Politics & Government

Debbie Arnold, 5th District supervisor, announces re-election campaign

Debbie Arnold announced her bid for a second term on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2015,  in the Sunken Garden in front of Atascadero City Hall.
Debbie Arnold announced her bid for a second term on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2015, in the Sunken Garden in front of Atascadero City Hall. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Flanked by flags and surrounded by a large group of supporters, 5th District San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Debbie Arnold officially announced her campaign for re-election Tuesday.

“I will continue to advocate for what I believe is best for my constituents, which is curbing the expansion of government and making it more transparent and accessible,” she said while standing in front of about 130 supporters at Atascadero’s Sunken Gardens near City Hall.

Arnold said she ran four years ago because she saw business and property owners plagued by excessive regulation.

A Pozo rancher and former educator, Arnold won election to the 5th District seat in 2012, beating incumbent Jim Patterson 57 percent to 43 percent, a margin of nearly 1,900 votes. This time around, Arnold will face at least one challenger — Pozo organic farmer Eric Michielssen, who recently retired from Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, where he worked for close to 17 years as a broker, asset manager and counselor. Michielssen will officially announce his intention to run Wednesday at noon in the same location.

The district includes Atascadero, California Valley, Creston, Garden Farms and Santa Margarita, as well as portions of Cal Poly, Pozo, San Luis Obispo and Templeton.

Former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, whom Arnold worked for as a local field representative, introduced her Tuesday: “This is the same Debbie Arnold we all know over the years — she continues to care and perform her duties with passion and compassion.”

Arnold listed some accomplishments: lobbying to fully fund road maintenance in the county’s budget; increasing housing for homeless; and protecting open space including funding for the Pismo Preserve and Bob Jones Trail extension.

“After four years of severe drought, I’ve worked to promote a fair distribution of water among all residents, farmers and businesses,” she said. “As complicated as it gets, I want you to know that every day that’s my goal.”

In April, Arnold voted against sending an application to the San Luis Obispo County Local Agency Formation Commission to form a Paso Robles Basin Water District and to work with LAFCO to hold public hearings on the controversial proposal. (The vote passed 3-2.)

Arnold had expressed concerns about the broad but still undetermined range of powers the district would have. The final decision on whether to form the district would be voted on by landowners.

In a previous interview, Michielssen cited Arnold’s vote in May in favor of the Las Pilitas rock quarry, in spite of staff’s recommendation to deny the project and a large number of community members in opposition, as one of the reasons he chose to run. The Board of Supervisors denied the project in a 3-2 vote.

“We need a new supervisor who listens to the people and to the staff,” he said recently.

In response, Arnold pointed out that the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council voted 11-5 to support the project (with one abstention and two recusals) in December 2014. The council represents nine geographical areas in the vicinity of Santa Margarita.

Besides providing materials that could be used locally, Arnold said she thought Las Pilitas Resources LLC had also responded to concerns about the safety of schoolchildren heading to Santa Margarita Elementary.