Paso Robles swears in first councilwoman in 34 years

Newly sworn-in Paso Robles City Councilmember Maria Garcia, standing with her fiance Gilbert Ruelas, applauds during Tuesday’s ceremony. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Gregory is in the background. (Photos by Brian Williams)

People in a packed Council Chamber loudly applauded as Paso Robles’ newest councilmember, Maria Elena Garcia, was sworn in Tuesday night, Dec. 4.

Garcia is the first woman elected to the Paso Robles Council more than three decades and only the third councilwoman in the city’s history.

She finished second in the November general election behind incumbent John Hamon with 4,831 (28 percent) and 5,221 (30.26 percent) votes, respectively. Michael Rivera and Andy Pekema finished a distant third and fourth.

Paso Robles City Manager Tom Frutchey swore in Garcia, Hamon and returning Mayor Steven Martin.

Garcia took the seat formerly held by Jim Reed, who instead of running for re-election challenged Martin for mayor.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, each newly elected councilmember thanked their supporters and made brief comments.

“I just want to say thank you to all of the community for inviting me into their homes and letting me listen to the concerns they had,” Garcia said. “We live in Paso, where the community is very concerned and it’s very active and engaged.”

Garcia told of how she spent the majority of her campaign going door-to-door talking to people about the election and her candidacy.

“People did have questions and they wanted to get to know me and that was great,” Garcia said. “I knew that was going to happen in Paso because we have a caring community. They would always ask questions.”

Garcia reiterated that just because she’s been elected it doesn’t mean she is going to stop listening.

“I am a person that will listen to you,” she said. “I’m willing to sit and listen to the residents and their concerns, always.”

Hamon, who was elected for a fourth term, said this would be his last.

“I want to first thank all of the folks in the city of Paso Robles for having faith in me one more time, actually for the last time for sure,” Hamon said. “It’s been an honor to serve for the last 12 years and I look forward to the next four. A lot of great things coming for Paso Robles and our county as well.”

Martin, who ran unopposed four years ago, pointed out some of the local dignitaries in attendance at the meeting, including outgoing Atascadero Mayor and long-time friend Tom O’Malley, Atascadero Mayor-elect Heather Moreno, and San Luis Obispo County Schools Superintendent Jim Brescia.

“I’m thankful for all those who supported me in the recent election and believe it or not I’m thankful for those who didn’t,” Martin said. “You came out. You got involved. You made your voices heard and I want you to know that I did hear those voices and I will spend the next four years earning your respect. ...

“Now let’s get to work,” Martin said.

It was a light agenda and a short meeting by Paso Robles standards, lasting less than three hours.

Garcia made her first official vote as a member of the Paso Robles City Council 7:12 p.m. She, along with her fellow councilmembers, unanimously approved the consent calendar, 5-0. There would be seven more votes that she took part in over the course of the meeting.

In other matters, council approved: the re-appointment of Steve Gregory as Mayor Pro-Tem; oak tree removal permits for one tree at Paso Robles Ford and one tree within the12th Street right-of-way; the draft one-year Community Development Block Grant action plan for a total of $215,884 and set a date of March 5 to finalize CDBG allocations; entering into an agreement in the amount of $134,944 with Wallace Group to prepare plans, specifications and estimates for Union Road improvements along the frontage of Barney Schwartz Park; council committee assignments; and the 2019 regular City Council meeting schedule.

The next regular City Council meeting is 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18, in Council Chambers at 1000 Spring St.

Newly sworn-in Paso Robles City Councilmember Maria Garcia, standing with her fiance Gilbert Ruelas, applauds during Tuesday’s ceremony. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Gregory is in the background. (Photos by Brian Williams)

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