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No more Picanco for Paso as city council welcomes newcomers 

The Paso Robles City Council has a new mayor and two pairs of fresh legs after concluding its post-election shuffle.

After recognizing outgoing Councilmember Ed Steinbeck and outgoing Mayor Duane Picanco, the council swore in newcomer Councilmember Jim Reed and Mayor Steve Martin. Martin was two years into his four-term as councilmember, leaving that seat vacant after running for mayor unopposed. Picanco opted to run for a council seat rather than running for re-election as mayor.

To fill Martin’s seat, the council was charged with either appointing an heir or holding a special election in June 2015. After hearing that a special election would cost an estimated $95,000, the council made the decision to select an appointee.

Then began the politicking. To recap, five people ran for two City Council seats. Voters selected two names, and the two who received the most votes won. Incumbent John Hamon received the most votes by a comfortable margin, and Jim Reed came in second. Reed beat out Picanco by 14 votes, and Picanco edged out fourth-place finisher Pamela Avila by only six votes. Steve Gregory trailed the pack, with more than 200 votes fewer than Avila. (Total votes were as follows: Hamon, 2,881; Reed, 2,606; Picanco, 2,592; Avila, 2,586; Gregory, 2,374; and a total of 40 write-in votes.)

For many who spoke during public comment, Picanco was the obvious choice—he came in third, and had more than 20 years experience on the council. One speaker reminded Martin of a promise that was made in a candidate’s forum, where Martin said that he would give his support to whomever came in third. Martin honored his promise, nominating Picanco for the appointment. Hamon then nominated Gregory, who serves on the planning commission.

Before a vote, the council recognized that both men were qualified candidates.

“This is going to be one of the most difficult decisions that we’ve made, ever, because we have two very qualified candidates,” said Councilmember Fred Strong, who was picked by his colleagues to be the new Mayor Pro-Tem.

Ballots were cast, and the council voted 4-1 to appoint Gregory. As audience members cleared the room, Picanco approached Gregory, offered a handshake and his congratulations, and left.

During the ensuing statements offered by all five council members, who spoke on their vision for the term to follow, Martin outlined his goals as mayor.

“Through it all, we have maintained Paso Robles, the robust, can do, rough and tumble city where the fastest ways to get something done is to tell us that it’s impossible,” Martin said.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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