Candidates vying for local offices in SLO County

August 20, 2022


Who are the candidates running for public office in San Luis Obispo County, and which races are likely to make a change in local governmental policies?


The Atascadero City Council is likely to remain primarily unchanged, with Mayor Heather Moreno running unchallenged.

Three candidates are running for two open council seats: incumbents Susan Funk, Heather Newsom and Writer Bret Heinemann. An ongoing lawsuit accuses both incumbents of violating city regulations in their battle to stop a man from developing his property.

Arroyo Grande

Mayor Caren Ray, a high school teacher in Santa Maria, has two challengers: Dale Hanson, a real estate appraiser, and Gaea Powell, who runs a small nonprofit.

With district elections in place, the city will have at least two newly elected officials following the November election. Newcomer Kathleen Secrest, an attorney, is running unopposed for the new District 1 council seat.

In District 4, newcomer Ben Franco, a small business owner, is running against former councilman James Guthrie.

Grover Beach

There are two candidates for mayor of Grover Beach: Councilwoman Karen Bright and business owner Stacy Korsgaden.

Current Mayor Jeff Lee is termed out. During his tenure, the FBI raided Lee’s home amid an investigation into corruption tied to convicted marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring and former SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill. While under investigation for soliciting bribes, Hill committed suicide.

Candidate Bright served on the city council from 2008 through 2016. She won another term in 2020. Hill touted Bright, a Democrat, as his number one supporter.

In 2020, Korsgaden, a Republican, lost to Hill by 2 percentage points in a run at Hill’s SLO County supervisor seat. She recently lost to Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg by 28 percentage points after attending Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 speech.

Incumbent Robert Robert is running unopposed for the new District 1 council seat.

In District 2, retired dentist Ron Arnoldson is challenging incumbent Daniel Rushing.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay Mayor John Headding is facing one challenger, Carla Wixom, the owner of Carla’s Country Kitchen.

Six newcomers are running for two seats on the council: Marketer Casey Cordes, attorney David Duringer, small business owner Cyndee Edwards, homemaker Robin Landrum, server Sarah Smith Robinson and Deanna Sandoval.

Paso Robles

Mayor Steve Martin is facing one challenger, Michael Rivera, a medical industry businessman.

Incumbent John Hamon is running unopposed for the District 1 council seat. In District 2, newcomer Chris Bausch, a business consultant and school board trustee, is running unopposed.

Pismo Beach

Mayor Ed Waage is running unopposed for the mayor seat.

Five people are running for two seats on the council, including incumbent Councilwoman Mary Ann Reiss, who has served on the council since 1996.

Also vying for a seat on the council are retired border patrol agent Kevin Carl Kreowski, attorney Stacy Inman, real estate broker and general contractor Deborah Lossing and attorney and former councilman Erik Howell.

San Luis Obispo

Mayor Erica Stewart is facing three challengers: entrepreneur Jeff Specht, retired firefighter Richard Orcutt and recycler Don Hedrick.

There are four candidates running for two seats on the council, including appointed incumbent Michelle Shoresman.

Also vying for a seat on the council are businessman James Papp, attorney Joe Benson and Emily Francis, a teacher.

San Simeon Community Services District

Three people are running unopposed for three open seats: incumbent Michael Donahue, attorney Karina Tiwana and Jacqueline Diamond, a retired school district administrator.

All three candidates have voiced concerns over the current administration, Grace Environmental Services, and the district’s legal counsel, Jeff Minnery. After the three candidates are sworn in, it is likely there will be major changes in the embattled district.

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I am still in a quandary over last weeks re-minded fact that our election process favors mail-in ballots or voting at the polls but definitely not by a internet site because it is not a secure forum. Never mind that we sign up for social security benefits, e-file our tax returns, do our banking, pay our bills, move money in the stock market yet we can’t vote on the internet. I have to question that their may be a possible fear in having a larger voter turn out with the internet. These votes would be unseasoned by the stigma of a public document or the physical presence at the voting polls, not a lack in internet security? Most people would not spill their guts on the election board but do it all of the time on the internet because of a greater perception of privacy, as foolish as that may be..

There is (what may be) a record number of people running for school boards across the county. An update on that would be helpful.

I know it can be difficult to be a good citizen, but with even a bit of Google research, you would know about school board elections. The U.S. has become incredibly transparent in recent years with the advent of the internet. Imagine a 1950 school board election, you’d actually have to go somewhere and hear the candidates. Shutter the thought.

Anyway, thanks for your query. It got me thinking. The school board is an essential part of our democracy and we need good people. So, I did some research on my local Atascadero School Board by looking at their candidate statements. Mind you, I have not had a child in public school for about 30 years, but as you can tell by my comments to this blog, I am definitely interested in all things political.

First, there appear to be 9 candidates for four seats. I think. There are seven seats total, but it looks like two candidates are running for a two-year seat instead of the regular four-year seat. Not sure why.

But, to the candidates. Tami Gunther, Donn Clickard and George Dodge are running for re-election. Gunther has plenty of experience and seems likely to continue in her roll. She dutifully talks about transparency through technology—allowing parents up to date looks at their child’s attendance, behavior and academic achievement. She has one of my votes.

Clickard is an old boy, literally and figuratively. I think he was the AD at the HS 200 years ago. But, he has experience and common sense. Old jocks are usually fine with me. Second vote.

George Dodge also has experience and recognition from the CTA. Good enough for me. Third vote.

So, six candidates for one seat. First, Colleen McCall-Palermo: A lawyer and parent. Wants “greater fiscal and educational accountability.” Who doesn’t? Murky statement, word salad. Big maybe.

Janet Waters: parent, grandparent, “accounting consultant” whatever that is. I’m always skeptical of people who make there living as a consultant. No.

Joel Twisselman: statement is vague, though I would not be opposed to having a rancher on the school board.

Noel M. Shutt: his philosophy is to spend as little as possible on public education so the billionaires can buy another BMW. Enough said.

David May: only statement in both English and Spanish. Has experience with gangs, substance abuse and was a firefighter. I like him. Possible.

Carol Nelson-Selby: another lawyer. You know the old joke: “What do you call 10 lawyers chained at the bottom of the ocean?” Answer: “A good start.”

I just wish the average American would sit down and weigh their options as I have just done. Their world may depend on it as anti-democratic forces continue to hover around our republic.