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SLO City mayoral vacancy to be filled by appointment; residents can apply for mayor or council seat

Angel Russell
If no applicant is selected by Wednesday October 27, 2021, a special election would be triggered

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon is stepping down on September 26, and now the search is on for who will fill her seat — or take a City Council seat — through an appointment process.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the San Luis Obispo City Council had a decision to make: whether to hold a special election to fill the mayoral seat, or to appoint someone to the position.

With a special election estimated to cost between $150,000-200,000, the City Council made a unanimous decision to do an appointment process instead.

City Councilmember Carolyn Christianson, who originally got on the City Council through a special election in 2013, said the money to do a special election can be better spent elsewhere, and that it’s too tough on candidates to get voters to turn out. 

“When it’s a special election, because people are just not paying attention, you tend to have very low turn out anyway," Christianson said. "So you’re not giving, necessarily, better representation of the community by having an election at this time when it’s an off period.”

The City Council is now looking for people to apply-either to be the mayor or to fill a City Council seat if one of the sitting City Council members ends up being selected for the position.

It’s unclear if any of the four remaining SLO Councilmembers will seek to become mayor, but Councilmember Andy Pease said she believes she and her colleagues on the board would be very capable of filling the mayoral seat.

“I recognize, although I have expressed some interest in that post in potentially applying for appointment, at this time I feel that we have...we are just so fortunate to have a deep bench at the council,” Pease said. 

For those interested in applying, mayoral or council applicants must be SLO residents, will need to submit a 500-word statement explaining why they are a good fit for the position, and will need to give a five-minute presentation at the October 5th meeting.

Councilmember Christianson said for those applying, it could be a long night, especially since whoever is selected will be sworn into office at that meeting.

“They shouldn’t have anything planned for that evening," Christianson said. "They might be just up on that dias.”

The City will release more information on their website about the application process and upcoming deadlines.

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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