Politics & Government

Local city council races nearly set

The races for city council seats throughout San Luis Obispo County are taking shape, with many longtime incumbents seeking to extend their tenure and some new faces joining the ballot.

The deadline passed Friday for most of the open seats. But in races in which incumbents are not seeking re-election for the same seats — including council seats in Grover Beach, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo — residents have until Wednesday to file campaign documents to run in the Nov. 4 general election.

The Morro Bay City Council race was decided in June.

Here’s a look at where the city council races stand.

Arroyo Grande

Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara, first elected to the council in 1998, is running for another term. He has been elected mayor six times since 2002.

Arroyo Grande resident Otis Page, concerned about a residential project at East Cherry Avenue and Traffic Way, said he considered challenging Ferrara but decided not to run.

Page said he believes concerns about the density and other issues will be worked out in the public hearing process. Also, he added in an email, “He (Ferrara) is grudgingly admitted to be popular by those who may be critical of him.”

Candidates for two seats on the City Council include incumbents Joe Costello and Tim Brown, and challenger Barbara Harmon, who was appointed by Ferrara to the city’s Architectural Review Committee in December 2013.

Costello has been on the council since 2002; Brown was elected in 2010.


In Atascadero, six candidates — including all three incumbents — are going after two City Council seats and the mayoral seat.

Newcomer Charles Scovell, a certified arborist, is running against Mayor Tom O’Malley for the mayor’s seat, which carries a two-year term.

Meanwhile, Planning Commissioner Len Colamarino and former Planning Commissioner Chuck Ward will face off against Mayor Pro Tem Brian Sturtevant and Councilwoman Heather Moreno for two open council seats, which carry four-year terms.

The mayor pro tem position is a rotating role by council appointment.

Seats for city clerk and treasurer are also open in Atascadero’s race this year. Both positions carry four-year terms.

City Clerk Marcia Torgerson is running unopposed as of Friday’s closing date. Candidates still have until Wednesday to sign up for the treasurer’s race because incumbent Joe Modica is not seeking re-election.

As of Friday, Gere Sibbach had filed papers in the race for treasurer.

Grover Beach

The race for Grover Beach mayor is set: Incumbent Debbie Peterson will try to keep her seat, as former Mayor John Shoals campaigns to rejoin the City Council.

Peterson was elected mayor in 2012. She previously served four years on the Grover Beach City Council and four years on the city Planning Commission.

Shoals served on the council from 2002 to 2012, including four different stints as mayor, before being termed out from running again for mayor.

The deadline for two Grover Beach council seats will be extended to Wednesday, as Councilman Bill Nicolls is termed out. In addition, Councilman Glenn Marshall, appointed Feb. 25, 2013, decided not to run, saying his work and personal commitments don’t allow as much time as he needs to spend on council matters.

Two names will appear on the council ballot so far: Barbara Nicolls, Bill Nicolls’ wife, who has served on the Grover Beach Community Library board for at least five years; and Mariam Shah, who was involved in a volunteer citizens committee that studied a charter ballot measure last year.

Paso Robles

The filing period for the two Paso Robles City Council seats and the mayoral seat has been extended to Wednesday. Although incumbents are running, they are not seeking seats they currently hold.

Mayor Duane Picanco is running for a council seat, and Councilman Steve Martin is running midterm for the mayor’s seat.

Councilman John Hamon is seeking re-election. Joining him in the council race are Planning Commissioner Steve Gregory and draftsman Jim Reed.

Each position carries a four-year term.

Councilman Ed Steinbeck announced that he will not seek re-election.

Pismo Beach

The Pismo Beach City Council race will pit several longtime incumbents against residents who have been critical of some council actions, especially regarding proposed development in Price Canyon.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Shelly Higginbotham will face challenger Kevin Kreowski, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2012.

Higginbotham was appointed to fill an open seat on the City Council in 2004. She won a seat in 2006, was elected mayor in 2010 and ran unopposed in 2012.

Four competitors are vying for two open council seats: incumbents Mary Ann Reiss and Kris Vardas, as well as Sheila Blake and Marcia Guthrie.

Reiss has been on the council for 18 years and was chosen as the city’s first directly elected mayor in 2004. Vardas was elected in 2006.

Blake and Guthrie are both members of Save Price Canyon, a group formed to protect and preserve the scenic area east of the city. Blake also ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2012.

San Luis Obispo

In San Luis Obispo, three people, including incumbent Jan Marx, are seeking the two-year mayoral seat.

Marx has served for 10 years on the San Luis Obispo City Council, four of them as mayor.

She has also represented the city for seven years on regional boards including the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the San Luis Obispo Regional Transportation Agency and the county Air Pollution Control District.

Marx’s challengers are Donald Hedrick, a community activist who has run unsuccessfully for the City Council four times in the past seven years, and newcomer Jeffery Specht, a vocal critic of the city’s management.

Daniel Cano, executive director of The LINK, a nonprofit that works with schools and countywide public agencies to deliver assistance programs, sought to challenge Marx but failed to gather the 20 signatures of verified voters needed — disqualifying him from the mayoral race.

Businessman John Conner had planned to challenge Marx but withdrew earlier from the race.

Four people are running for two open council seats, which have four-year terms. Incumbent Kathy Smith is not running to retain the seat she has held since 2010.

Incumbent Carlyn Christianson is running for re-election.

Other candidates are Gordon Mullin, a financial planner, Dan Rivoire, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition, and Mike Clark, a retired Army colonel with 29 years of service.