Candidates challenge mayor in Morro Bay



The small but politically active city of Morro Bay may see an exciting election heading into November.

Two candidates are taking on incumbent Mayor Jamie Irons, and four candidates are running for two open City Council seats.

According to election filings, Betty Winholtz and Tina Metzger both filed papers to run against Irons, who also filed papers.

Winholtz, a staple at City Council meetings, announced she’d run for mayor during public comment at a January City Council meeting. That announcement sparked a quick reaction from City Attorney Joe Pannone, who responded by telling the council and the public that such announcements—considered electioneering—weren’t allowed during city meetings.

Winholtz, a math tutor, was a City Council member from 2002 to 2010. In 2010, she lost a mayoral bid against Bill Yates by 72 votes. Two years later, Irons edged out Yates and two other challengers by a sweeping 31.5 percent margin and has been serving ever since.

In her candidate statement, Winholtz wrote she is “running for mayor to offer a course correction.” She criticized the current city leadership for lagging on the construction and the high costs for a new water reclamation facility (WRF), the state of the budget, the use of consultants, and the handling of other ongoing city matters.

Metzger, who teaches land-use planning, has also been critical of the current City Council. She lives in the neighborhood near the Righetti Ranch, where until recently the city was looking to build the WRF. Those plans were changed and the site was de-prioritized after an upswell of opposition came from nearby residents. Metzger was among those involved in the push for the site to be relocated, often giving biting public comment at meetings.

“I will be an independent voice of reason at council meetings,” her campaign statement read.

Irons, who has drawn mixed responses from residents in his four-year tenure, wrote in his statement that he was elected to carry out clear goals, which he has accomplished or made significant progress toward accomplishing.

“I continue to advocate for, and listen to, public input on all city matters, including the new WRF, updating the general plan, and strategizing for our long-term financial health,” he wrote.

Sitting City Councilmembers Noah Smukler, first elected in 2008, and Christine Johnson, elected in 2012, will not seek re-election.

Four candidates are seeking the two open seats vacated by Smukler and Johnson. Those candidates are Laura Cogan, an education specialist; Robert “Red” Davis, a retired planner; Marlys McPherson, a retired management consultant; and Richard E.T. Sadowski, a mechanical engineer.

• The original version of this brief incorrectly stated Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons has served an eight-year term. Irons has been mayor for four years.
• The original version of this brief incorrectly stated, "That announcement sparked a quick reaction from Irons and City Attorney Joe Pannone ..." Only City Attorney Joe Pannone said the mayor should not allow public commenters to discuss city campaigns. (Sept. 1, 2016)

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

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