A local Santa Barbara businessman with an accomplished and unusual background has said he plans to throw his hat into the race for mayor of Santa Barbara, bringing the number of candidates to four.
Aside from acting as President and Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce for 18 years, prospective mayoral candidate Steve Cushman has been a professional pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, a soldier in Europe during the Vietnam War, a leader of San Diego State’s Athletic Department, a racquetball promoter, an entrepreneur, a sculptor and a poet.
This November, Cushman hopes to out compete Helene Schneider, Iya Falcone, and Justin “JMike!” Michael and add mayor of Santa Barbara to his list of achievements.
With the slogan “It’s time for Santa Barbara to be everyone’s business,” Cushman will officially declare his candidacy on June 1 at Moby Dick Restaurant on Stearns Wharf.
Cushman, a UCSB alumni and Democrat, has never held an elected position. This fact notwithstanding, he said believes his unique experiences in business and government give him the edge at a time when the economy is on everyone’s mind.
“Well, the reason I decided to run for mayor — and I never thought that I would run for any elected office – is because the economy is so difficult right now,” Cushman said. “In the next four years, it will be very difficult for everybody. For business, for schools, even for the ordinary working person. It will be a very difficult transition to make,”
“It seemed to me that it’s time we needed someone with a business background to run for office. Somebody used to making difficult economic decisions,” he continued. “That’s my background, that’s what I’ve done.”
Cushman cited his business experience, including running a racquetball promotion company that was eventually purchased by Bally Total Fitness and overseeing the remodeling of State Street as leader of The Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, as crucial knowledge for city leadership.
“We all understand we don’t have as much money but we have to also understand that we need to do a little more and that we’re not going to get paid any more for it,” Cushman said. “I think that’s the attitude that has to be engendered in government.”
Aside from the budget, Cushman said he hopes to address youth violence, a growing concern among city voters.
“I think people are very concerned about gangs and youth violence,” he said. “It’s a tough issue. I think there’s a way to approach it and I think we’re on the right track with working to get kids back into school and think we need to tell the police chief that we’re not going to tolerate any violence of any kind in Santa Barbara.”
In addition to being a businessman, Cushman is also a sculptor and poet. Cushman began writing poetry in high school and completed his first multimedia piece around 1970. In addition to doing his own art, he also served as associate director at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles for three years.
“I’ve always been an artist,” Cushman said.
However, Cushman said he is willing to sacrifice his artistic endeavors in favor of seeking the position of mayor.
“It’s time for all of us to get involved.”