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Harmon faces three challengers for SLO Mayor

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif - Heidi Harmon has been the mayor of San Luis Obispo for the last four years.

"In this time of crisis, it's a time for experience," Harmon said.

Harmon says the city has helped get over a quarter million dollars to local small businesses affected by the pandemic, and it is fast tracking the permitting process to quickly get retail tenants into vacant buildings.

"Housing will still be a priority," Harmon said of a possible third term in office. "Sustainable transportation, climate action, and certainly fiscal responsibility and downtown vitality. We will move forward with all these goals while we prioritize recovery from the health and economic impacts of COVID."

The incumbent is facing three challengers, including downtown business owner, Cherisse Sweeney.

"I have a deep love for our community and I'm very connected to the issues that we're faced with today," Sweeney said.

Sweeney's top priority is public health and safety. She's concerned with downtown vacancies and homelessness.

"The recovery, our economic vitality, a lot of that's going to be really hard to follow if we can't become safe and healthy in our community," Sweeney said.

Sandra Marshall has been a publisher and Director of the Earth Day Alliance.

"As far as issues, number one is to not allow 75-foot buildings downtown," Marshall said.

Marshall has lived in San Luis Obispo since the mid 1970s and is worried the city will lose its charm, history and open space.

"There are many things to protect here," Marshall said. "That's what many of us have fought for for a long time, and that's why I want to run for mayor."

Donald Hedrick is running for mayor a sixth time. He is a welder and sculptor.

"I have a love of this town," Hedrick said.

Hedrick says he wants SLO to remain a quaint historic city.

"Our town has been assaulted by developers from far and wide," Hedrick said.

Heidi Harmon is facing off against three challengers in the race for Mayor of San Luis Obispo.

Black Lives Matter protests have marched through the streets of San Luis Obispo many times this year, disrupting traffic and commerce. Sweeney says there's been a breakdown in healthy communication with protestors, and businesses have been affected.

"I think it's really important to unite right now," Sweeney said. "And I think to use our downtown as a uniting spot to come together in a safe way."

Marshall says people can protest peacefully, and get arrested to make a point.

"You don't need to slam the book at people. We don't need to make them the object of it. We need to face it."

Hedrick believes the protests are fueled by what he calls outside interests.

"Our cities need to be a sanctuary for the people who have been here and invested their lives," Hedrick said.

Mayor Harmon anticipates the city will adopt a new major goal of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A task force to that end has already been created.

"We're the county seat. We're the biggest city," Harmon said when asked why she thinks San Luis Obispo has had the most BLM protests of any city in the region. "We have the University here so certainly this was predominantly a youth led movement, not just here but around the world."

The Mayor of San Luis Obispo is elected to a two year term.

You can learn more about the candidates by visiting our 2020 Voter Guide.

San Luis Obispo County
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Scott Hennessee

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