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John Spatafore named 2015 Citizen of the Year by SLO chamber

John Spatafore, San Luis Obispo’s 2015 Citizen of the Year, with San Luis Obispo’s 2014 Citizen of the Year, Dave Romero.
John Spatafore, San Luis Obispo’s 2015 Citizen of the Year, with San Luis Obispo’s 2014 Citizen of the Year, Dave Romero.

John Spatafore, a local attorney and civic leader who most recently has led the campaign to build a new homeless services center in San Luis Obispo, was named the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Citizen of the Year.

Spatafore was surprised with the honor during the chamber’s annual dinner Saturday in San Luis Obispo.

“John has profoundly and positively impacted local education, the arts, youth sports and economic vitality,” chamber president and CEO Ermina Karim said, “and he has done so much of this work out of the public eye and without regard for attention and accolades.”

Spatafore expressed gratitude for the award, adding that collaboration with others “is really the way to achieving anything.”

“There are so many assets in this community,” he added. “There is so much that everyone can bring.”

In the past several years, Spatafore has led the effort to form the Homeless Foundation of San Luis Obispo County, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Homeless Services Center planned at 40 Prado Road.

The center will consolidate homeless services in San Luis Obispo and double the number of beds available in the city, replacing the Prado Day Center and the 49-bed Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter. The total cost of the center is estimated at $4.5 million.

The Homeless Services Center is expected to open in 2017, “or before the holidays of 2016, I hope,” Spatafore said in an October interview.

John’s self-effacing style and wicked sense of humor underpin his fierce determination to create positive change. Our community is better for his many efforts.

Dave Cox, vice president/COO of

The Homeless Foundation played a vital role in avoiding the pitfalls that derailed past plans to build the center at a site on South Higuera Street by working as a collaborator between key partners and the community to raise the money needed to build the center and to provide ongoing financial support.

“John’s self-effacing style and wicked sense of humor underpin his fierce determination to create positive change,” said Dave Cox, vice president/COO of Barnett Cox & Associates Inc., who serves on the Homeless Foundation board. “Our community is better for his many efforts.”

In past years, Spatafore was a founder of a youth sports group that produced the Damon-Garcia Sports Complex, was co-founder of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center, and volunteered for Cal Poly Arts and ArtsObispo, according to the chamber.

He was elected to the San Luis Coastal Unified School District board in 2006, co-chaired the No on Measure H Committee in 2010 (successfully opposing a measure to block an extension of Prado Road to Broad Street) and has served in leadership roles at the Chamber of Commerce.

In 2013, Spatafore briefly threw his hat in the race for the seat vacated by San Luis Obispo Councilman Andrew Carter, who stepped down to become Guadalupe’s city administrator.

Spatafore dropped out a month later, saying he did not want to splinter the vote and felt he stood on similar ground on issues with candidates Carlyn Christianson and Paul Brown. (Christianson won the seat in June 2013.)

Spatafore and his wife, Deborah, moved to San Luis Obispo in 1979 and have two daughters.

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO

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