GROVER BEACH, Calif. -- The race for new Grover Beach mayor is entering its last few weeks, with two candidates hoping to earn the two-year term this coming Election Day.
On the ballot on Nov. 8 will be current Grover Beach City Council Member Karen Bright, and longtime local business owner Stacy Korsgaden.
Bright has lived in Grover Beach for more than 30 years. Now retired, Bright has served on the Grover Beach City Council for 12 years, including now in a seat she was elected to fill in 2020.
In addition to her time on the City Council, Bright has also serves on many other local government boards, commissions and committees over the years.
Korsgaden has also lived in Grover Beach for more than 30 years and has been local business owner during that time. She currently owns Farmers Insurance Agency office located in downtown Grover Beach on Grand Ave.
While Korsgaden has never been elected to public office, she has ran twice for San Luis Obispo County District 3 Supervisor.
In 2020, she lost a narrow race to longtime incumbent Adam Hill, and then earlier this year was defeated by Dawn Ortiz-Legg, who was appointed to the seat following Hill's death later in the same year.
News Channel recently spoke with each candidate and asked them the same list of questions about their candidacy, the issues, and why they are the best choice for voters on Nov. 8.
The first question asked the two candidates why they are running to fill the mayoral seat.
"I am definitely the best candidate," said Bright. "I have 12 years of local government experience. I am very familiar with our ordinances and funding streams. I believe that I am a consensus builder. Our current council is very cohesive. We agree to disagree, so we can basically just get the business of the city done. I've had a lot of experience doing that and I have the support of my entire council, so I believe that we can continue to go forward and continue this upward path of the city."
"I live and work in Grover Beach," said Korsgaden. "I love the area and want to give back to my community."
The next questioned centered on the main points each candidate is focusing on during their campaign.
"I've decided to run for Grover Beach mayor because all politics is local, and a lot of the concerns that are affecting the United States as a whole, and affecting California, it comes right down to the city level, and some of the policies that have implemented in our state have affected our city, and I believe that we can affect change here in Grover Beach," said Korsgaden. "My main policy, first and foremost, is we have to have a safe and clean community in Grover Beach. It is an awesome and beautiful to live, but the number one concern in the community that I find is homelessness, and what goes hand in hand is public safety. I believe in, not housing first, but shelter first. For our community, we need to keep the community safe, and at the same time, I am pro public safety, which means full support of our police force."
"The thing that is most important to our residents is the homeless and housing situation, so that is something that we are working on diligently, trying to come up with the best solution, or product that we can," said Bright. "We are starting with the Pallet homes that we expect will open in probably two weeks, whereby people will be housed and also receive the services that they need, mental health, and various other services that will be available on that campus. We have also purchased a piece of property, the city did with our ARPA funds, and we're leasing that back to Five Cities Homeless Coalition, so they will build some sort of a campus. We're not sure exactly what that will look like, but it will have services. It could be separate housing. It could be a shelter. We just don't know yet how that's all going to plan out, but I'm excited for that."
The third question asked the candidates what they feel are the main issues the city is currently facing. Both Bright and Korsgaden each emphasized addressing homelessness is at the top of the list when it comes to concerns within Grover Beach.
"I think an important issue with the homeless situation is that there are many different facets within the homeless population," said Bright. "There are those that you see and there are those that you don't, where there maybe single mothers with their children living in their car, or in a motorhome, or couch surfing, so there are many people who need our services and need assistance. Some will take it. Some won't, but we're working to make the situation hopefully better than it has been. Second, I would say, is economic development. Without that, you have no tax base, so we work very diligently with our businesses to keep them thriving. As a matter of fact, our sales tax has become our number two income to our city, for the first time in forever I believe, so we are on an upward trend there as well, but it is something that we just need to keep pushing along to make sure that we get better and better. The third, I guess would be of course would be housing. It's an issue, lack of housing. We have worked with a public-private partnership with People's Self Housing and HASLO to construct, I believe it's 53 low-income housing units on South 13th Street. That will be geared towards veterans and those who are low income, so really happy about that, but of course we need to do more. Public safety, of course. That's always an issue. I think that we're a very safe community, and our police department, I think, is one of the finest. I was able to do a ride along last week, and it was amazing. I was so impressed by how professional, but also how kind and compassionate our police officers are. It was a real eye opener."
"The number one issue in Grover Beach is homelessness," said Korsgaden. "When we see people that are sleeping in our parks, in our streets, and there's an area in Grover Beach that's secluded and it's covered with a lot of trees and shrubs. We have possibility hundreds of people sleeping there. It's not safe. It's not clean. My recommendation and solution would be shelter first, and not housing first. Public safety is the number two issue, which would be supporting our police and fire, and number three, jobs. We have an incredible area, beautiful beaches, great for vacationers. I am pro-access for the Oceano Dunes. I am pro-off highway vehicle use for our Oceano Dunes and we need to have multiple streams of income and revenue into our community, and so it would be jobs."
Each candidates was also asked about their difference when it comes to experience. While Bright has served on the Grover Beach City Council for more than 10 years, Korsgaden no prior experience in public office.
"My question is will it be a benefit to the community if I am elected?" said Korsgaden. "The answer is yes. What's happened in our California government, local and state, is we have people who have been in office, I believe for too long. My opponent has been in, I think, since 2007, and our country was based on the fact that people that work in the community, that live in the community, will go into government and serve. We know that government's policies have done to small businesses, to drive people out of the state of California, so I'm asking for the vote because I believe that real life experiences. I know how to run a budget. I know what the costs of all these fees are costing to our local families, a loss of jobs. I'd like to turn that around in our community."
"I think it's extremely important in order to get the business of the city done," said Bright. "It is important to understand city funding, our enterprise funds and the workings of the city, so from my perspective, I think it's incredibly important."
Korsgaden and Bright were next asked to describe what they believe the future holds for Grover Beach.
"I basically envision what we have now, just enhanced and just continuing our upward trajectory," said Bright. "Having all the streets done, but then they'll have a scheduled maintenance, so that we don't end up in the situation again. Just a thriving beach community where people want to come and hang and enjoy themselves. I love the diversity of this city. One of the reasons why I decided to stay here and raise my children here, and I think that other people do too. They can come here and feel comfortable and feel welcome, so that's what I would like to see continue."
"Grover Beach is a hidden gem," said Korsgaden. "It's right on the coast. The climate is world-class. I mean you just leave and go anywhere and you know that our weather is incredible. The opportunities that we have, whether it be small business, whether it be recreation, vacationers. Our tourist industry has really yet to be developed, whether it be hotels, off-road vehicles, camping, all of those things can bring lots and lots of jobs and we want to see a successful base where our community can thrive."
Another question asked the candidates what it would mean for each voter who cast their ballot in their favor.
"A vote for Stacy Korsgaden is a vote for government accountability, an opportunity for jobs, and for families, and for good common sense government, and we need that here in California, and I'll bring that to Grover Beach," said Korsgaden.
"It's a vote for progress," said Bright. "A vote for compassion and vote for good government."
Whoever wins the election will succeed Jeff Lee, who has held the position since 2018.
The new mayor will serve a two-year term beginning in Dec. 2022 and ending in Dec. 2024.