Jimmy Paulding, a lifelong resident of South County, is running for District 4 supervisor on his experience planning and managing public infrastructure projects and his ability to bring people together.
"I'm from this county. I love this county. I want to represent everybody," Paulding said at a recent campaign event in a park, where his family greeted old friends and new-found supporters.
Paulding, 32, is a political newcomer — a project manager, planner and attorney who says he has the leadership and vision to advocate for his district to solve the issues facing the entire county: such as water security, roads and affordable housing.
He's held dozens of meet and greets in supporters' living rooms since he announced in August that he would challenge incumbent Lynn Compton.
In his 10-year career, he said, he brought people to the table when he managed the design phase of the Kings County Jail expansion, worked to identify an appropriate location and developed a site plan for a government center in Butte County and managed a $45 million airport improvement project and did the planning, design and construction for a runway upgrade in Del Norte County.
"The technical skill set of understanding California environmental law, understanding how to plan, fund, design and build projects is something that we need at the supervisor level so they can give proper direction to staff," Paulding said.
He said he represents a new generation devoted to civic mindedness, and he recently received a $1,000 donation from a Sacremento-based organization dedicated to electing millennials to public office.
He criticized the current board, calling it toxic and dysfunctional.
"I'm running because I want to bring unity to the board, and I want to make our board functional so it can focus on the issues and do it’s job," Paulding said at a candidate forum.
"The current board seems unable to resolve community issues," Paulding said. "The problem is the current ideologues serving on the board who put extreme ideology ahead of serving the community."
He said he is committed to civil discourse and to not allowing partisan considerations to influence his governing decisions.
Paulding is a project manager and claims analyst with Arcadis U.S. Inc. A graduate of Arroyo Grande High School and Cal Poly, he lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife, Kendra Paulding, and a miniature Goldendoodle. He is a member of local chambers of commerce and the Oceano Kiwanis Club and has volunteered with the American Red Cross with a regional disaster action team.
He holds a bachelor degree in city and regional planning from Cal Poly and obtained a law degree from Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law.
The Tribune sent Paulding a candidate questionnaire asking his position on key issues facing the county. Here are some of his edited responses:
On the Issues
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best performance, please rate how well the county is meeting the following challenges:
Paulding gave low marks to the county for its handling of affordable housing (2), homeless services (2), mental health services for jail inmates (1), long-term budget management (3) and air quality violations from Oceano Dunes (0).
"The lack of affordable housing has been identified as the single greatest threat to a sustainable local economy," he said, noting the county is "grossly underperforming in its responsibility" as evidenced by its failure to meet state-mandated goals.
He supports the inclusionary housing ordinance and has a plan to incentivize construction of next-generation housing and the building of tiny homes and accessory dwelling units (granny units).
On homelessness, Paulding said many of the organizations that are doing the hard work of serving homeless need more funding as a county budget priority. He said he wants to help identify additional funding sources, such as Pay for Success programs that leverage private investments.
On mental health services for jail inmates, Paulding said Andrew Holland's death in County Jail exposed the failures in our systems. He said he will work to ensure a dedicated psychiatric care facility at the jail and a seasoned prison level jail administrator, similar to a warden, to guide jail operations.
The best way to ensure these reforms are implemented is to establish them as county budget priorities, he said.
When asked about the county's budget, Paulding said "it is noteworthy that staff at the county have indicated on many occasions that they are demoralized under the board's current leadership."
Staff turnover is an indication of "a crisis of leadership" at the board level, he said, and that an $8 million error would not have happened if the right staff leadership were in place.
Paulding said when the former director of the Air Pollution Control District pushed the Board of Supervisors to place on its agenda the need for immediate mitigation of the air quality health risks from the Oceano Dunes, "the board majority, including Lynn Compton, has refused."
"The board could take a hardline approach with State Parks using the 550-plus acres of county-owned land (the La Grande Tract) as leverage to ensure that mitigation is implemented," Paulding said. "Instead of selling the land to State Parks as recommended by Compton, I will vote to retain ownership of the land and use it is as leverage to ensure the proper mitigation is completed."
As for offshore oil or increased onshore production, Paulding said he does not support it, and instead he is focused on "transitioning our nuclear energy powered economy with a post-Diablo Canyon renewable energy-based economy."
Paulding's endorsements include construction and trade unions, current and former elected officials and local business owners.
Some of those are San Luis Obispo County Employees' Association, California Nurses Association, Central Coast Labor Council, Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council Ironworkers Local 155, Sierra Club, Arroyo Grande City Council members Kristen Barneich and Caren Ray, Grover Beach City Council member Mariam Shah, San Luis Obispo City Council members Caryln Christianson, Aaron Gomez, Dan Rivoire, Andy Pease and Mayor Heidi Harmon, and South County Advisory Council members Kevin Beauchamp, Cody King and Gary Spelbring.
Since August 2017, Paulding's campaign has received $257,000 as of May 9. He had about $117,000 in the bank at the end of April, according to a recent campaign disclosure statement.
Top donors this year include Dan Cook of Templeton ($10,315), Richard Wishner of Nipomo ($6,000), Carla Haynie of Nipomo ($5,500), Richard Mazess of Santa Barbara ($2,500), Democrats of San Luis Obispo ($2,500), IBEW PAC Educational Fund of Washington D.C. ($3,124), Savanna Cooper of Grover Beach ($2,623), The Holland Family Alliance ($40,000), Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Local No. 104 PAC ($5,000), Tri-Counties Central Labor Council PAC ($2,000) and Southern California Pipe Trades District Council #16 PAC ($5,000).