Even those with no stake in the outcome of Arroyo Grande’s election have got to take note of the stunning victory by write-in candidate Jim Hill, who defeated longtime Mayor Tony Ferrara.
Write-in campaigns are almost always long shots; we can’t recall the last time a write-in candidate won a major race in our county — if ever.
What’s more, Hill was not widely known to many Arroyo Grande residents. He had served several years on the Oceano Community Services District board but had not been active in city politics since moving to Arroyo Grande.
Hill’s victory is a strong testament to the power of grassroots campaigning and should serve as an example in future elections, both by giving hope to outsiders and by reminding established politicians that they can take nothing for granted.
Hill’s win also is evidence of an overwhelming desire for change on the part of many Arroyo Grande residents, no doubt triggered in part by the July 3 City Hall incident that led to the resignation of City Manager Steve Adams.
As mayor, Hill can and should play a strong role in bringing the city together.
Judging by his record in Oceano, we believe he’s fully capable of doing so. While on the Oceano services district board, Hill deservedly earned a reputation for integrity, fiscal conservatism and responsiveness to his constituents.
One example: In his very first campaign, Hill was opposed to health insurance benefits for Oceano district board members — something that was extremely unpopular with residents. True to his words, shortly after taking office, Hill proposed doing away with the benefits, and his colleagues eventually agreed.
Hill may need time to get up to speed on some of the issues, policies and practices in Arroyo Grande.
That’s OK. The city doesn’t need an expert in local ordinances or architectural preservation or urban planning; city staff can provide that background.
What Arroyo Grande needs now is a leader who will unite the community, restore trust in local government, and who will fairly and impartially represent residents on both sides of the recent battles at City Hall.
The Tribune looks to Jim Hill to be that leader in the coming two years. We urge residents of Arroyo Grande — regardless of whom they voted for or whether they voted at all — to welcome him with open minds.