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The same week it was announced that Downtown Organization executive Maggie Campbell had resigned, Chamber of Commerce President Ken Oplinger announced he’d been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. Oplinger has since been released from St. John’s Hospital in Ventura and said he expects to be back at the job in a couple of days. “News of my demise has been greatly exaggerated,” he said, riffing on the famous line from Mark Twain. “I’m doing really well and I suffered no damage to my heart.”
Efforts to contact Campbell, who ran the Downtown Organization for nearly four years, were not so fruitful, other than a press release announcing her resignation effective January 9. Campbell’s relations with City Hall had long been fraught. She was vocal in expressing concern that not enough police resources were being deployed to deal with aggressive panhandlers; councilmembers, in turn, worried whether Campbell was scaring shoppers away from downtown by accentuating the negative, rather than the possible.
In either case, Campbell took over just as retail sales in Santa Barbara — as throughout the United States — found itself unable to compete with the Amazon-ification of Main Street. In the weeks before Christmas, Campbell reportedly had several explosive encounters with city councilmembers and had effectively left her post by the time the Thomas Fire was choking the life out of Christmas shopping.
Members of the Downtown Organization board, fearful of possible litigation, explained only, “This is an unresolved personnel matter and we can’t discuss it.” The board is currently looking for a new executive. In the meantime, former director Dave Lombardi will serve as interim director.