The S.B. Questionnaire: Georgette Friedman

Inside the Mind of the Downtown Organization's Operations Manager

Georgette Friedman
Paul Wellman (file)

“The streets are packed with tourists!!!” Georgette Friedman exclaims excitedly in her weekly email to the volunteer hosts who man the tables set up every weekend to welcome visitors to Santa Barbara.

As operations manager of the Downtown Organization, Friedman is the commander-in-chief of the battalion of volunteers who welcome cruise ships and weekenders to our city. She thoroughly instructs every volunteer on everything you need to know about welcoming out-of-towners and advising them on how to best enjoy our gorgeous downtown. Her enthusiasm about Santa Barbara is exuberant — her eyes widen, her arms rise over her head.

Friedman is also hard to miss during the annual Downtown Holiday Parade. She’s the one moving like a Tasmanian devil, with clipboard in hand, helping to mobilize the hundreds of volunteers who bring so many smiles to the child in all of us. Friedman is one of the reasons why our downtown corridor is so vibrant.

How do you feel when you see visitors arriving in Santa Barbara?

I get excited and very curious to know more about them: Why are they here? Where are they going to go? What are they going to do? Whenever I am out and about, I often offer people a downtown map — I always have some on me. I love offering directions and suggestions especially when people look lost and confused and aren’t expecting someone just to come right up and help. I love doing that!

How would you like visitors to Santa Barbara to think of this city?

This is my hometown. I was born and raised here. I want them to think of it that same way. We have an amazing small-town feel and still have the benefit of amazing food, festivals, events, culture, and great shopping, There is always something special going on throughout the year. There is no wrong time to come to Santa Barbara.

It’s a place that has something to offer everyone, the best the U.S. has to offer while maintaining a casual classiness.

Who do you most admire?

I most admire volunteers. Anyone that is willing to donate their most precious possession, time, in order to help others is amazing. There isn’t always apparent rewards for volunteering, and those people truly are remarkable.

What is your current state of mind?

Enjoying the calm before the storm. September to December are very busy for me at work, due to the hosts, Shop Spree, 11 cruise ships, mixer, holiday events, and the parade.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing my voice.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Quite a few years ago, I became very interested in cooking. Now that my 86-year-old father lives with me, I have been focusing on quality, local and organic ingredients, and innovative new cooking gadgets, equipment, and small appliances.

What is the quality you like most in people?

A willingness to open oneself to infinite possibilities.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

A lack of common sense, laziness, being inconsiderate.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Always” and “never.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could type without looking at the keys, but I am not sure that is a talent. I have always wished I could carry a tune.

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

I could be more patient and less anxious. It is difficult for me to sit still for long periods of time.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Greatest achievement is a work in progress. I am working to give back to my family, friends, and community as much as it has given to me. I want to make a difference in people’s lives by giving my love, attention, good spirit, and hard work.

Where would you most like to live?

Right where I am.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have my grandmother Gertrude’s ring that she wanted me to have because it was the diamond that my grandfather George proposed to her with. I am the namesake — they kept trying for a boy, so finally it was George or Georgette. My parents were done. I’m number six!

Also, my dog Julie. She is an 11-year-old bichon frise that I have had since she was six weeks old.

What/who makes you laugh the most?

My sisters and I have amazing relationships. My sisters and I have always been very close; we can laugh hysterically for no reason at all. As we care for our aging parents together, its that laughter that pulls us through all the challenges.

What is your motto?

Take the Time to Laugh Everyday. I actually use that on my profile page!

What does Santa Barbara mean to you?

Santa Barbara is home. Family, security, familiarity — for me it’s a place routed in memories. No matter where I go, I have some great memory from different times in my life; from the pony rides or the Fourth of July pits at Leadbetter Beach, Santa Barbara is a very special place for me.

My first job was working in my family’s business as a Christmas gift wrapper in Piccadilly Square in 1976. And 37 years later, I work less than a block away. It’s also a place that never gives up on its neighbors and pulls together as a community when fires and quakes rattle us.


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