Cathy Murillo served as Santa Barbara’s Mayor from 2018 to 2021, and is the first Latina ever elected to the Santa Barbara City Council. Under her leadership, Santa Barbara opened a new Children’s Library, launched a Community Choice Energy program, secured funding and site for a new police station, updated the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, revitalized the Westside’s neighborhood association, passed a Just Cause Eviction ordinance and other tenants’ protections, established a Project Labor Agreement policy for city public works projects, focused resources on Downtown economic vitality, initiated development of the Mackenzie Park Off-Leash Dog Area, and formed the City’s COVID-19 Business Advisory Task Force to help businesses recover from the pandemic economy.

Working with community members, Murillo created the Pro-Youth Movement in response to a gang injunction proposed by the City of Santa Barbara and to find solutions to street violence; throughout her 10 years of public service, which began January 2012, Murillo convened regular informal meetings of youth service providers to empower gang-risk families and youth. As Mayor, she served as Chair of the South Coast Youth Safety (Anti-Gang) Partnership, and won the Wendy Davee Peace Builder Award from Pacifica Graduate Institute for mentorship of disadvantaged youth, creating internships at City Hall, and expanding funding for youth employment and leadership programs.

Before being elected to the Santa Barbara City Council, Cathy Murillo was a multi-media news professional. She worked as News and Public Affairs Director for KCSB Radio, teaching broadcast journalism to college students on the UCSB campus, and produced a public access TV show focusing on government and politics. Before that, she was news editor for the Santa Barbara Independent, and news writer for the Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Edition, and the Ventura County Star. She has also worked in the legal profession, and taught theater arts in public schools as an artist-in-the-classroom for the Children’s Creative Project. Murillo has a B.A. in Dramatic Art from UCSB, and is a classically trained stage actor.


  • Wendy Davee Peace Builder Award from Pacifica Graduate Institute for work with gang-risk youth
  • Roses Award from Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee for mentoring youth, especially girls and teens
  • Commendation for Outstanding Service to Casa Esperanza Homeless Center for volunteering at shelter
  • Democratic Values Award from the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party for helping women and people of color get into elected office
  • Media Champion Award from TVSB Public Access Center for supporting local independent media
  • Excellence in Leadership Award from Santa Barbara Youth Council for consistent support of youth council and youth programs

Leadership Positions Held

  • Chair, SBACT / City of Santa Barbara Homelessness Collaborative Steering Committee
  • Chair, South Coast Youth Safety Partnership Policy Team (gang prevention and intervention)
  • Chair, Cities-County Affordable Housing Task Group (working with private non-profit housing developers and the City and County Housing Authorities)
  • Chair, City Council Sustainability Committee (focus on renewable energy, recycling, climate change response)
  • Chair, City Council’s Community Choice Energy Committee
  • Chair, City’s COVID-19 Business Advisory Task Force (working with business owners, commercial property owners, and business organizations)
  • Council Liaison to Downtown Santa Barbara
  • Council Liaison to County’s Elected Leaders Forum on Homelessness
  • Vice Chair, Coast Rail Coordinating Council (improving passenger rail service in Central Coast California)
  • Director, SBCAG, Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (transportation, housing, Census)
  • Director, APCD, Air Pollution Control District (Chair 2019)
  • Director, Partners in Education (County Board of Education program providing paid internships for youth, providing low-income families with computers)

Cathy Murillo

Writer * Mentor * Classroom Guest Speaker
(805) 569-3179