Helene Schneider will be able to finish up her eight years as mayor of Santa Barbara with the title Citizen of the Year on her résumé.
The Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara’s highest award was bestowed upon the mayor at the business-promotion organization’s 50th anniversary celebration, a gala held this week at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort.
As a co-chair of the event, Schneider did not realize she was receiving the honor from co-chair Roger Durling, head of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and Maggie Campbell, executive director of Downtown Santa Barbara.
The organization recognized Schneider for what they said was her strong support of local arts, commerce, culture and entertainment, in addition to her political service, which has included six years on the City Council before the past eight atop City Hall.
"It is a big check off my bucket list to have been the mayor of Santa Barbara for the past eight years," Schneider said.
The nonprofit organization runs two business improvement districts in the downtown area, throws business events and promotes and advocates for its member businesses.
Though it meets annually, Wednesday marked its biggest celebration since its incorporation in 1967.
Taking home the organization’s Harriet Miller Youth Leader Scholarship Award was Sophia Qin, who has racked up a 4.88 grade-point average at Dos Pueblos High School.
"I am very honored to receive this award in recognition of my leadership skills that exemplify former Mayor Harriet Miller's vision,” said the senior, who’s headed off to UC Berkeley to study engineering and computer science.
Tracy Pfauth of Pacific Western Bank came away with the George Gerth Volunteer of the Year award. She said the recognition came as a surprise, as she sits on Downtown Santa Barbara’s nominating and executive committees.
Another Downtown Santa Barbara board director, Amy Cooper, was named Business Champion of the Year.
Cooper owns Plum Goods, which sells men’s and women’s clothing and household goods from sustainable sources. She recently expanded her 909 State St. operations after taking over the empty storefront next door.