John Shoals made municipal history in 2008 when he became the first popularly elected mayor in Grover Beach. He was reelected in 2010, but because of the city’s term restrictions — which limit mayors to two consecutive terms — Shoals was not able to seek a third straight term.
Two years later, he’s back on the ballot, challenging incumbent Mayor Debbie Peterson for the city’s top elected post.
We believe Grover Beach citizens made the right choices in previous elections when they chose Shoals, and we urge residents to return him to the position of mayor.
In his 10 years in office — first on the City Council and later as mayor — Shoals proved himself to be a hard worker and an enthusiastic ambassador for Grover Beach, and he developed a reputation for his ability to deliver results. For example, he laid the groundwork for an agreement with State Parks on the beachfront lodge project at Highway 1 and West Grand Avenue; as Grover Beach’s representative on the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, or SLOCOG, he helped bring in $1.6 million in federal transportation funds for the Meadow Creek bridge and storm drain project; and he brought South County leaders together to tackle homelessness issues.
We’re also impressed that Shoals was sounding the alarm about lack of funding for road repair years ago — long before the current $48 million bond measure was put on the ballot. After his first election as mayor, he scheduled community meetings to talk about the issue. And during budget negotiations, he expressed disappointment that more sales tax money wasn’t going toward road repair.
Shoals’ background in city and regional planning — he was a planner with several local cities, including San Luis Obispo, for many years, then worked for private design firms — also makes him a good fit for the position.
We also like his willingness to take unequivocal positions. For example, he told The Tribune Editorial Board he believes that “Grover Beach needs to take a leadership role in helping the homeless and working poor” and said he plans to work with the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition to find a location for the day use center the group has been trying to open.
A few words about incumbent Peterson: Two years ago, we enthusiastically endorsed her for mayor and had high hopes for her leadership.
Shortly after she took office, we were impressed with her thorough and astute review of issues at the South County Sanitation District, which at the time employed John Wallace as district administrator and contracted with his firm, San Luis Obispo-based Wallace Group, to provide engineering services.
“Everything is under one person who controls all the information, and that causes me concern,” said Peterson, who was on the district’s board of directors. “I haven’t seen that there have been historically checks and balances built into the system.” (Wallace later retired as district administrator.)
We were dismayed, though, by Peterson’s behavior during the controversy over the county Air Pollution Control District’s “dust rule” that required State Parks to reduce dust emissions from the offhighway vehicle park, with the possibility of fines being imposed for violations. She opposed the rule as it was originally approved and wrote apetition asking that it be repealed, without first bringing the issue to her fellow council members.
When the council objected and subsequently removed her from the air board, the offroading community threatened to appeal the Grover Beach lodge project unless she was reinstated. Peterson didn’t do much to defuse the tense situation; she scheduled a special meeting where the OHV enthusiasts showed up to demand her reinstatement.
We look to mayors to build consensus whenever possible and, when it’s not, to lead the city in a professional, evenhanded manner that’s respectful of differences in opinion.
We believe that John Shoals is the candidate who can do that, while also addressing such pressing issues as homelessness, economic development and infrastructure needs. The Tribune strongly endorses Shoals for mayor of Grover Beach.