4 more candidates jump into Arroyo Grande City Council race

Arroyo Grande’s City Hall on East Branch Street.
Arroyo Grande’s City Hall on East Branch Street. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The field has gotten bigger for this November’s Arroyo Grande City Council race.

Four more candidates entered the race in the past week, joining incumbents Mayor Jim Hill and Kristen Barneich, and challenger Caren Ray in what promises to be a heated race to determine leadership in the city. They will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.

Three of the recently announced candidates will seek council member seats: newcomer LeAnn Akins, planning commissioner John Mack and traffic commissioner Ken Sage. There are two open council seats this November; one is held by Councilman Jim Guthrie, who will be leaving the council after 12 years following the general election. The other is held by Barneich.

Akins, an academic adviser for the primarily online Brandman University, said she is running primarily because she wants to bring fiscal responsibility back to the council, though she also said she was concerned with past councils’ apparent prioritizing of the Village of Arroyo Grande over other parts of town.

“I made the decision because I think there are too many issues that have gone unaddressed by prior councils,” she told The Tribune on Monday. Akins has served on no local boards or governing bodies, though she was involved in Hill’s successful write-in campaign in 2014, she said.

Sage, a retired Arroyo Grande resident, said in a news release that his top priorities on the council would be economic development; water planning; transportation; and enhanced communications between community members, the council and businesses. Sage is currently serving on the Arroyo Grande Traffic Commission.

“I believe a council membership representing a range of opinions has many advantages and should be encouraged,” he wrote in an email to The Tribune. “However, it is important that the council speak as one voice in its partnership with the city manager and staff. My six years’ service in the U.S. Navy provided the foundation for my understanding of the value of teamwork and critical thinking, which I can bring to the council.”

Mack, who sits on the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission, filed paperwork declaring his intention to run for a council seat on July 7. Mack was unavailable to comment Monday.

Council members are elected for four-year terms.

The two-year mayoral seat is also up for grabs. Hill has previously confirmed that he will run for his mayor seat again this November.

Retired teacher Richard Waller will also run for mayor.

In a news release, Waller said he is running to “bring back true transparency and civility in city government, and ensure economic vitality of the city into the future.”

Waller is a third-generation Arroyo Grande resident, the current president of the Backcountry Horsemen of California and a volunteer wilderness ranger and mule packer for the U.S. Forest Service.

The field for the council and mayoral races could still get bigger; potential candidates have until Aug. 12 to declare their candidacy.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie