Pismo names couple Citizens of the Year

Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham and her husband, Dr. Robert “Sonny” Higginbotham, have been selected as Pismo Beach’s Citizens of the Year.

They’ll be honored Thursday at the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 installation and awards dinner along with the Business of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.

Shelly Higginbotham said she was floored by the award.

“The fact that they gave it to Sonny and I together is the historic part,” she said.

It is the first time the chamber has selected a husband and wife for the award at the same time.

The Higginbothams have lived in Pismo Beach since 1984, though they both moved to San Luis Obispo County about five years earlier.

Sonny Higginbotham, 68, has practiced eye surgery in San Luis Obispo County since 1979 and formed Pacific Eye Surgeons in 1984 with Dr. Ahmad Amir.

Sonny Higginbotham developed two surgery centers in Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria, and a laser center, Pacific Laser Vision Correction Center, in Pismo Beach.

He has also provided eye care to those in Third World countries, most recently on a medical mission to Honduras a few years ago, and opens his doors to clients from San Luis Obispo’s Prado Day Center or the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, Shelly Higginbotham said.

Shelly Higginbotham’s public service career began in 2002, when she served on the city’s Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission.

Two years later, Higginbotham, 54, was appointed to fill an open seat on the City Council, won a seat in 2006 and was elected mayor in 2010. She’s been involved with the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition and Lucia Mar’s Destination Imagination program.

Last year, the couple set up two academic scholarships for water polo players at Arroyo Grande High.

For the past three years, Shelly Higginbotham has waged a grassroots campaign to rid Pismo Beach of any graffiti by carrying around a bottle of Mötsenböcker’s Lift Off to remove spray paint and other materials from signs, walls and poles around town.

“It doesn’t take long at all,” she said.

On Thursday, the chamber will also honor Pismo Beach police Support Services Supervisor Sherry Lange as Volunteer of the Year, and Brian Craig Kreowski of Shell Beach Law Group as business of the year.

Lange, who was born and raised on the Central Coast, has worked for the Pismo Beach Police Department since 1982, is involved with the annual Pismo Beach Police Officers Association Thanksgiving dinner, and was the grand marshal of the Clam Festival in 2005.

Kreowski, an Arroyo Grande High School graduate, is a board member of the Port San Luis Harbor District, a founding member of the Shell Beach Improvement Group, the Central Coast Aquarium Society and the Dinosaur Caves Preservation Society.

The chamber dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. at Lido Restaurant at the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa. For more information, call 773-4382 or go to