San Luis Obispo City Council decides on 5th member

After two unsuccessful attempts for a San Luis Obispo City Council seat, Dan Carpenter finally won one Tuesday night — just not at the ballot box — when the Council unanimously named him to a seat left vacant after the November election.

In recent weeks, Carpenter, who narrowly lost a run for a council seat in November, has received overwhelming support from local residents who urged the Council to appoint him to the seat vacated by Jan Marx, who was elected as the city’s mayor.

“I was surprised at the unanimous first vote,” Carpenter said after Tuesday’s special meeting. “I expected it might take some deliberation. I’m humbled by the support — I’ve never heard people talk about me like that.”

A fifth-generation San Luis Obispo resident, he will also bring experience as a former owner of a downtown business, Hills Stationary Store, which closed in the mid-1990s.

Carpenter, the finance director for the History Center of San Luis Obispo County, said he’ll bring a conservative fiscal approach to the Council. This is good timing for San Luis Obispo: the Council faces cutting $3 million from its next two-year budget to meet a growing shortfall.

In letters and during public comment, residents noted Carpenter’s seven years of service on various city advisory bodies, his past business experience and that he narrowly lost the November election to Councilwoman Kathy Smith by 229 votes.

Carpenter’s appointment as the fifth member of the Council finally brought to a close a lengthy election year in which two longtime council members — Dave Romero and Allen Settle — retired and voters elected Marx as the city’s mayor.

Carpenter will serve the remainder of Marx’s term, through Dec. 1, 2012.

The other two applicants for the seat were Patricia Andreen, who served on the San Luis Coastal Unified School District for five years, and Kevin P. Rice, a firefighter who has served on the city’s Mass Transportation Committee.

Andreen congratulated Carpenter after the meeting, telling him: “You have good people behind you, and you deserve it.”

During his comments Tuesday, Rice withdrew his name from the process and endorsed Carpenter.

Some critics alleged the Council is circumventing the election process, which is set in the city’s charter.

Rice clarified earlier comments in which he was critical of the appointment process, saying he does not have a problem with interim appointments, but that he doesn’t like the length of this appointment.

City officials estimated the cost to hold a special election would range from about $39,000 to $48,400 if the county registrar of voters printed and mailed ballots. It could rise to $67,500 to $81,000 if the city paid an election contractor to cover all costs associated with a special election.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.