For the first time in more than three decades, an elected female mayor presided over an Arroyo Grande City Council on Tuesday night.
In front of a full-to-capacity room, Councilwoman Caren Ray took the oath of office on Tuesday during a swearing-in ceremony, taking over the reigns from outgoing Mayor Jim Hill.
Ray ousted Hill in the November election, taking home 52.95 percent of the vote.
“In my 13 years of service, not one position means more to me than being elected your mayor,” she said after the ceremony at City Hall. “This is an honor and responsibility that means the world to me. Thank you for continuing to believe in me and the values that I bring to public service.”
The switchover marked a sad moment for some members of the public who have been ardent supporters of Hill since his landmark victory in 2014 as a write-in candidate.
“No one will be able to fill the shoes like you have,” former council candidate Coleen Kubel said during public comment. “This city has lost an important asset in you — and a friend.”
In his final comments as mayor, Hill thanked his family, city staff and his supporters, expressing his pride in the city and what it has accomplished during his tenure. He also urged the public to support the new council and stay involved.
“The business of the city is pretty well publicized on the city’s website, and I would encourage you to keep track of that and be aware of what’s going on in your city,” Hill said. “Offer encouragement and suggestions when necessary, to keep everything on track.”
Two new faces were added to the City Council on Tuesday night. Jimmy Paulding and Keith Storton took the oath of office, taking over the council seats left open by Tim Brown and Barbara Harmon, both of whom chose to not seek re-election in 2018.
Brown was not present for Tuesday’s meeting, but Harmon shared some final words for the city before leaving the dais for the final time.
“I just want to say what an honor, and it’s been my privilege to serve the Arroyo Grande community for the past four years, because as everyone in this room knows, Arroyo Grande is the best city on the Central Coast,” Harmon said.
“No offense to mayors Waage or Lee,” she added with a laugh, nodding to Pismo Beach Mayor Ed Waage and Grover Beach Mayor Jeff Lee in the audience.
After taking his council seat for the first time, Storton thanked the public for supporting his campaign and asked for their patience while he learns the ropes of governance.
“Please be patient, and please be kind,” Storton said. “Please be engaged though and challenge us and ask us the hard questions and let us do the job for you together so we can serve this community. We want to make sure you make us accountable.”
Both Storton and Paulding are first-time government officials. Storton is a retired San Luis Obispo police officer while Paulding is a claims analyst and attorney.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be here tonight,” Paulding said. “I’m really looking forward to working with everyone here, and I can’t say how excited I am to serve this community.”
Ray’s move up to mayor left the council with one open seat and a major decision on how to fill it.
On Tuesday night, the new council decided to open up applications for the seat. Anyone interested in applying for the two years left on the seat’s term can do so at City Hall now through December 20.
Interested applicants must be at least 18 years old, live within city limits and be registered to vote in Arroyo Grande.
The council will select the new member after public interviews at its meeting Jan. 8.