Mayor Tony Ferrara appears to have held onto his seat for another term, fending off a write-in challenge from Jim Hill, who received a groundswell of support from residents unhappy with the City Council’s handling of a July 3 incident and other issues.
Voters also appear to have re-elected Councilman Tim Brown and welcomed newcomer Barbara Harmon to the City Council, while ousting longtime Councilman Joe Costello.
“I’m very excited,” said Harmon, a retired probation supervisor for Santa Barbara County, who said she would bring a new perspective to the council. “People are ready for change.”
Costello has been on the council since 2002; Brown was elected in 2010.
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In addition, voters soundly rejected Measure C, which would have changed Arroyo Grande from a general law to a charter city. Supporters said it would give the city more local control; opponents were concerned about the city’s ability to exempt itself from paying prevailing wage on certain projects.
The council now faces a task of reuniting the city, which has become somewhat divided over the council’s handling of the July 3 incident, where police found City Manager Steve Adams and a subordinate alone at City Hall late at night.
The city’s attorney found no policy violations. But the council, faced with mounting anger from the public, decided to hire an independent investigator to review the matter.
Harmon, who started knocking on doors early in the election season, said voters became more engaged in local politics after the public became aware of the incident in mid-August.
“If there’s a positive that’s come out of this whole scandal, it’s that people are much more engaged and concerned — on both sides of the coin — and I think it shows how passionate people are about our city,” Harmon said.
She said it will be important for the council to open up a dialogue and improve its relationship with the Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association, which took votes of no confidence in Ferrara and Adams in September.
Ferrara’s re-election is a victory for residents who have supported the council and city staff in the wake of the incident.
Other challenges facing the council include continued efforts to conserve water, pursuing economic development efforts on East Grand Avenue, and deciding what to do with the Bridge Street bridge – a 24-foot bridge in the Village that is functionally obsolete and must be replaced, retrofitted or closed.