Hal Conklin circa 2017 | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Former Santa Barbara Mayor Hal Conklin experienced an unspecified medical emergency last Sunday, August 30, that required surgery from which he is currently recuperating. Santa Barbara School Board member Laura Capps, a longtime family friend of Conklin’s, said Conklin and his family are now evaluating “the best course of treatment.” They are asking for “supportive thoughts and prayers,” but also that their privacy be respected.

Conklin ran for mayor three years ago and lost to Cathy Murillo in a five-way race. Prior to that, he enjoyed a long tenure on the City Council, first serving in 1977 before stepping down in 1993. Over the years, Conklin — both in and out of office — played a crucial role as ambassador and advocate for the arts as an agent of downtown revitalization. 

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Conklin — as chief spokesperson and organizer for S.B. Leadership, a new consortium of downtown real estate and business interests — created a new Zoom venue where every Wednesday afternoon group members could meet, greet, and, in some instances, grill city councilmembers and other movers and shakers at City Hall. The group has focused much of its energy on removing the regulatory obstacles making it hard for new businesses to get off the ground. To this end, Conklin has brought to bear his experience inside City Hall coupled with an inviting and easygoing congeniality.

Since starting in this position more than a year ago, Conklin has been regarded by some City Hall watchers as a likely mayoral candidate next year. When asked about such ambitions, Conklin has steadfastly kept all options open while never confirming anything. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mayor Cathy Murillo terms out at the end of her current term.

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