Morro Bay is a wonderful city, but the politics can get a little heated.

In the 10+ years I’ve spent here, I’ve seen community leaders come and go. Each leader has always brought their unique take on the role of mayor. Not every leader we’ve elected was perfect, but the City Council had traditionally allowed for open, rigorous debate on various community issues. Residents voted for leaders based on positions and values they’ve touted during their political campaigns, but there was always the expectation that they would be making informed decisions from behind the dais with extensive public input.

Unfortunately, for the past decade, we’ve seen the City of Morro Bay turn from a community-based government that used a consensus and compromise model for decision-making to a half-baked autocracy where the only voice that mattered, on the City Council, was the mayor. Residents have jokingly referred to our current and past mayor as “kings.” Under the leadership of past mayor Jamie Irons and current mayor John Headding, agendas are set long in advance and the die is cast before public input is presented. They feel that public participation — that doesn’t come in the form of praise — is inconvenient.

Dissent among the council is not only discouraged by the mayor, but it was literally written out of the council bylaws under the faulty pretense of improving efficiency at council meetings. This meant community issues of public interest were presented by staff and a handful of questions are asked by the council, but not debated. Residents can deliver public comment. But for many, public comment feels futile. Over time, residents who previously and actively engaged in the public process have felt their words carried no weight. They felt the fix was already in. They felt they lost the ability to communicate on an even level with City leadership. Unless you’re one of many involved in the ever-revolving door of contractors or a certain cannabis mogul that’s now serving time in federal jail, the City leadership is not interested in having an open dialogue on matters that affect residents’ quality of life on a daily basis.

This is why our government needs to transform. The whole approach to governing in Morro Bay needs to transform. We have to recognize leaders who are capable of making that transformation happen.

One of those leaders is Carla Wixom, a highly principled, well-respected and determined public servant. As a Rotarian, owner of a successful restaurant and former council member, Carla has deep roots in the community. Because she has deep roots in our community, Carla is more invested in the community’s collective well-being and holds herself more accountable to making the best possible decisions.

She’s not interested in the partisan politics or appeasing special interests. She doesn’t look for shortcuts to bypass public opinion. She respects the value of the community, respects the rule of law that makes our government more accountable and transparent to the public. She evaluates community issues with undeniable devotion to a granular level of detail and proudly puts in the time. This is someone who genuinely cares about Morro Bay.

Carla works hard. To have a business like hers last as long as it has, especially during COVID-19, you need an owner that will make tough calls while recognizing and respecting the very people who’ve helped her lay a consistent foundation for that business. Carla has done that for over 30 years. In this economy, that’s unheard of. She brought her business acumen and expertise to the City Council from 2008-2012. She did a fine job because her extensive volunteerism and private sector experience gave her deliberations more depth. She brought prestige to the position she served and set the bar high.

For years, I’ve found Carla intimidating. I’ve been to a number of events where she sat down and candidly spoke to residents about community issues, public policy and safety. My body would naturally tense up when she was close by. I was reluctant to say anything around her because the depth of her knowledge on Morro Bay was so profound, it humbled me into silence. I listened to her words carefully and appreciated her wisdom. She commanded a presence that reinforced the desire within me to shape up, be informed and get to work; that there was no time to mess around or pretend to know the issues. You have to put in the work and time. It dawned on me later that my “intimidated” feeling was actually an outward manifestation of my deep respect for the woman she is.

Carla is the type of person that operates at such a high level of responsible, civic-minded leadership that she inspires others around her to be at their best. That’s why I believe the rest of the City Council will undergo a healthy and long overdue transformation. Even if council members vote differently than her or have opposing views, they know they’ll be free to show independence and not be coerced into fealty. They will be empowered to speak up and listen. Then, and only then, will our council body be a truly independent and transparent entity.

I’m excited and proud to endorse Carla Wixom for Morro Bay mayor.

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