Although initial results showed him trailing, final election results certified on Nov. 19 show that write-in challenger Jim Hill was successful in unseating longtime Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara.
After all the ballots were tabulated and the write-in votes were manually certified, Hill emerged with 3,090 votes—95 more than Ferrara’s 2,995 votes.
According to San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald, the votes that made the difference in the A.G. mayoral race were “blank” ballots on which no bubbles were filled in, but Hill’s name was still written. Hill nabbed 135 of those ballots.
Hill’s grassroots campaign rode a wave of community anger and outrage over the city (and Ferrara’s) handling of the fallout from a July 3 incident where two city employees were discovered in City Hall late at night.
Even though a comprehensive independent investigation of the July 3 incident and subsequent fallout—a summary of which was released on Nov. 17—concluded there was no evidence that the council, Ferrara, or anyone else tried to “cover up” the incident, Hill and his supporters still effectively harnessed community outrage.
“I think the way Mayor Ferrara and [City Manager Steve Adams] handled this incident was inappropriate, and the people have obviously made a judgment about that,” Hill told New Times. “I’m very gratified by the results, and I look forward to being the mayor.”
Hill said he had doubts about the independent investigation—which he labeled “factually inaccurate and internally inconsistent”—and said he will push for Adams to resign immediately.
When asked about his feelings regarding the election, Ferrara said he was disappointed, but moving on.
“It been extremely positive and rewarding to serve A.G., and I was planning on leaving in 2016 anyway,” Ferrara said. “I’m essentially leaving two years early, and I’ve got my life back.
“It’s unfortunate that a lot of the issues became clouded during the campaign, but those issues will be better defined as time goes on,” he continued. “I have absolutely no regrets at all.”
The Arroyo Grande City Council is slated to discuss the independent investigation at a special meeting on Nov. 19, but that meeting will occur after press time for New Times. Stay tuned for coverage of that meeting on our website and in our Nov. 26 issue.