John Shoals, a former Grover Beach councilman and the city’s first directly elected mayor, has announced that he’ll challenge Mayor Debbie Peterson for her seat this November.
Peterson, elected mayor in 2012, last week announced her intention to seek re-election. A real estate broker, Peterson, 57, previously served four years on the Grover Beach City Council and four years on the city Planning Commission.
Shoals, 52, a senior government relations representative for PG&E, served on the council from 2002 to 2012, including four different stints as mayor. He was termed out in 2012 from running again for mayor (which is limited to two consecutive terms), and chose not to run for a council seat at that time.
However, after two years sitting on the sidelines, Shoals wants to see many of the projects he was involved in while on the council — most notably, the Grover Beach Lodge and Conference Center — to fruition. “You always feel there’s more you can do,” Shoals said in an interview Monday.
According to a news release, several elected officials have endorsed Shoals, including current Grover Beach councilmen Jeff Lee and Bill Nicolls, Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara, Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham and county supervisors Adam Hill and Caren Ray.
While on the council, Shoals worked on numerous projects including street improvements, the formation of the Five Cities Fire Authority, and an economic development strategy to attract and retain businesses.
He also laid the groundwork for a citywide broadband network, helped secure funds for the Grover Beach train station expansion,and led efforts to advance a project to build a beachfront lodge and conference center on state-owned land at Highway 1 and West Grand Avenue.
He commended Peterson for moving projects along in a tough financial environment and serving the community for many years, but added, “I just believe I’m the better person for the job. The city needs someone to be inclusive and work with others to achieve common goals.”
Peterson, meanwhile, pointed out that she’s also had a hand in numerous projects critical to Grover Beach’s future, including the lodge project, the broadband network, and a $48 million bond measure to support street rehabilitation, which will go to voters in November.
In addition, in 2013 she raised red flags about the operation of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District and asked for a thorough review of its operations and organization. The district’s budget now shows a healthy surplus, she said.
“John and I have different styles, different abilities, different backgrounds,” Peterson said. “One of the most important things for me is to hear from people and hear them out. I’m not afraid to ask tough questions of government, and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way.”