Morro Bay voters endorsed the priorities of the current mayor and City Council by voting in favor of incumbent mayor Jamie Irons and Matt Makowetski, a newcomer who aligns himself with Irons.
Voters returned Irons to the dais for a second two-year term with a 57 percent vote, opting not to bring former councilwoman Carla Wixom back to City Hall. Wixom garnered 43 percent.
Meanwhile, Makowetski topped a group of three candidates vying for two seats with a 60 percent vote. John Headding, seeking his first term on the council, was second with a 49.8 percent tally, and incumbent Nancy Johnson trailed in third at 36 percent.
City law requires candidates to get 50 percent of the vote or face a runoff in the Nov. 4 general election. Whether Headding and Johnson will do that in the fall is unclear since provisional ballots and mail-in ballots turned in Tuesday will be counted next week, county Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said.
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The election determines the future of a city divided between a longstanding pro-business fiscally conservative group, with Johnson and Wixom in that camp, and a newer, progressive contingent led by Irons that supports environmental awareness, a diversified water supply, and long-range planning.
“Voters are saying, let’s look forward in Morro Bay,” Makowetski said Tuesday night. “They’re saying we need to make hard choices in planning the city’s future as a whole. My biggest focus was infrastructure, and a vote for me is a vote for the future of the city’s basic needs.”
Makowetski said water rates haven’t been raised in two decades and voters are willing to address the issue with higher rates to provide a reliable water supply.
The current council majority — Irons, Christine Johnson and Noah Smukler — successfully pushed to rebuild the city’s aging sewer treatment plant at an inland location, after the state Coastal Commission denied a proposal by a previous council to redo the plant at its existing seaside location.
The majority also ousted longtime city attorney Rob Schultz and city manager Andrea Lueker, signaling a new direction but also launching an unsuccessful recall against Irons.
Irons and Makowetski campaigned on making the 26-year-old General Plan update a priority to help city staff process projects much more simply and efficiently to comply with updated state laws.
Headding’s role on the council, if he is elected, is a bit of a wild card. He ran a campaign, as did Wixom and Johnson, that emphasized spending on law enforcement, fire, and medical services while keeping a business-friendly climate to encourage sales and bed tax revenues.