Baby boomers run SLO County. This millennial wants a piece of the action

Why you should vote for Jimmy Paulding — in his own words

Jimmy Paulding hopes to unseat incumbent Supervisor Lynn Compton for the 4th District seat on the SLO County Board of Supervisors. Here, he makes his opening statement at a candidate forum held in Nipomo on Monday, May 7.
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Jimmy Paulding hopes to unseat incumbent Supervisor Lynn Compton for the 4th District seat on the SLO County Board of Supervisors. Here, he makes his opening statement at a candidate forum held in Nipomo on Monday, May 7.

If Jimmy Paulding is elected Tuesday to represent District 4 on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, he'll be a full 20 years younger than any other supervisor.

At 32, Paulding is a millennial.

No, he doesn't have a landline. Yes, he loves avocados.

If elected, Paulding would be the first of a new generation on a current board of baby boomers, aged 52 to 66, who make overarching decisions on issues such as workforce housing, park spending, cannabis rules and water security — things that affect the entire county.

He's got an uphill battle. His opponent, Lynn Compton, has a countywide base of support, and she's criticized Paulding as too inexperienced and too progressive for SLO County.

Baby boomers control the political sphere across the country. The average age in the U.S. Senate is 62; it's 58 in the House of Representatives, even as millennials nationwide make up one third of the voting population.

"They are actually the largest group of voters for the first time ever, surpassing baby boomers," said Tanner Kelly, the co-founder and president of Generation Change, an organization dedicated to elected millennials to public office in California.

But 39 percent of 18 to 34 year olds aren't even registered to vote, Kelly said.

He thinks that's in part because young voters want to vote for candidates they identify with. Young candidates also bring new approaches to problem solving, and, in general, younger generations are less partisan than their parents, he said.

Paulding is one of two dozen candidates statewide that Generation Change endorsed. The group contributed $2,000 to his campaign.

"To be a part of that is empowering," Paulding said.

He added: "I believe the community has a clear choice: a vote for the past or a vote for the future."

Paulding thinks he has a better understanding of what young workers and families are struggling with, and he's pushed a vision for the liveable communities he'd like to work to create. He's floated proposals that would give homeowners incentives to build eco-friendly granny units on their property to increase affordable housing stock, for example.

Until he and his wife inherited a family home, Paulding said, they struggled to live on the Central Coast.

"I have friends and family and coworkers that face the struggles of affordable housing. Having faced that myself makes me want to prioritize that issue and make it better," he said.

He has some support. He's raised about the same amount of money as Compton and has a team of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are retired.

"It's absolutely time," to have that generational perspective on the board, said county Supervisor Bruce Gibson, 66. "They are on the verge of becoming civic leaders of this community."

Paulding hasn't campaigned much on his age, he said, because it's an opening for criticism.

When asked to say something positive about Paulding, Compton said he seems like "a personable kid." She also points out that she's been in the county since Paulding was 7 years old, and she says he lacks experience.

Some of Compton's followers have taken to calling him "Jimmy the kid" — a nickname Paulding said he thought about embracing, but decided against it.

His campaign advisers suggested he change his first name, but Paulding said he thought it would be too disingenuous — people at work know him as Jimmy, he said.

When asked about Paulding's status as a millenial candidate, Compton said age shouldn't matter in politics.

"In my opinion, workers and families of all ages face the same issues in California and here in San Luis Obispo County: unaffordable housing, often scarce jobs and a smaller job market due to the more rural nature of our county, and increasing tax burdens on every level," Compton said. "My opponent’s plan for bigger government, higher taxes and more fees is not going to solve any of those problems.

"I believe voters of all ages are smart enough to understand that policies matter much more than the decade of one’s birth.“

Paulding shot back: "Lynn Compton says she stands for families and workers on the Central Coast, but her policies favor big oil, big agriculture and big developers," he said. "What voters get with me is a chance to vote for someone with integrity who is from our community, who genuinely wants to serve everyone in our community. I have no plan for higher taxes, greater fees or bigger government."

If he is successful Tuesday, Paulding won't be the youngest supervisor in the board's history — not even close. That title belongs to John Hollister, who was elected to the board at age 21 in 1879.

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