SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Four candidates are running for mayor in San Luis Obispo.
Incumbent Erica A. Stewart is running against challengers Jeffery Specht, Welder Donald Hedrick, and Richard Orcutt.
"I have the experience," Stewart said. Stewart was elected to the city council and appointed San Luis Obispo Mayor in October of last year when Heidi Harmon stepped down. She's now running for a full two-year term.
"I've been involved with this community for over 26 years as a mom, as a wife, as a full-time worker, and owned my own business. I've been part of this community in many different ways," she said.
Specht, an entrepreneur, ran for mayor in 2014 and more recently ran for city council.
"I advocate for the homeless. I'm a lifetime resident. I'm a fighter. With my last breath, I will keep my campaign promises," he said.
Hedrick is running for mayor for the seventh time.
"I want to represent a portion of the community that has not had the best representation, I think," he said.
Orcutt, a retired firefighter who is also running for mayor, declined our offer for an on-camera interview. However, he said that his top priorities are ending street crime and revitalizing downtown. He wants free parking downtown, and so does Specht.
"They're praying on people for unhealthy revenue in my opinion," Specht said. "We need to do the carrot and the stick. Give free parking. Have people come and enjoy our beautiful town like they used to."
Stewart said the city is a big supporter of helping economic development and economic recovery.
"We've had 44 businesses open downtown this last year," she said. "I think it shows that we are really seeing vibrancy and seeing our businesses thrive."
Addressing the homeless situation is a top priority for all the candidates.
"We have a chronic homeless problem/mentally ill wandering our streets," Specht said. "It's been talked about for years, yet these items never make it to the agenda."
"We're talking with the cities and the county now regionally and saying, 'how can we help people that are unhoused?' Get them into housing and deal with the complex issues, whether it's mental health or substance abuse and really come together," Steward said.
"We need jobs that can pay people to afford a house," Hedrick said, adding that there's too much development driven by people from outside the area.
Specht said Cal Poly should build more housing on campus to reduce the burden on the rest of the town.
"Enough talk. Let's have some action. We the people are losing left and right," he said.
"I want to make sure that our city is a city where everyone feels welcome and knows that they belong here," Stewart said. "So, when we look at everything we're doing, all of our work should be with an equity lens and looking at how people can feel included."