There was a sense of exodus and new beginnings as Jan Marx led her last city council meeting as mayor of San Luis Obispo on Friday at City Hall. Over 300 members of the community gathered at noon to watch the mayoral inauguration of Heidi Harmon, welcome new city council members Andy Pease and Aaron Gomez and bid old city council members adieu.
Harmon won the mayoral race by a sheer margin of 47 votes. For many, the election gave San Luis Obispo residents a renewed appreciation for the significance of local politics.
Business administration junior Ethan Turer came to City Hall to watch Harmon’s inauguration. Turer met Harmon during his time campaigning for Bernie and considers her a friend. He says her illustrious blue house on Mill Street became sort of the “hub of political movement” in San Luis Obispo.
“After she was elected, she hosted a student meet and greet to hear our concerns,” he said. “I feel like that’s something that Jan Marx never did. I didn’t know who she [Marx] was. I’ve been here for three years and I hadn’t heard about her until Heidi was running against her as mayor.”
Resident Mary Wood attended Cal Poly and has lived in San Luis Obispo since 1974. Wood has known Heidi for a long time and says she’s very excited to have her as mayor.
“She reaches out to everyone,” Wood said. “She’s been doing a lot at Cal Poly, and I don’t think Cal Poly gets included a whole lot.”
Harmon says her time as a community organizer has created a solid foundation with the students of San Luis Obispo. She is going to make sure students’ voices are being heard.
“When we’re talking about anything, but especially issues that directly impact the student community, I want to make sure they [students] are at the table for those,” Harmon said. “So when we talk about housing, especially more housing on on campus, making sure we’re not doing that without the students being part of that conversation.”
The decision to file for candidacy wasn’t an easy one, according to Harmon.
“It’s really hard to win against against 20-year incumbents,” Harmon said. “I consider Jan a friend. We’re both Democrats and there was a lot to think about before I ran.”
Harmon said inauguration day was particularly special for her family. The overwhelming support from her children, Jack and Zoie, was what kept her in the running.
“I saw them [Jack and Zoie] looking at me in the audience like, we actually did it,” Harmon said “And it really is a ‘we.’ I’m a very ‘we’ person in general. I think there are a lot of people here today that really feel that they got me here, and they absolutely did.”
There were other inaugurations conducted and goodbyes said at City Hall that day.
Dan Carpenter stepped down as vice mayor. Carpenter thanked Marx, saying through laughter, that although he and Marx often differed on ideological issues, they “redefined passionate discourse.”
City council member Dan Rivoire will succeed Carpenter as vice mayor of San Luis Obispo.
City council member John Ashbaugh also stepped down, saying he “couldn’t begin to describe the emotions.” Through tears, he commemorated his late mother and said the city of San Luis Obispo was an extension of his family.
Council member Carlyn Christianson’s term will extend for another two years, and Andy Pease and Aaron Gomez will join as new members of city council.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Zoie Harmon’s name. It has been changed to have the correct spelling.