The S.B. Questionnaire: Janet Garufis

Talking Grandmotherhood and Marathons With the President of Montecito Bank &Trust

Janet Garufis
Paul Wellman

Janet Garufis cuts a commanding presence when she walks in the room, and it’s not just her striking gray hair and athletic figure. She’s tremendously confident and truly an open person, intently listening to whoever is talking with her.

Since September 2006, Janet has been president and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, one of Santa Barbara’s most thriving financial institutions, and her leadership continually proves instrumental in lifting the bank’s role in our community as a supporter of vast organizations and causes.

On November 24, Janet will once again emcee the most spectacular philanthropic happening that takes place annually in Santa Barbara. More than 100 nonprofit organizations from the region are invited by Michael Towbes, the bank’s owner and founder, to a luncheon at the Four Seasons Biltmore’s Coral Casino, where they will all receive a check to support their work. Altogether, the donations total $1 million, a simply remarkable commitment to empowering various efforts at making Santa Barbara a better place.

Here, one of Santa Barbara’s most exceptional people answers the Proust questionnaire.

What is your greatest fear?

Hmmm, I’m pretty fearless. But letting people down or not accomplishing what I set out to do are sources of anxiety.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Most would probably say my gray hair or my smile. But I think it’s my willingness and capacity to help improve even the most challenging of situations. I am very solution-oriented.

What do you like most about your job?

Mike Towbes has given me the opportunity to implement his vision for Montecito Bank & Trust: to be an integral part of the growth and economic vitality of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and make the communities we serve the best places to live and work, by being the best bank in the region. There are so many things to like: the opportunity to fully exercise my skills and talents; the tremendous opportunity to provide a space for others to grow and develop their talents; the capacity to do good and the opportunity for continuous personal challenge, growth and development. It’s not a job, it’s a labor of love!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Love of family and friends, work that rewards and nourishes, health to enjoy all of it, and a delicious Italian dinner.

Who do you most admire?

My maternal grandmother, Cordelia Steinbaugh Karl. She was born on a farm in Youngstown, Ohio in 1888. She finished her schooling in 6th grade so she could help on the farm, gave birth to seven children, and outlived all but two of them. She did whatever she needed to do to make each day the best it could be for her family and her community and never complained about anything. Although she had little in material wealth, she always had something/some way to help others. She knew who she was and what mattered. She was the “wealthiest” and wisest woman I’ve known.

What is your greatest extravagance?


What is your current state of mind?

Happy, engaged, inspired, motivated.

What is the quality you most like in people?

There are two: Authenticity (because it embodies honesty, integrity, straightforwardness) and kindness (because it embodies generosity, concern, and awareness of others).

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Meanspiritedness and dishonesty.

What do you most value in friends?

Their acceptance of me as a flawed human being, their unconditional friendship, and their love. I especially love the friends I see rarely, but when I do, it’s as if we had just been together. We pick up right where we left off. What a gift!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

YES! It’s my favorite word.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Musical. I would love to have made my career as a singer, but banking was way more practical!

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

I would be more patient.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

After motherhood, becoming a marathoner. My parents told me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. In the academic and business world, I have worked hard and generally found that to be true. But I always believed that athletic ability was something you were born with and so never really tried. I have loved becoming an athlete!

Where would you most like to live?

Santa Barbara, right where I am.

What is your most treasured possession?

I’m not one for gathering possessions, but what I treasure is for sentimental value: a sapphire wedding ring, photos of family, a string of pearls that was a wedding anniversary gift, my father’s favorite recipes.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My new baby granddaughter. She is pure joy!

What is your motto?

Carpe Diem!

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I can’t think of any one figure. I have been influenced by many mentors, teachers, and inspirational stories in my life.

On what occasion do you lie?

Rarely, as I believe honesty is a best policy. However, there are occasions when a “version” of the truth, not necessarily a “lie,” is kinder than the whole truth and the consequence does no harm.


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