Laura M. Bridley

Laura was appointed Planning Commissioner, 2nd District, Santa Barbara County, in April 2019, and in early 2020 was elected Chair of the Planning Commission. She is an experienced consultant working in land use and transportation planning as well as historic preservation and non-profit administration. Laura has worked as a Contract Planner for the City of Goleta and County of Santa Barbara. She was the President of the Montecito Association for nine years and she was the first Executive Director of Casa del Herrero. She grew up in Montecito and worked with Lotusland on our original Conditional Use Permit and is co-chair of our Ad Hoc CUP Committee. Laura and her husband John have been Lotusland Members since 1993.


Mari Mitchel

Mari is a native Californian, born in Pasadena and raised in San Marino.  Immediately following graduation from Pitzer College, she lived and worked in Kenya, first as a volunteer then employed in non-profit relief and development work.  Upon returning to the United States, Mari was employed by the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief focusing primarily on international refugee resettlement.  She continued working in the non-profit sector, concluding her professional life as a Manager of Major Gift for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.  At CHLA she successfully established the Board of Regents, expanding the reach of the hospital’s major donor base.  Mari, Hank and their son, Kelford, moved to Santa Barbara in 2008.  Almost immediately she rechanneled her professional non-profit experience to focus on several philanthropic and volunteer opportunities – among them, the Board of the Cate Parents Organization (chairing the CPO and serving as a Board Trustee in 2011-2012), Trustee of Direct Relief (with the second term on the Executive Board); Chair of DirectRelief WOMEN; Member, Garden Club of Santa Barbara (Executive Board Member, 2020-2022); Member, Facilities and Horticulture Committee, Botanic Garden of Santa Barbara; volunteer advisor and supporter of several additional non-profits.  Mari has a passion for her garden (while admitting to learning as she goes), as well as for private and public gardens.  She and Hank are Lotusland Members and donors, committed to its long-term success, its standing as a leader in whimsical design and horticultural collections, and its commitment to environmental conservation.


Merryl Brown

Merryl is the President and Creative Director of Merryl Brown Events based in Santa Barbara with a presence in Los Angeles and New York. She is a former international banker with American Express Bank and Bankers Trust in New York and held the position of Director of PR and Events at Saks Fifth Avenue Santa Barbara, and served for two terms as a trustee of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. She is a Lifetime Honorary Trustee of Lotusland, and was one of our original Trustees. While serving on our board, she both created and produced Lotusland Celebrates for several years. Merryl is also a certified Master Gardener and has been a Lotusland Member since 1993.


Geoff Crane

A sixth-generation, Santa Barbara native and co-founder of Giffin & Crane General Contractors, LLC, Geoff has been involved with Lotusland since 1995 and served as Trustee from 2004 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2019. During that time he served as Chair of the Facilities Committee and assisted in numerous projects or repairs around the property. Geoff has also served on the Long Range Planning Committee, Nominations, Governance Committee, and Development Committee. Re-joining the board again in 2020, he is currently active with the Building and Grounds Committee and Philanthropy Committee. Geoff and his wife live in Montecito, and part-time in McCall Idaho.


Crystal Wyatt

Crystal became enthralled with Lotusland after going on a tour in 2005 which led to her becoming a docent. She has gone on to co-chair the Lotusland Celebrates Gala four times and ultimately serving seven years on the Lotusland Board of Trustees (2012-2018). Crystal has remained involved at Lotusland as a member of the Governance Committee and recently served on the Search Committee. Crystal is in her first year on the board of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and is in her sixth year of being a board member at the Santa Barbara Zoo. She is a longtime Santa Barbara resident and enjoys committing her talents to the benefit of non-profits that serve the public good, especially those related to animals, health, and the environment. Crystal and her husband Cliff have been Lotusland Members since 2005.


Rick Vitelle

Rick, most recently, served as the Chief Financial Officer of Motion Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company that merged with DocGo Inc. (Nasdaq: DCGO) in November 2021. His previous positions include serving as Executive Vice President and former CFO of CalAmp Corp., a technology company providing wireless communications solutions, CFO of SMTEK International, an electronics manufacturing services provider, Corporate Controller of Data-Design Laboratories, a diversified technology company, and Senior Manager with Price Waterhouse, where he earned his CPA license. Rick holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Cal Poly Pomona where he graduated summa cum laude and an MBA from UCLA. Rick and his wife Sheila live in Thousand Oaks and Rancho Mirage. During their travels, they have toured dozens of public and private botanical gardens throughout Europe, Morocco, South Africa, South America, and Asia. Closer to home, Rick and Sheila are members and donors to Lotusland since 2003 and are also members of The Lotus Society. They also support The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, Ventura Botanical Gardens, and The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert. Rick is also a member of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America and the Mediterranean Garden Society.


Caroline Thompson

Caroline Thomson is a principal of Cabana Home, a home furnishing and design store. Her involvement and growing passion for Lotusland began with the Cabana Home transformation of the pavilion into a luxury “stay-cation” auction item for Lotusland Celebrates in 2009. She has been a member of the Lotusland Celebrates committee for the past six years in various roles including auction co-chair and tri-chair. Caroline co-chaired the Gifts for the Garden campaign with Connie Pearcy in 2013. Caroline has been a Lotusland member and supporter for 12 years. Caroline graduated with a B.S. from the University of Texas. The Texas ties continue with a Millennial daughter, Caroline, living and working in Dallas whose dream one day is to be married at Lotusland! Caroline serves on the Girl’s Inc. board, the executive committee and the 100 committee. She co-chaired the 2014 Christmas at the Casa (Del Herrero) and is a member of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art PhotoFutures and All Saints by the Sea Flower Guild.


Stephen R. Schaible

Stephen is a Senior Advisor with Evercore Partners, a global independent investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions. In a 36 year career he has lived and worked in New York, London and Tokyo. Before joining Evercore in 2007 he headed the global chemicals industry practice at Citigroup, and prior to that, at J.P. Morgan. He moved to Santa Barbara from New York City in 2012 with his partner, Daron Builta, and is actively involved with the Music Academy of the West and All-Saints-by-the-Sea. Stephen has been a member of the Lotusland Finance Committee since 2016, and is the current chair. Stephen also serves on the board of the Family Independence Initiative, an innovative Oakland, CA, organization dedicated to changing the narrative around families in poverty in the United States. Stephen has a deep love of gardens and landscape architecture, and recently completed an extensive re-landscaping of his Montecito garden, working with Isabelle Greene. He is a 1981 graduate of Princeton University with a degree in history. Stephen has been a member and donor since 2013.


Jeffrey Romano

A native Californian, Jeff is originally from San Jose. He has enjoyed gardening since he was able to walk and shares his grandmother’s passion for growing and nurturing plants. Today, Jeff enjoys focusing his gardening on indoor plants and container gardening. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Accounting and Finance from Santa Clara University. He recently retired from a challenging 35-year career with Chevron Corporation in a number of roles, including Finance Manager, Chevron Oronite; Group Manager, Corporate Audit; Internal Controls Manager, SEC Coordinator, and Accounting Policy Manager, Corporate Controller’s Office. Chevron generously matched many of Jeff’s donations to Lotusland over the years. Jeff and his spouse Stan Shayer have enjoyed visiting and supporting Lotusland for the past 13 years, and are Lotus Society members.


Connie Pearcy

Connie is a 6th-generation Texan from Dallas. She and her husband, John, bought a home in Santa Barbara in 1999 and divide their time between Dallas and Santa Barbara. Connie has served on many boards and committees for years in Dallas, but Lotusland is her first in Santa Barbara. She was also on the Girls Inc. board and 100 luncheon committee. Although she and John have their roots in Dallas where John is involved in real estate development, their plan is to be in Santa Barbara full-time. Connie says that after discovering Lotusland, they were hooked and now choose to support the garden as one of their major loves in Santa Barbara. Connie and John are Lotus Society members and have been members and supporters of Lotusland since 2000.