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Two Atascadero City Councilmembers set to faceoff for SLO County District 5 supervisor seat

SLO County District 5 Supervisor race
Susan Funk (left) and Heather Moreno (right) are running for San Luis Obispo County Fifth District Supervisor. (Photos are courtesy of each candidate)

ATASCADERO, Calif – A pair of Atascadero City Council Members are set to square off tomorrow on Election Day in a closely-watched race to fill the seat for San Luis Obispo County District Five Supervisor.

Current Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno and current Mayor Pro Tem Susan Funk are vying to succeed Debbie Arnold, who has served as Fifth District Supervisor since 2012, but decided to not seek a fourth team on the Board of Supervisors.

The Fifth District covers a wide geographic area, and includes the communities of Atascadero, Cal Poly (portion), California Valley, Creston, Garden Farms, Pozo, San Luis Obispo (portion), Templeton (portion), and Santa Margarita.

The two candidates are quite familiar with each other. They have served on the Atascadero City Council together for the past six years.

Moreno has lived in Atascadero the past 20 years and has served on the Atascadero City Council since 2012, and was elected mayor in 2018. Funk has lived in Atascadero for 10 years served on the City Council since 2018.

Both candidates are local business owners. Moreno runs a boutique health and wellness consulting firm, while Funk operates a small business providing management consulting for healthcare companies.

Funk has chaired SLO County’s Homeless Services Oversight Council and served on Atascadero’s Design Review Committee and on the Atascadero Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, while Moreno has experience on the Atascadero Planning Commission, San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the Regional Transit Authority and the Regional Economic Action Coalition.

Both candidates recently sat down with News Channel and were each asked the same list of questions pertaining to their candidacy, experience, campaign, issues and related topics.

"I'm running because the county needs leadership," said Moreno. "Leadership that will protect public safety and all the ways possible, that will also protect the taxpayer and make sure that San Luis Obispo County remains a place that is affordable to live, work and raise a family, and somebody who is going to approach homelessness in a way that is intelligent, compassion, compassionate and with accountability."

"I'm running because I care about the future of this community," said Funk. "As a council member in Atascadero since 2018, I've worked really hard to deal with the future, not only in Atascadero, but countywide. I stepped up to serve on and to lead for three years the county's Homeless Services Oversight Council, which is the biggest of the county inter-governmental interagency committees, and led the development of a new countywide strategy on homelessness. We got all five county supervisors to support and all the cities working together with the county and the county off of its stuff, leading for the first time in some of that work at a whole new level. It is the kind of critical work that helps us deal with community issues that individual cities can't do by themselves. We've got to solve this this kind of problem together, and I saw that need, and I have the experience bringing people together to make change in this community, and I want to do that on a host of other issues as well housing, water supply, making sure that we maintain our roads and our public safety while we deal with these other critical issues that come and go."

While the Board of Supervisors is technically a nonpartisan office, those who represent each of the County's five district has their own political beliefs and affiliations.

Moreno is a Republican, and is endorsed the San Luis Obispo County Republican Party, while Funk is a Democrat and is endorsed by the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party.

However, both candidates pointed out they each reach across the aisle to work across party lines.

"That's what I bring to this job," said Funk. "The level of dedication to the work, the willingness to work with everybody in the community. I've always been proud to have Republican, independent and Democrat support and my donors and all my campaign team. I spent four years early in my career working for Republican congressmen. I'm a lifelong Democrat. We work together to make the community better."

"I have proven myself to be a nonpartisan leader," said Moreno. "I collaborate and I build consensus, and you can see that throughout my campaign, and you can see that throughout my 11 year record."

While Funk and Moreno differ politically, each agreed on some of the major issues facing San Luis Obispo right now, including two in particular, homelessness and housing.

"With homelessness, I think there are three things that we need to do," said Moreno. "One, millions of dollars have been spent and the problem keeps getting worse. We need to do a performance audit and figure out what's working, what's not, and then we need to change that. Secondly, we need better coordination and communication. We also need a common concept, something everybody can get behind. And third, we need to balance compassion with order and accountability. People need to be held accountable when they break our laws in terms of housing. A few things that we need to do in the building and planning department. We need to streamline those processes and make them much more efficient. Time is money. We need to have an attitude of getting to yes for projects that are good for our county. We also have county lands and we can look at partnering with nonprofits to build multi multifamily housing, affordable housing. We could also partner with private developers to build market rate housing and have a, let's say, a set aside that's deed restricted for county employees, for teachers, for medical personnel. We can also look at businesses who have excess property and want to build housing for employees. We have to have an all of all of the above approach and look at increasing supply."

"I've really worked at how we move forward on that," said Moreno, when speaking about the housing issue. "Adult children can't find housing here to build their futures here. The seniors watch their grandchildren get raised somewhere else and they have to move away, and our businesses struggle to find the workers that they need, and if we're we can build all of the great economic opportunities and head of household jobs that will make our community thrive, but if those workers can't find housing here, those jobs don't stay here, so we've got to deal with the kinds of housing that our community needs, and look to be a mix of housing that will work, and so that's complicated. We need to make a change in homelessness. We can't just keep going on the way we are and we don't dare let it get worse. We've really got to work on it and that takes thoughtful and systematic attention to the to what drives change." 

When asked what a vote for her would mean, Moreno said "common sense, principled leadership," while Funk responded, "for functional government."

Whoever wins the election will have a long wait to fill the seat. Arnold will continue to serve as Fifth District Supervisor for the rest of the year. The winner of this race will be sworn in early January 2025.

"It's a real privilege to be able to serve this community," said Funk. "I look forward to doing that at the county wide level where I can do so much more to move this community forward and to help people have the support from their government to do the things that they want to do, and I will represent every member of the community, whether you voted for me or not. That's a difference than we've heard from certainly the sitting supervisor (Debbie Arnold). You'll always know what you can count on with me because I'm very frank with people about where I'm coming from and what we can do, and that focus on actually getting stuff done in the community is what I'm all about. It's what I bring from my business experience.  It's what I bring from my council experience and the commitment that I bring to the community to do the work and get stuff done."

"I'm proud of my record of service and what I've done for Atascadero," said Moreno. "I'm proud of my record of service, and I commit to doing the same in serving the residents of San Luis Obispo County, and I thank you all for this opportunity to to run to have these conversations that we've been having. I'm excited about what's to come."

Be sure to watch Election Day coverage all day long on News Channel on Tuesday, March 5 beginning at 5 a.m.

Article Topic Follows: Primary Election
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Dave Alley

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