Barneich chosen to fill Arroyo Grande City Council seat vacated by Ray

The Arroyo Grande City Council has chosen Kristen Barneich as its newest member. She will step down as vice-chairwoman of the city Planning Commission to take the council seat.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously voted to appoint Barneich to fill the seat left vacant by Caren Ray, who resigned in October to serve on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

"I'm elated that I was chosen to sit up with those four really smart guys, who have been serving on the council for awhile," Barneich told The Tribune after the vote. "I'm sad to leave (the Planning Commission) but I'm excited to get to work."

Barneich has served on the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission since 2007, and on various city committees and commissions, including the Architectural Review Committee, since 2005.

She is a lifelong Arroyo Grande resident, and earned an associate degree in liberal studies at Cuesta College.

Barneich also is co-founder of the nonprofit Arroyo Grande Tree Guild Association, which has planted more than 290 trees in the city since 2005.

Barneich was chosen out of four final candidates — the others were real estate appraiser Dale Hanson, retired probation officer Barbara Harmon and Santa Maria research attorney Burke Nelson. Of the four, Barneich was the runaway favorite with all four City Council members ranking her as their first choice. (Harmon was the council's second choice.)

Support for Barneich also dominated the public comment portion of the meeting, with all 11 speakers endorsing her for the position.

"Her level of knowledge of the city and of governmental processes is unmatched," former Arroyo Grande Planning Commission chairwoman Elizabeth Ruth told the council. "Her obvious love for the city, I think, will make her a terrific ambassador for the city."

Immediately following the council's vote, Barneich was sworn in and took her place at the dais. Her first order of business for the night was to hear a brief public comment on the Arroyo Grande farmers market, before the council went into closed session.

Barneich is taking over Ray’s remaining two-year term, which will end in December 2016. Her first full council meeting will be Nov. 26.