Debbie Peterson elected as mayor in Grover Beach, ppemberton@thetribunenews.comNovember 6, 2012 

Debbie Peterson

JAYSON MELLOM — The Tribune Buy Photo

Grover Beach voters have chosen Debbie Peterson as the city’s first directly elected female mayor in what could be described as a pivotal time for the city.

Peterson, a current council member, defeated fellow council member Phyllis Molnar in the mayoral race. She’ll succeed Mayor John Shoals, who is termed out.

Peterson, who has also served as planning commissioner, said developments made while she was on the council have put the city on track to become an economic player in the county.

“Grover will not be the Grover we’ve been so long, which is kind of the underdog,” she said.

Molnar still has two years left in her current term and will remain on the council.

Five candidates competed for two seats on the council. Voters were re-electing council member Karen Bright and were choosing civil engineer Jeff Lee to serve four-year terms.

The new council will lead a city that’s faced several lean budget years, difficult cuts and more recently, layoffs. Council members will be challenged next year to maintain a balanced budget while finding ways to bring in new revenue.

City officials are moving toward a longtime goal of building the Grover Beach Lodge and Conference Center, a 150-room hotel and conference facility expected to generate revenue.

“We will be able to accommodate bigger parties that could not come to San Luis Obispo County otherwise,” Peterson said.

The council last June tentatively approved the project, which now moves to the California Coastal Commission for its consideration.

City leaders have also laid the groundwork for a citywide broadband network and tried to streamline an approval process for new businesses in certain areas.

Now as mayor, Peterson said she expects to have a good relationship with the council, which should help get things done.

“We’ve got a good balance,” she said.

Patrick S. Pemberton and Cynthia Lambert at staff writers at The Tribune. Reach Pemberton at 781-7903 and Lambert at 781-7929.

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