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SLO City Council to decide how to fill mayor vacancy 

With San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon announcing that she's stepping down as mayor at the end of September, about year before her term is up, the remaining SLO City Council members now have a decision to make.

"We will be presented with a choice," City Councilmember Andy Pease said, "an appointment or a special election [to fill the vacancy]. In my opinion, a special election doesn't make a lot of sense."

click to enlarge STEPPING DOWN SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her decision to step down as mayor, after she accepted a new job at the Santa Cruz-based Romero Institute. - PHOTO BY MALEA MARTIN
  • Photo By Malea Martin
  • STEPPING DOWN SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her decision to step down as mayor, after she accepted a new job at the Santa Cruz-based Romero Institute.

The SLO City Council is set to discuss that choice at its Sept. 7 meeting. Whichever person is appointed or elected to replace Harmon will serve in that role until SLO voters choose a new mayor in the November 2022 election.

Pease said that she believes a special election will be too expensive and time-consuming and expects that the council will opt for an appointment, which could lead to either a current council member or a community member who applies for the vacancy becoming mayor.

"I know I'm interested in that position and exploring the possibilities of what'd that look like," said Pease, who was re-elected to the council for a second four-year term in 2020.

Among the current council members, Pease and Vice Mayor Erica Stewart have expressed interest in the mayor opening, she said.

"What our objective will be is to figure out what will be the best match for the city in this moment. That might be Erica. That might be me. There'll be an application process. I think anybody can apply," she said.

When the council deliberates on an appointment choice, council members applying for the position will not have to recuse themselves from the dais, Pease said. If the council does appoint a current council member as mayor, then it will have to open another appointment process to fill that vacant council seat.

On Aug. 26, Harmon announced that she will depart as mayor on Sept. 26 after taking a public affairs director position at the Romero Institute, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit, where she'll advocate for state policies to address climate change.

In a press conference on the steps of City Hall, Harmon said the new role will give her a chance to make a bigger impact on her "North Star" issue, the climate crisis, and provide her more financial security. Citing city accomplishments in climate action, bike infrastructure, equity and inclusion, and housing, Harmon said she "did what I came here to do" as mayor.

She also didn't rule out a run for higher office in the future.

"I'm in it to win it here," Harmon said, referring to tackling climate change. "I'm going to do whatever it takes." Δ

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