Wixom challenges Irons in Morro Bay mayor's race; Council race still open

nwilson@thetribunenews.comMarch 7, 2014 

UPDATE MARCH 12: City Council candidates John Headding and incumbent Nancy Johnson returned phone calls after this story's original deadline, to say what issues they see as important in the council election race.

Headding said his focus is on creating a clear vision for economic growth and ensuring that city money spent to drive tourism has a positive return. 

"I see a need for leadership in the community to act decisively and quickly for the long-term viability of the city," said Headding, owner of Morro Bay Drug and Gift.

Johnson said she will bring “leadership, experience, and values.”

“My key issues are promoting fiscal responsibility while supporting city staff, our business community and especially our citizens. We need to recognize that we live in a water challenged area and get beyond the current water crisis with long term ongoing solutions to help prevent another ‘crisis.’”

ORIGINAL STORY:

Two candidates have filed election papers to run for the Morro Bay mayoral seat in the June 3 primary, while three people have put their names into the hat for City Council.

Incumbent Jamie Irons, 54, will run against challenger Carla Wixom, 55, for a two-year term as mayor. The deadline for filing candidacy papers was Friday.

While three candidates have filed papers for two vacant City Council seats, the filing deadline for those races has been extended to Wednesday because one incumbent — George Leage — decided not to run again.

Matt Makowetski, 46; John Headding, 61; and incumbent Nancy Johnson, 72, are the three candidates who filed for the two City Council seats.

Leage, 76, said he loves the city of Morro Bay, where he has family and has operated his business, the Great American Fish Company, for many years.

He said he decided not to run so he can concentrate on a new development related to his business and another connected to his sister’s, as well as to spend more time with family.

He said his key accomplishments during his single four-year term have been helping to promote tourism and business, working to secure a downtown property owned by Dynegy for parking and other city uses, and making improvements to roads.

Leage was a minority voice on a council that forced the resignations of City Attorney Rob Schultz and City Manager Andrea Lueker. He also opposed the majority council decision to build an inland sewage treatment plant rather than rebuilding at the existing seaside location.

“Naturally, the last year has been a struggle,” Leage said. “… The people on the council are good people. We just see things differently. I’m heavy-hearted about not running, but I love the people of Morro Bay. I want to thank everyone who supported me.”

Mayoral candidate Carla Wixom said she is “deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in city government, as evidenced by the effort to terminate (Schultz and Lueker) without cause or explanation.”

“I hope to provide all our Morro Bay residents an open door to city government where their voices are heard and respected,” Wixom said.

Wixom, a member of the council from 2008 to 2012, also said she was concerned about the cost of moving the sewage treatment plant inland.

During his two-year mayoral term, Irons has opposed the proposal to rebuild the aging sewer plant on site and championed building an inland facility. He noted the seaside plan was denied by the state Coastal Commission.

Irons cited goals of updating the city’s general plan and protecting the city’s water supply amid the drought, along with other infrastructure improvements.

“Two years (as mayor) is really just a starting point,” Irons said. “I don’t feel I could walk away from what has been started.”

Makowetski is the chair of the Morro Bay Public Works Advisory Board and an English teacher at Maple High School in the Lompoc Unified School District.

“One thing we face as a city is an aging infrastructure, and citizens are very concerned about the condition, citywide, of streets and roads in particular,” Makowetski said. “It needs to be a group effort to face those problems and improve the entire infrastructure.”

Headding could not be reached for comment Friday. He has been involved in Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce activities as well as the health care community as a pharmacist, including advising the public during the flu season.

Johnson joined Leage as a minority member of the council in decisions on the separations with Schultz and Lueker, as well as the new sewer plant site. She has also been supportive of the business community of Morro Bay. Johnson did not return a call Friday for comment.

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