Two-term Santa Barbara Marty Blum’s last day in office will be Jan. 12, after which she says she’s ready for a few adventures outside of City Hall.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A group of 60 first-graders trailed Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum through the corridors of City Hall during a recent school field trip to explore the hub of city life and law.

Blum, a former teacher, led them to the building’s council chambers, where they plopped onto wooden benches and began asking questions. Some of the students, not fully comprehending Blum’s duties of general city oversight, diverged. One even asked what kind of a car she drove. Others seemed to understand her role a bit better.

“Aren’t all the other mayors jealous of you?” one boy asked Blum.

“I thought, ‘Yeah, the other mayors probably are jealous because this is a great community,’” she said, recounting the story while seated in her office.

Certificates covered the wall over her desk, attesting to her two terms as a councilwoman and two terms as mayor, the last of which will end Jan. 12.

Blum said she has held a job since she was 11 years old, and “never stopped. But I’m 66 years old now, and I want to have a couple months off.”

She said she’s ready for a few adventures outside City Hall, and soon after her last day as mayor, she and her husband, Joe, will leave on a trip to New Zealand and Australia.

When she returns, she said she plans to spend time with her three grandchildren and wants to begin writing a book about her experiences in city government.

“My grandchildren need to know what I’ve been doing,” she said. “So many fascinating things have happened.”

One of the more dramatic and, for Blum, infuriating elements of her mayoral stint has been her relationship with former Santa Barbara News-Press opinion page editor Travis Armstrong.

Known for his frequent diatribes against Blum and city staff, Armstrong announced his resignation last month.

“It’s totally different now, because there’s no one making up stuff,” she said with a laugh.

Blum said she doesn’t intend to become a city gadfly who appears during public comment periods at municipal meetings, either.

“But I can pick up the phone and call somebody, though,” she said, adding that she’ll watch the City Council meetings on television.

Sitting on a couple of boards may also be in her future, but they’ll “be far from City Hall.”

Blum said one of the proudest achievements of her tenure was the Kyoto treaty of cities she signed in Wisconsin with 12 other mayors in 2005.

“Looking back, it was probably one of the best things I ever did” as mayor, she said. “We’ve done some amazing things because of that.”

Blum said the city was at a 25 percent recycling rate when she joined the council. Because of the Kyoto treaty, the city came up with a goal to divert 70 percent of waste headed to the landfill by 2010.

“We’re at 69 percent right now,” she said. “We’re saving so much money as a city on energy efficiency.”

Accessibility has been another highpoint for Blum. Putting City Hall’s phone number on water bills eight years ago to increase feedback was one idea that has been successful, and “we’ve always wanted people to participate,” she said.

She’s often stopped in the City Hall parking lot by people with questions or comments. “To be that accessible is amazing,” she said.

Blum said one of the hardest issues she has dealt with during her tenure has been youth violence, which she said rears up every 10 to 15 years. It’s a tough issue, she said, and one that still bothers her.

When asked what words of wisdom she would give to Mayor-elect Helene Schneider, Blum said, “Enjoy every minute, because not too many people get to be mayor of Santa Barbara.”

Her last words as mayor to Santa Barbara residents?

“I truly thank them for allowing me to be mayor,” she said. “You can’t do better than this. … This is a very special city.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

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