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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 12:56 am | Fair 44º


Ex-Councilman Frank Hotchkiss Turning the Page, Leaving Santa Barbara

After losing mayoral bid last year, he is moving to Savannah, Georgia, and plans to focus on writing books

Former City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss is saying goodbye to Santa Barbara, and is headed for Savannah, Georgia, with his wife, Sandi. Click to view larger
Former City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss is saying goodbye to Santa Barbara, and is headed for Savannah, Georgia, with his wife, Sandi. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The end.

Frank Hotchkiss has written the final chapter of his life in Santa Barbara.

The author, former actor and journalist — and man who almost became the first Republican mayor of liberal Santa Barbara in more than 40 years — is saying goodbye to the American Riviera, and is headed for Savannah, Georgia, with his wife, Sandi.

His departure in March marks an end to one of Santa Barbara’s most unlikely political success stories.

Hotchkiss was working as a real estate broker in the early 2000s when a city proposal to create trails and public easements alongside creeks, potentially infringing on people’s private property rights, fired him up. That opened the door to his political involvement.

Then came the infamous Blue Line, a proposal to paint a blue line in the city to mark rising sea levels.

By the time the city’s transportation staff started proposing bulbouts and traffic circles as calming devices in upper Eastside neighborhoods, Hotchkiss officially became the guy who fought City Hall — and won.

He was part of a wave of conservatives who upended the council in the latter part of the 2000s, winning election alongside Dale Francisco and Michael Self.

Hotchkiss proved that power brokers and political kingmakers can’t always ignore the little guy.

Although he doubted global warming and was dismissed as being too conservative and out-of-touch with most Santa Barbara residents, Hotchkiss showed that he had a strong political base, enough to get him elected twice to the City Council.

Hotchkiss was an authentic politician, often saying what was on his mind, even if it wasn't popular. He questioned Santa Barbara's liberal cognoscenti, challenging their views on everything from the bicycle master plan to climate change.

True to the plainspeak that made him popular among many everyday Santa Barbarans, Hotchkiss isn’t too emotional or overwrought about his pending departure.

What will he miss the most?

“The fair weather,” Hotchkiss said. “On the other hand, changing seasons can be wonderful.”

Hotchkiss lost his bid for mayor in November 2017 by 1,919 votes. He waged a valiant battle, and gave hope to many conservatives who felt like he could be the one to wrest control from the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, which endorsed his rival, Cathy Murillo, and several mayors before her.

Hotchkiss was stung a bit by some in the business community who defected from his camp to back newbie Angel Martinez, the former CEO of Deckers Brand, in the mayor's race.

Martinez sold many in the business community, including the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, on the idea that he could freshen up State Street and lead a retail revolution, but in the end, he placed fourth, and only ended up spoiling Hotchkiss's mayoral bid. 

“I have done what I could here politically, and real estate had lost its luster for me, so we both felt it was time to move on and start a new chapter,” Hotchkiss said of his decision.

Hotchkiss said if had won the mayor’s seat, he would have spent his time and effort promoting Santa Barbara locally and abroad.

“Instead, I will be promoting my book, 'Playing with Fire,' and two more books waiting in the wings,” Hotchkiss said. “It's great fun to bring characters to life in a novel, and the reception for 'Fire' has been great. Everyone who reads it seems to love it, and what it says about life.”

One of the Amazon reviews calls the book: “A wonderful read that deals with honest human emotions that are presented in a very real and stunning way. When one finishes this book, it causes him or her to reflect on his or her own humanity and sense of what are the most important things is one’s life.”

Before he came to Santa Barbara, Hotchkiss worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, and appeared in television and movies, including "Mannix," "Cisco Pike" and "Ironside" and "Gunsmoke."

Hotchkiss said he chose Savannah because it is a “beautiful, great, old city” with similarities to Santa Barbara.

Like the many chapters of his political career and stories that he has authored, Hotchkiss is ready to turn the page on his works in Santa Barbara and begin anew.

“It seemed like it was time to do something different,” Hotchkiss said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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