Grover Beach mayor’s election made history, but his eyes are on the future

Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals has nearly two decades of elected civil service in Grover Beach.
Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals has nearly two decades of elected civil service in Grover Beach. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals beams as he describes the progress his city has made — from an ambitious road-paving program to the pursuit of broadband internet fiber.

Though his day job is senior government relations representative for PG&E, Shoals has served on the Grover Beach City Council since his appointment in 2000. In 2008, Shoals was elected mayor, a doubly historic moment: He was both the first elected mayor of Grover Beach and the first black man in the city to hold the office.

The Cal Poly grad grew up in rural Riverdale, near Fresno, but has spent his adult life living and working in predominantly white San Luis Obispo County.

“Whether you embrace it or not, you are often going to be the first black person people meet,” Shoals said.

Although he embraces his frequent role as racial ambassador, Shoals said he wants to be remembered for his policies and ideas.

His vision of the city is that of young and scrappy, eager to attract young professionals and embrace new industries. He notes the success of The Spoon Trade, Red Bee Coffee, Shell Beach Floral Design, all with youthful owners. And he is proud that the city has supported cannabis cultivation and retail businesses.

The City Council in recent months moved to allow commercial medical marijuana firms to operate in designated industrial areas; it’s still working out the application and permitting process for them, however, and the first business openings aren’t likely until early 2018.

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“We’re one of the few people who believe it’s a growth industry, not the sinister thing it’s been characterized as,” Shoals said.

But there’s still much work to be done to make the city stand out from its neighbors, he added. “We are still the hidden jewel, the diamond in the rough.”

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler