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Arroyo Grande, Grover will fill empty council seats by appointment 

One of the first jobs that the newly elected members of the Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande city councils will take on is picking someone to share the dais with them.

After swearing in new mayors and council members, both councils opted to appoint someone to fill vacant seats instead of holding special elections. In both cases, the vacancies were created because a sitting council member was elected as mayor, leaving one empty seat on each respective council.

In Grover Beach, former Councilmember Jeff Lee was elected as mayor, replacing outgoing Mayor John Shoals. Shortly after Lee and recently re-elected councilmembers Barbara Nicholls and Miriam Shah were sworn in, the council voted 4-0 on Dec. 10 to appoint an individual to fill Lee's vacant council seat. To be considered, candidates must submit a written application to the city by Dec. 21. The council will conduct interviews of those candidates at a public Jan. 7 meeting before voting to appoint one of them.

"A special election is just too costly, and too unwieldy from a timing standpoint," Lee said.

In Arroyo Grande, former Councilmember Caren Ray unseated two-term Mayor Jim Hill. Ray, along with newly minted Councilmembers Jimmy Paulding and Keith Storton, and veteran Councilmember Kristen Barneich, also opted to appoint a member to their vacancy. Candidates will have to submit a written application to the city by Dec. 20 and appear at a Jan. 8 public meeting to answer questions from the council, who will then vote on the appointment.

Both cities cited cost and timing as factors in deciding against calling for a special election. According to an Arroyo Grande staff report, a special election could cost as much as $120,000. In addition, the soonest the council could hold a special election would be in November 2019.

"We can't have a four-person council for very long," Barneich said.

Appointed council members will serve a full two-year term in both cities. Under California law, city councils must either appoint someone or call for a special election within 60 days of a vacancy. Δ

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