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Maggie Campbell

Paul Wellman

Maggie Campbell


The S.B. Questionnaire: Maggie Campbell

Chatting Wild West and Civic Passion with Downtown Santa Barbara’s Executive Director


Though named Downtown Santa Barbara’s executive director less than a year ago, Maggie Campbell is already a formidable and innovative presence on State Street — case in point, last December’s smashing and greatly produced Holiday Parade.

Professionally, Maggie is highly respected for her leadership of similar organizations in Pasadena and St. Louis, and personally, she is am amazing listener, making you feel as if you were the most important person in the room. Many a day, you can see her walking the downtown corridor speaking with merchants and tourists alike.

She took time to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I admire the women of the Wild West — not so much the Calamity Janes, but the pioneering women who crossed the country with their families, with little more than a wing and a prayer, and a dream for something better. They helped settle the frontier, had to deal with their cowboys, their animals, the Indians, and anything else that came their way, with few resources. I could have never done what they did, but I admire and respect their contributions to our American West legends and way of life today.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I had planned on trading in my older car when I got to Santa Barbara, but I changed my mind. I did a lease on a horse instead. This extravagance is my new therapy.

Who do you most admire?

My dad. He lost his own parents as an adolescent, and he and his siblings were split up and raised by other family members. He had to grow up early, and made many sacrifices along the way. My dad had a successful military career as a commanding officer. He was a gentle giant, and I watched him lead his troops and manage many tough situations.

Our family followed him around the globe, moving every couple of years. While he was gone a lot during the Vietnam War, he was always there for us, and he kept the family together no matter what. My parents have been married for 58 years, and while his work with the Air Force was important, our family was always the most important thing in his life.

He is absolutely my hero and my role model.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I have a strong drive to succeed, manifested by high levels of determination (I think I got that from my dad). While this strong drive comes in handy most of the time, I am realizing that I can temper it a bit and still be successful.

Where would you most like to live?

I have lived a lot of places in the world, and my answer is, right here in Santa Barbara. We were visitors here every summer from 2000 to 2006, I would have never imagined that I would be given the opportunity to move here and make a life, and make a difference in the community.

What do you like most about your job?

I love that my work leads to tangible, visible results. Making cities better places is my passion, and I am really enjoying getting to know Downtown Santa Barbara, its history, its people, and the amazing fabric of this community.

What is your idea of prefect happiness?

Being with my extended family and friends during the holidays, gathered in front of a campfire in the woods or in the mountains…..and if we can ski the next morning in fresh snow, perfection.

What is your greatest fear?

I live with a fear that cannot be conquered: wasps, mostly because I am allergic. My greatest fear would be getting tangled up with a couple of wasps in a remote location. It wouldn’t end well for me.

What is your current state of mind?

Grateful, and excited. Learning how to relax more and doing things just for me.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Having a sense of humor and being grounded in what is really important in life.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

When people abuse their power or influence for personal or financial gain, while pretending to do it for the right reasons.

What do you most value in friends?

A good ear, the time to spend together, being able to be myself with my friends.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

My staff says, I am saying “I have an idea” a lot……..

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’ve always fancied myself a musician — although I cannot formally read music, and people pay me not to sing.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

One thing? Okay, I would like to stop aging NOW.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Raising my two amazing children as a single mom and watching them become young adults is by far my greatest achievement. Through it all, surviving life’s challenges and curves and always seeming to land on my feet would be a close second.

What is your most treasured possession?

Mostly family heirlooms and photo albums. I do have a 40-year-old classical guitar and my grandpa’s saddle that I’ve dragged around all these years, but it’s mostly my boxes of family pictures and family antique books that I would save in a fire.

Who makes you laugh the most?

These days, my staff is keeping me laughing. I also try to laugh at myself on a regular basis; that’s not hard. And animals can always make me smile and laugh.

What is your motto?

Not sure they count as mottos, but I do have a couple of favorite quotes. The first is an abridged quote from one of America’s greatest architects and planners, Chicago’s Daniel Burnham: “Make no little plans, for they have no magic in them to stir men’s souls.” The second quote is much more practical, from author Robert Heinlein: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

On what occasion do you lie?

I try hard to be honest and forthright in all my dealings, but when the full truth will do serious damage or hurt people unnecessarily, perhaps an omission or a version of the truth would be best.



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