Santa Barbara Councilmember Helene Schneider was surrounded by her family and friends at Dargan’s Irish Pub downtown when she learned that she had been elected the new mayor of Santa Barbara.

Schneider garnered nearly 45.8 percent of the votes in last week’s election, defeating opponent and fellow councilmember Dale Francisco. The mayor-elect has been involved in local politics since she arrived in Santa Barbara in the early ’90s, serving on several committees and on city council for two terms.

Schneider said she was appreciative of the support she received from the community throughout the course of the election.

“I was very grateful, certainly, to the community and to the voters,” Schneider said. “It was very gratifying to see it come to a successful conclusion.”

Schneider’s role in local politics began when she moved to Santa Barbara in 1992 with her soon-to-be-husband David Greenberg, who started work on his Ph.D. at UCSB while she worked at the local Planned Parenthood. She was later hired as their manager of human resources, which helped spark her interest in Santa Barbara poli-tics.

“Issues related to reproductive rights were very important to me,” Schneider said. “And as I was working at Planned Parenthood, I got involved in local campaigns.”

Schneider further tapped into her passion for women’s reproductive rights through involvement with the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

“I’m very proud of my voting record when it comes to environmental protections,” Schneider said. “The city actually has reduced its energy use to 10 percent below the protocols, and we’ve done that two to three years before the goal.”

Schneider’s involvement in local issues helped her make connections around Santa Barbara, and when a spot on the city council opened up in 2003, she ran a successful campaign and was elected to a four-year term. She was reelected for the second time before running for mayor.

While on the council, Schneider made a point to reform the city plan for assisting the homeless. Now Santa Barbara is on a 10-year plan to improve in that area.

“[The plan] really focuses on the very complex issue of people who are chronically homeless,” Schneider said. “Most of them are mentally ill, going through one system after another without really improving their quality of life and costing us millions upon millions of dollars of funding just to manage their day-to-day life instead of solving the issue of their homelessness.”

So far, Schneider says the program has been a success.

“In the first two years of its implementation, we’ve been able to get 300 chronically homeless people off the streets countywide, and that’s a big accomplishment,” she said.

Schneider’s main competition in the race for mayor was city council member Dale Francisco, who has served with her on the finance committee. Schneider said that it will be important for the council members to continue working together to ensure Santa Barbara comes out of this economic storm standing strong.

“We have some serious challenges in front of us in terms of the economic situation and our budget, and we need all seven of the council members to really look at the issues and set priorities and figure out how we can keep the city running smoothly and effectively, while also providing the services our residents have come to expect,” Schneider said. “I look forward to my continued work with Councilman Francisco and the other council mem-bers coming on board.”