The S.B. Questionnaire: Matt LaBrie

Catching Up with Downtown Santa Barbara’s Manager Extraordinaire

Matt LaBrie
Paul Wellman

About a decade ago, I introduced myself to Matt LaBrie. I was having weekly breakfast meetings with friends at the Cajun Kitchen on Chapala Street, and Matt would always be in the adjacent booth, holding court with his pals. It’s the kind of start to a friendship that may only happen in smaller cities like Santa Barbara.

Matt runs Lynx Management Inc., which manages commercial properties in Santa Barbara. He is also the chair of the Downtown Parking Committee, an advisory group appointed by the City Council to help oversee the downtown parking lots. And on top of that, he serves as an officer of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Organization.

Matt’s a very down-to-earth kind of guy, humble and easygoing and deeply committed to his family and to the City of Santa Barbara.

He took time away from his life of management to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

What is it that you like most about your job?

My work has been all about people and their place of productivity: the buildings they occupy. I’ve always enjoyed that process of getting to know tenants and their priorities — of understanding the complexities of the buildings our clients own and how the two best complement each other. I also really love our town, and my work allows me to be immersed in the bustle of business, the arts, food, and local culture. There is so much to see and do in downtown Santa Barbara.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Wow … well, knowing you are doing exactly what you were created to do, at exactly the right time with exactly the right people. Where living out your calling in life fills you with great joy and purpose. I also like what one of your previous interviewees alluded to with regard to the role of sadness and other struggles: that it is difficult to fully experience and appreciate happiness without having wrestled with the other stuff too. I suppose they go hand in hand.

What is your greatest fear?

Fortunately there’s not much knee-knocking fear in my life, for which I am very grateful. I suppose I’d have to confess to a fear of squandering time or of missing the more meaningful opportunities in my day. Do you ever feel like there are so many good things to pursue that you might over commit and miss an opportunity to participate in something really great?

Who do you most admire

Lately I have been so impressed with my eldest (teenage) son. I have always been proud of him, but lately I have noticed how he just gets it. He’s got wisdom and grace that I certainly didn’t have at his age. It just makes me want to be around him that much more.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Oh, without a doubt, taking time off to head to the islands on our boat. Whenever I can, I’ll grab a buddy; my wife, Wendy; or a couple of my kids and play hooky all day out there. And when I eventually get back to the mainland, I am totally recharged. There’s no phones, no cars, no schedule out there; it’s perfect. Wait a minute, can I go back up and change my answer to perfect happiness?

What is your current state of mind?

Distracted, dreaming about being at the islands.

What is the quality you most like in people?

A good-natured curiosity and a love of truth. I find those people so encouraging to be with.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Self-centeredness. You know those people who just honestly aren’t interested in anyone but themselves? They can feign interest for a while, but it’s hard to keep their true passion under wraps for long. Yuck, no fun to be with.

What do you most value in friends?

Accountability, though it’s hard for me to take sometimes. I appreciate close friends who have the courage to call me out, and the love and patience to hang in there with me as I squirm. It takes a long-term investment and an eternal perspective to walk that road with me, and I am deeply grateful for the friends in my life.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Maybe that I am a Christian? It is at the center of who I am; upon which everything else is built. I hope I’m also remembered as an encourager, a husband, a father, a man who took time to invest in people.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“I think” … of course I think. But I don’t need to start every opinionated sentence with it. “I THINK I’d like to go to Tupelo or Saigon for dinner tonight” should come out, “I’d like to go to Tupelo or Saigon for dinner tonight. Care to join me?”

Which talent would you most like to have?

I can carry a tune fair enough, but I have always wished I could make music that would move the soul. I so admire artists and musicians who’ve mastered their medium and can channel such great emotion through their art.

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

Maybe I’d give myself ripped abs, or a photographic memory. Although, I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. Maybe you should ask Wendy this question. On second thought, maybe not.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Celebrating 20 years of marriage this year is pretty big. But I confess it hasn’t been that tough. I can’t ever get enough of her.

Where would you most like to live?

Santa Barbara, of course! Though really, any castle in the clouds would get dull without the relationships and everyday life I’ve come to love here.

What is your most treasured possession?

Can family count as a possession? Okay then: my family and my faith.

Who makes you laugh the most?

Hands down my youngest son, who is 5 years old. I can’t help it; he cracks me up. The time he missed the end of the bench and toppled over with a plate of food, the time he dashed from the bathtub to his room and lost traction going around the corner and wiped out in the buff. It might not be so funny except that he always comes up laughing his head off. The kid is made of rubber.

What is your motto?

You are what you eat, so put the good stuff in there! Mind, soul, and body.


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