. The new facility would have provided hundreds of jobs, residual financial benefits, and a pilot social program. This editorial position cost the paper thousands of dollars in lost advertising revenue, pulled subscriptions, and political capital.

A similar situation occurred locally with Voice Magazine, which took a stand against fracking in Santa Barbara County and refused any of the millions of advertising dollars they spent in the publications to support fracking.

Please list all endorsements to date.

Key community figures: Larry Feinberg, Nancy Gifford, Joan Rutkowski, Bela Bacsi, Jeanne Bacsi, Jan Baker, Jessika Cardinal, John Lawrence, Nicol Anandi, Deedee de Gelia, Elizabeth U. Flanagan, Chris Fletcher, Ruth Ellen Hoag, Francine Kirsch, Kerry Methner, Mary Dee Thompson, John Whitehurst, Jan Ziegler, William C. Knapp, Susan K. Knapp, Jack Hira, Susan Hira, Kevin Brun, Jeanette Casillas, Shelly Gardner, Connie Henze, Deanna Methner, Cheryl Peters, Eli Quesada, Collen Quesada, Connie Bills, Lisa Richards, Scott Richards


You might also be interested in...

  • Woman holding phone

    Support the
    Santa Barbara non-profit transforming global healthcare through telehealth technology