Arroyo Grande appoints replacement for Ed Arnold

Caren Ray is sworn in as the newest member of the Arroyo Grande City Council in May 2010.
Caren Ray is sworn in as the newest member of the Arroyo Grande City Council in May 2010. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Arroyo Grande’s newest City Council member will soon face numerous issues, including voting on how to close the city’s budget shortfall, analyzing the water supply and considering several new developments.

But first, the council welcomed Caren Ray to her new seat on the panel — the first time in 24 years a woman has held the post.

Ray, who was a planning commissioner for five years, was sworn in Tuesday night after the council voted 3-1 to appoint her.

Councilman Chuck Fellows dissented, instead supporting longtime planning Commissioner Tim Brown.

Ray, a modern world history teacher with the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, was one of seven candidates who applied for the vacancy created by Councilman Ed Arnold’s resignation in April. Her term runs through December 2012.

“I’m excited to be able to serve and that the city will be able to get back to business,” she said.

Ray said she’ll work to continue bringing economically viable businesses into the city while honoring its General Plan — a blueprint for regulating growth.

Ray will now work with the council on a number of issues, including an approximately $830,000 budget shortfall in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. City Manager Steve Adams said final budget changes are to be presented at the council’s June 22 meeting.

The council will at its June 8 meeting consider approving an agreement to combine fire-protection services with neighboring Oceano and Grover Beach, and hear a report on the city’s water supply.

Prior to Ray’s selection, each applicant had a chance to make a three-minute statement before the council members completed a form ranking each applicant.

The results showed a tie between Ray and Brown. After some discussion, Councilman Jim Guthrie made a motion to appoint Ray.

“With all the controversy we’ve been through lately, we need someone with the depth of experience who can ... hit the ground running,” Mayor Tony Ferrara said.

Ray’s philosophy and positions most closely matched Arnold’s viewpoints as a council member, Ferrera said.

The applicants also included Shannon Kessler, a parks and recreation Commissioner; JW “Jamie” Ohler, an Arroyo Grande business owner; Bill Honeycutt, a retired Santa Barbara County sheriff’s commander; George Martin, a vice president at Rabobank in Arroyo Grande; and Tim Moore, a longtime local resident.

Arnold resigned April 27, saying that his pending criminal charges were “a distraction” to his ability to serve effectively.

He has pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, in an alleged Dec. 15 attack on a woman who had been living with him and his wife at their Arroyo Grande home.