Later Murillo pursued her interest in writing, which lead to news-writing jobs at a number of newspapers: Ventura Independent, Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Star, and Santa Barbara Independent, where she took on the responsibilities of news editor. She then became News and Public Affairs Director at KCSB.
Murillo has worked with many non-profits, including the Santa Barbara Children’s Theater, the Community Recovery Network, Shape of Voice youth newspaper, and Santa Barbara Channels public access television station. As a volunteer for the Community Recovery Network, Murillo helped establish a public detox facility at Casa Esperanza homeless shelter.
Her social activism includes organizing Take Back the Beach, which raised awareness about sexual assault survivor rights, participating in CAUSE (Community Alliance Urging Sensitivity and Equality) a campaign to stop discrimination against gay individuals, and organizing actions to support news employees’ rights.
She and her husband David Pritchett, an ecologist and community activist, keep a family of pets, all rescued or adopted from shelters, and rent a home the Westside neighborhood.
In 2011 Murillo became the first Latina elected to the Santa Barbara City Council and re-elected under the new district election system in 2015, representing the Westside District. She served as Mayor Pro-Tem in 2014, and has served on both the Finance and Ordinance Committees.
As part of an “S.B. Questionnaire” column compiled by Roger Durling of the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper (27 April 2015) Councilmember Cathy Murillo stated, “Now my life is about public service, improving people’s lives through political decision-making, and community work where I can share my political power….”
Her work on the city council includes the following accomplishments:
- Maintaining funding for the Westside Boys and Girls Club and the Coronel Head Start pre-school program in the Lower Westside neighborhood.
- Providing and supervising youth internships in her office at City Hall.
- Securing funding for and participating in the annual Family Health Fair, a partnership of the City and County, that offers free health screenings and resources, alternating between Westside and Eastside.
- Directing the establishment and/or refurbishment of Bohnett Park, a pocket-park at Bath and Ortega Streets, and Parque de los Ninos.
- Promoting and participating in THRIVE, a 2012 project of Just Communities, with a goal of helping Latino students succeed in school.
- Promoting sustainable water use practices in the Westside neighborhood and working with the Sweetwater Program on long-term strategies for water conservation.
- Promoting Voter Registration in the Westside neighborhood.
- Voting to maintain funding for the City’s Rental Housing Mediation Program, which settles disputes between tenants and landlords and prevents evictions, and serving as Council liaison to the program.
- Engaging with and encouraging the Harding University Partnership School, one of the oldest schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, serving over 400 pre-school through sixth-grade students. Murillo participated in Reads programs, fundraisers, and participated in the planning of a refurbished school playground with Harding school staff and parents.
- Helping to revitalize the Westside Community Group, a neighborhood association engaging residents, businesses, and schools in civic activities and neighborhood improvement projects.
- Connecting code enforcement officials and Westside beat officers to Westside residents, resulting in the formation of a neighborhood watch.
- As Council liaison to the Metropolitan Transit District (MTD), Murillo ensured frequent bus service on Line 1 and 17, restoring bus trips on the Crosstown Shuttle. She participated in a community workshop on bus service to Westside, sponsored by the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST) and MTD.
- Under her leadership, Santa Barbara opened a new Children’s Library, updated the Bicycle Master Plan, constructed pedestrian and traffic safety improvements on the Eastside, and passed a ban on single-use plastic bags.
Outside of City Hall, Murillo co-founded the Pro-Youth Movement, a community forum empowering youth and families, with a focus on gang prevention.
In addition to her active involvement here in the Santa Barbara area, Murillo’s County-wide and regional assignments include the South Coast Task Force on Youth Safety, the Community Action Commission, the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, the Cities/County Affordable Housing Task Force, and the MTD board.
Murillo states: “I consider all the residents of Santa Barbara my neighbors. I care about your family, your neighborhood, your prosperity, and your safety.”
She encourages teens to read the news, become involved in politics, and join her in acting to create a more peaceful, safe, and nurturing Santa Barbara.
We congratulate Cathy Murillo on her lifetime of achievement, and are honored to present her with the 2016 Wendy Davee Peace Builder Award.