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SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon stepping down, will take on new career as climate advocate

Angel Russell
San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon announced her resignation during a press conference Thursday

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said she's leaving her position as mayor in a month to pursue a new career opportunity.

In a news conference Thursday, Harmon said she is stepping down to pursue a new career as a senior public affairs director with the Romero’s Institute’s ‘Let’s Green California initiative,' which pushes the awareness of climate change.

“I recognize that this decision is unexpected and unusual," Harmon said. "But these are not usual times.”

Harmon said her decision to move into a climate action role was inspired by her son, who expressed fear about the effects of climate change.

Harmon believes she can do more at the statewide level to address climate-related issues. 

“I’m moving on from my role as your mayor for the same reason that I entered into it," Harmon said. "My children and their generation need me, they need us all to step up.”

Harmon has held her current role since 2016, and discussed what she was most proud of during her tenure — from the tiny-home ordinance, expanding and adding bike paths, and to the city's ambitious 2035 carbon neutrality goal.

“I’m grateful to be leaving the city in the very capable hands of the great women on this council," Harmon said. "The exemplary staff, and the many, many climate champions in this community.”

Harmon addressed some of the rumors that her stepping down comes at a time when one of her financial campaign contributors, Helios Dayspring, is in court with charges of bribing the late county supervisor, Adam Hill. 

“I have no involvement whatsoever in any of that," Harmon said. "Certainly, with an investigation the size of which we’ve seen in our county, I think if there had been any problems, we would have heard about that.”

As to who will replace her, Harmon said the city council will meet on Sept. 7 to decide whether to appoint her replacement or hold a special election.

The council would have 30 days to fill that role if it is an appointment. If not, a special election will take place within 150 days of her vacancy.

Whoever is named the next mayor will hold the role until December 2022.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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