“It’s good being here” says Kirsten McLaughlin, the market vice president of Santa Barbara for Cox Communications, “getting to live here and work here and make a difference.”
She’s reflecting about her work in the community, serving on the boards and committees for numerous nonprofits, including Partners in Education, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, the Business Giving Roundtable Advisory Committee, the S.B. Chamber Business Leaders Council, and the Junior League of Santa Barbara. She’s perhaps most proud of sitting on the steering committee for the South Coast Business & Technology Awards. “This one is particularly meaningful to me because it benefits the S.B. Scholarship Foundation and I was a foundation scholarship recipient back in the day when I was heading to college!” she tells excitedly.
Kirsten is very centered and present while conversing over a cup of tea at The French Press on State Street. She was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and both of her parents worked for SBCC. “For a while, I thought I was going to be a teacher,” says Kirsten, who attended San Marcos High, where she played water polo. She also participated in Youth in Government, a statewide program for high school students that takes them to Sacramento, where they learn how to craft legislation. “That got me interested in politics,” explains Kirsten.
She studied political science at UC Berkeley, interned for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and, upon graduation, became a field representative for the senator in parts of Los Angeles and Orange County. She learned that she liked “the policy side of things, but not the politics,” so studied public policy at UCLA for graduate school.
She got engaged to her future husband, who was living in Orange County, and then lived there for almost eight years, working on government relations and public affairs for a water district. But she longed to return to Santa Barbara, and since her husband works from home, they were able to find a good fit at the Goleta Water District. She worked there for a year-and-a-half, and then was hired in 2014 to be the public affairs manager for Cox.
In 2016, she was promoted to her current position as the chief spokesperson for the Santa Barbara market. That makes her the primary contact for government officials, community partners, and the media. “What I’ve always loved about my community, and I’ve never experienced anything like it, is that people deeply care about it, and you see it,” she explains.
Kirsten McLaughlin answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you like most about your job?
I get to represent an amazing company that walks the talk in its dedication to its employees, customers, and community, in the town where I was born and raised. I’m pretty lucky!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Traveling the world with my husband — even better if I could figure out a way to bring my dog along.
What is your greatest fear?
I have an oddly irrational fear of big bugs.
Who do you most admire?
Such a difficult question, since I am fortunate to have so many people in my life who inspire me. But right now, I’d say it’s one of my closest friends. She has been through a lot in the past couple of years, from work challenges, to health scares, to personal tragedy, and has conducted herself with amazing grace and poise and continues to thrive, despite the hurdles life keeps throwing her way. When I’m looking for guidance in decisions and reactions to things going on in my life, she is often my north star.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel! Which generally includes really good wine, food, and adventure.
What is your current state of mind?
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Not surprisingly, but disingenuousness and hypocrisy. I appreciate people being upfront and honest, and don’t have a lot of patience or time for those who want to play games.
What do you most value in friends?
The ability to be real, to talk about all kinds of different things, and just have fun together.
What is your most marked characteristic?
People tell me it’s my energy.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“It is what it is.”
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’ve always wished I could sing. And sound good doing it.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I was better at relaxing and truly letting things go. I also always wanted to be an Olympian, but at this point, I think I’ve missed my window.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
It may sound cheesy, but my marriage.
Where would you most like to live?
Santa Barbara! But if I had to live somewhere else, New Zealand.
What is your most treasured possession?
I’d say my dog, but she’s more a member of the family than a possession. I have a beautiful teddy bear that my aunt had made out of my grandmother’s mink coat (which, of course, none of us wanted) after my grandmother passed away. The coat became three bears: for my mom, my aunt, and me. It’s pretty special.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My godson and unofficial nieces. They are a riot!
What is your motto?
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I was totally stuck on this one. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I took an online “random historical figure personality test” to get some inspiration. It told me I’m like Leonardo da Vinci. I’m not sure I agree…
On what occasion do you lie?
When I’m trying to surprise someone, but I’m not very good at it.