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SLO City council to appoint a new mayor

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Tossing aside the idea of holding an "expensive" special election for mayor, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 7 to move forward with an appointment process for replacing Mayor Heidi Harmon, who is resigning on Sept. 26.

LOOKING FOR A REPLACEMENT SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon (pictured) is resigning from her post on Sept. 26. The SLO City Council plans to fill her vacancy with an appointment. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • LOOKING FOR A REPLACEMENT SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon (pictured) is resigning from her post on Sept. 26. The SLO City Council plans to fill her vacancy with an appointment.

"We have four experienced council members. ... I think we can certainly do a capable job of making an appointment," Councilmember Carlyn Christianson said. "We're more than halfway through the term anyway. We just have so many absolutely crucial things to be spending money on."

The City Council—without Harmon, who recused herself from the discussion—made quick work of the decision, agreeing that an appointment would be the most efficient and cost-effective route for filling the vacancy until the November 2022 election.

Under the SLO city charter, in the event of a vacancy, the council must appoint a replacement member within 30 days or else hold a special municipal election to take place in 90 to 150 days. City officials said that a special election would cost between $150,000 and $200,000, not including staff time.

On top of wanting to avoid that expense, Councilmember Jan Marx added that appointment is the fastest way to get the council back to five members. She said that if the council is ever split 2-2 on a vote, it cannot move forward on decisions.

"You're like dead in the water," Marx said. "We really need to have five council members."

The City Council also discussed the high likelihood that a current council member will be appointed to Harmon's seat, which would then leave behind a vacant council seat. At least two current council members—Andy Pease and Erica Stewart—have expressed interest in the mayor's position, Pease told New Times.

As a way to consolidate the appointments, on Sept. 9, the city will publish a notice that invites residents to apply for both/either the mayor and/or the council. That application period will run until Sept. 24, and requires that candidates submit a 500-word statement about their qualifications and reasons for seeking the appointment.

Then on Sept. 28, the four council members will receive the applications. On Oct. 5, the City Council will meet to discuss and decide on the appointments. The clerk will then administer their oaths of office.

Pease said at the Sept. 7 meeting that she's not concerned about the council successfully navigating this transition, as Harmon steps down to start a public affairs position at the Romero Institute.

"I feel we're so fortunate," Pease said. "We have skills and experience and leadership." Δ

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