As the city of Goleta prepares for life as an incorporated area of the county, all eyes are on the city’s first mayor, Margaret Connell.
On Nov. 6, Connell and four other Goleta residents – Jean Blois, Cynthia Brock, Jack Hawxhurst and Jonny Wallis – were elected to the newly formed Goleta City Council. For the past three years the group has worked to successfully pass the city of Goleta on the ballot.
“I didn’t know if this was something I really wanted to do because it does really tie down your life,” Connell said. “I am feeling pretty good. I am beginning to take care of business and beginning to realize how much there is we have to take care of … I am going to have to find someone to help me with all these small little details. I don’t think I ever imagined being the first mayor, but here I am.”
Connell became interested in the issue of Goleta cityhood around 1996, when citizens brought forth a proposal for the city of Goleta Beach, a plan that included Isla Vista. The proposal never made it to the ballots.
Three years ago, Connell joined Goleta Now!, a advocate group for Goleta cityhood. After the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved Goleta Now!’s proposed city boundaries for the November 2001 election, Connell decided to run for mayor.
“Margaret has been just great in her support of cityhood and the ways she has used her skills and resources to move cityhood along. It has been really hard at times [but] she really hung in there,” Brock said.
Raised in Devon, England, Connell graduated with a degree in zoology from Oxford University. She met her husband, UCSB professor emeritus Joe Connell, in Scotland while he was conducting research. The Connells moved to Goleta from Scotland in 1956, and Margaret Connell was appointed to a teaching position in UCSB’s biology department. The couple raised their four children in Goleta and have nine grandchildren.
“She is a very community-minded individual who has been deeply involved in all aspects of the community and the region for over 30 years, going on 40. She is a really nice and experienced person; we are lucky to have her leading us in this kickoff,” Hawxhurst said.
Connell began her political involvement in 1975, with her election to the Santa Barbara School Board. She served four terms with the school board until 1992. During that time, she also founded the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Commission alongside Santa Barbara mayor-elect Marty Blum and Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara).
“The goal was to elect women who were advocates for [women] and to be supportive of feminist issues and issues of concern to women,” Connell said.
In 1992, Connell was also one of the first people to serve on the board for the local Planned Parenthood. She then joined the staff as the Public Affairs Director where she helped advocate reproductive issues until her retirement in 1994.
“Margaret is not a stranger to any of this kind of stuff,” Brock said. “It is kind of reassuring to have someone carrying out meetings and leading us in our first year who has had this great deal of relevant experience.”