The race for 4th District county supervisor pits a longtime community activist against a veteran city councilman with a strong business background and an attorney who has run for statewide office and touts himself as a conservative.
The trio — Paul Teixeira, Jim Guthrie and Mike Zimmerman — are seeking to replace a local icon, Katcho Achadjian, who has held the seat for a dozen years. Achadjian is running for state Assembly.
Zimmerman, Guthrie and Teixeira agree on some matters. For example, none of them supports oil drilling in the Huasna Valley and they all want Excelaron, the exploration company, to clean up from drilling there in the 1980s.
None of the three wants a medical marijuana dispensary in Nipomo, as has been proposed, and they agree that fighting growing gang violence requires cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in the region, as well as the involvement of parents, the community and schools.
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The trio differs on other matters: Guthrie, for example, considers a study showing that the Nipomo Mesa faces a serious threat from air pollution originating in the Oceano Dunes as “conclusive.” Zimmerman and Teixeira both question the study’s validity.
However, this is a political race that is as much about persona as policy. Each of the candidates is presenting a certain face to the public and asking for votes based on that visage.
Guthrie’s pitch centers on competence, experience and vision.
He has served on the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission and City Council, and in fact had to leave a candidate’s forum Wednesday night to deal with a pressing city problem — how to replace Ed Arnold, a councilman who just resigned.
Guthrie is proud of his work bringing the community together to shape the city’s General Plan — its guideline for growth. While his detailed knowledge of government has led some to label him “wonkish,” his supporters argue that his expertise makes him the stronger candidate in running a multimillion-dollar operation such as the county.
Guthrie also cites his experience in the private sector. As general manager of the Spyglass Inn, he has held the tiller as the hotel steered through the recession. His public-private experience makes a nice mix to serve the county, he says.
Unlike Zimmerman and Teixeira, Guthrie calls the Air Pollution Control District’s Dunes study “conclusive” and says he will seek to reduce pollution without ending off-roading and hurting the local economy.
Guthrie opposes water rationing, preferring market-driven tiered rates, which he sees as “more efficient.” In the long run, he, like Teixeira and Zimmerman, sees desalination as a partial solution for developing new supplies.
On growth, Guthrie says that “large residential developments should occur in areas where opportunities for employment exist and resources are available.”
“I’m just the average guy; your next-door neighbor,” Teixeira told a group of Nipomo and Arroyo Grande high school students at a candidates’ forum Wednesday night. “I care about my community.”
Teixeira has not owned his own business, as Zimmerman has, or graduated from college like his opponents.
His strengths lie elsewhere, he says. Teixeira believes “community involvement is the key.”
While all three have been involved with the community, Teixeira has a long list. He has volunteered with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, youth sports, the Dana Adobe in Nipomo, Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and youth agriculture and has raised money for such exotic activities as India National Immunization Day and the Mexico Cleft Palate Clinic.
His critics say that good works do not necessarily lead to good governance, and question whether Teixeira’s service on the Lucia Mar school board and county Parks Commission has demonstrated any special leadership qualities.
On the issues, Teixeira is calling for a Sheriff’s Department substation in Nipomo; the closest is in Oceano. He also believes in a variable rate structure for water use and backs a statewide ballot initiative “to prevent legislators from raiding county funds.”
He said county leaders should pay more attention to the futures of students who won’t go to college — and look for ways to help develop apprentice electrician, plumber and other programs.
Zimmerman posits himself as a classic conservative. A lawyer and rancher, he ran for state Assembly in 2004 and finished third in the Republican primary.
Zimmerman describes himself as “a strong property-rights candidate.”
A Cal Poly graduate, he is anti-regulation, and told students, “We can’t afford to be regulating our businesses out of existence.” He singled out for criticism a county events ordinance that, he said, makes it more difficult for ranchers to supplement their incomes by hosting weddings and other events.
Of the three, Zimmerman is the most critical of the air study that showed particulate matter from the Dunes is polluting the Nipomo Mesa. He unswervingly supports off-roading, for the economic boost it provides.
Zimmerman said it would be good to have an attorney on the Board of Supervisors, adding that he could challenge the county counsel if necessary. The county counsel provides legal advice to the board.
He stresses the fact that he has owned his own business, a status that, he says, makes him “uniquely qualified to provide … common-sense leadership and thinking.”
Zimmerman believes the county should get to work quickly to establish desalination as a water source. He says the cost can be shared among agencies. He considers water the most important issue facing the county.
On gangs, Zimmerman suggested a paint-ball park as one of several possible solutions to keep youngsters out of trouble.