San Luis Obispo City Council to appoint new mayor

September 8, 2021


The San Luis Obispo City Council decided on Tuesday to appoint, rather than elect, a new mayor to replace outgoing Mayor Heidi Harmon.

Harmon will vacate her mayoral seat on Sept. 26, more than one year prior to the conclusion of her current two-year term. Harmon has accepted a climate policy advocacy position with a nonprofit and has chosen to give up her mayoral position, rather than fill both roles simultaneously. Critics have questioned the timing of her resignation announcement, which came amid an FBI probe into corruption in the cannabis industry that has targeted a local marijuana mogul from whom Harmon allegedly accepted unreported gifts.

On Tuesday, the SLO City Council voted 4-0 with Harmon recusing herself to opt for an appointment process, instead of a special election. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s vote, current council members, as well as other residents of San Luis Obispo, will have the opportunity to submit applications to become appointed mayor.

Then at its Oct. 5 meeting, the council will consider appointing a new mayor. At the meeting, each applicant will have five minutes to present his/her case for becoming mayor to the council. If the council reaches a consensus on whom to appoint, the new mayor will be sworn in.

If a seated council member is appointed mayor, the move will trigger a new appointment process to fill the vacated council seat. The council could then appoint a new member at a meeting later in October or in November.

Following Harmon’s departure from her mayoral seat, Vice Mayor Erica Stewart will fill in for Harmon prior to a new mayor being seated. In addition to Stewart, the other current council members are councilwomen Carlyn Christianson, Andy Pease and Jan Marx. Christianson has served on the council consecutively since 2013; Pease received the most votes in last year’s council election; and Marx formerly served three terms as mayor.

Had the council chosen to hold a special election to fill Harmon’s seat, the vote would take place sometime between Dec. 26, 2021 and Feb. 24, 2022 and cost an estimated $150,000 to $200,000, according to a city staff report.


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The 5 title photos for this story could be used as a FBI photo lineup

Jon Tatro

I would like to think anyone they pick would be better than Harmon but I’m sure the Council will hire somebody equally unqualified.

Jorge Estrada

I do not live in SLO so I have no vote but Jan Marx, whom is not in my political camp, has done the job and is qualified to finish Heidi’s term. My political suasion would support Keith Gurnee but I don’t think he is an option among the current City Council.


Marx’s politics, is how we got Heidi…


In all sincerity, what good person in their right mind would want to serve on the SLO City Council? There’s no diversity of thought, of gender, of partisan political affiliation, of anything within this rogue’s gallery.

If a good person stepped-up and was actually allowed to serve, all it would do it render a lot of 4-1 votes. In a word, this situation sucks. This “institution” has done a real number on our beloved SLO. Pox on all of them.


Wow, well with that attitude, nothing will change. The council does lack diversity and what they need is someone to see that and want to run to change it, rather than grumbling to themselves about how bad things are. You see a 4-1 vote and say it sucks. I see it as the first step towards meaningful change. That’s the difference between a worthless whiner and a visionary.