Meagan Froemming Harmon will fill the District 6 vacancy left by former Councilman Gregg Hart.
The Santa Barbara City Council appointed Ms. Harmon on Tuesday.
Dr. Harmon, who works in real estate and finance as a contract lawyer for Morrison & Foerster LLP in Los Angeles, received support from several because of her work in the private sector. After receiving four out of six votes from council members, Ms. Harmon was appointed by acclimation and received unanimous support.
City Clerk Sarah Gorman read Dr. Harmon the oath of office and she received a standing ovation from the council and the crowd.
“It’s a great day for Santa Barbara seeing all these people come forward and they’re all committed public servants,” Dr. Harmon said of the other applicants. “The work starts. I’m excited to put my head down and get to it.”
Dr. Harmon received her bachelor’s degree in history from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, her master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University and her juris doctorate from New York University School of Law. She grew up in Lompoc and moved back to Santa Barbara about two years ago after her daugther was born.
“Once she came into my life it was like, all right, I’ve got to move home,” Dr. Harmon said. “This city shaped me and I’m so excited to prove it.”
Of the council members who supported Dr. Harmon, Randy Rowse said the city needs someone who is willing to leave alliances and outside work at the door and work on behalf of the entire city.
“The one person I found that could really express herself in a way that I thought really brought that forward in a very clean and crisp and new way was Meagan Harmon,” Mr. Rowse said. “I’m going to support her because I believe she can actually be that person that can be the one that can set aside the outside and bring the business of the city to the forefront.”
The other applicant receiving consideration was Brittany Odderman Heaton, chair of the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, who also works for the county Public Works Transportation Division. Ms. Harmon and Ms. Heaton each received three votes of support from the mayor and council before Mayor Cathy Murillo broke the tie in the third vote.
“She was on my list of people who I thought would do a good job,” Ms. Murillo said. “I think it would be difficult to sit up here and take vote after vote. … I’ll be voting for Ms. Harmon.”
In 2010, Dr. Harmon spent a year living in Afghanistan as a program consultant for a German nonprofit and helped bring six mobile ambulance units, food deliveries and a cash-for-work scheme in slum camps in Kabul.
She joked that her experience helped keep her blood pressure down and keep an even keel during the vote.
She’s had conversations with business owners in the downtown area and hopes those talks will continue to provide a mutually beneficial outcome in revitalizing State Street.
Dr. Harmon attended a majority of Tuesday’s meeting to get a taste of the work to come.
“I thought that if this is something that I really want to do I need to be engaged from minute one, so I was trying to stay focused on the issues,” she said. “There’s so much that’s facing us here in the city that it was easy, frankly, for me to point out what was happening and say ‘OK, let’s try and think about how this affects us in the sixth district and across the city more generally’ – though I was a little nervous when I woke up today, when the voting started, but mostly just excited.”
Dr. Harmon explained the most important thing to her is having people feel comfortable coming to her with issues.
“Especially in this interim appointment position, this is sort of a unique space for me,” she said. “I want to be a steward for our city, a steward for our district and I really want folks to feel like they can come to me, that they can have an ear for their concerns and that I would relay to the council in some ways kind of as a conduit.”
Dr. Harmon’s appointment extends through November, when an election will be held to fill the remainder of Mr. Hart’s term, which extends to January 2022. Mr. Hart left the seat empty when he was elected to the 2nd District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
Wearing a pin that read “Feminist with a to-do list,” Dr. Harmon told the News-Press she wanted to use that power to get her through the appointment process. Her decision to run had a lot to do with her 2-year-old daughter.
“I did this really for her at the end of the day,” Dr. Harmon said. “She inspired me to move home. I wanted her to have the same beauty and cultural and community feel that I had growing up in this county and coming to Santa Barbara. I want to be part of building that life for her, so I hope she’ll be proud of me.”
With no meeting scheduled next week, Ms. Harmon will attend her first meeting as a council member on Feb. 26.