A Week In The Life
by Janice Peters, Mayor of Morro Bay
At 6:15 a.m. on a Thursday morning earlier this year, I was at Morro Bay Coffee Company buying a wake-up latte before driving to Santa Barbara. The purpose of the trip was a California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference (CMANC) meeting about harbor dredging issues. Another customer greeted me and asked where I was headed. When I told him, his response was, “I didn’t realize you did things like that in addition to the City Council meetings.” Yes, we actually do…quite a lot of other things.
Here’s a sample week’s schedule in my life as mayor.
Monday: On the second and fourth Mondays every month we have our Council meeting. Our agenda packet is ready on the preceding Wednesday, and consists of anywhere from 50 to 500 pages of material to read and analyze. Council days are spent preparing for the meeting and handling numerous calls and e-mails from staff and constituents on the agenda issues. Our closed session (covering litigation, real property, personnel, and other sensitive items) starts at 5 p.m. We go directly from there to our public meeting at the Vets’ Hall. Our meetings seldom end before 11 p.m., and sleep doesn’t come easily after the mental stimulus of a 6-hour meeting. This Monday was typical.
Tuesday: The Council held a special goal-setting meeting from noon to 5 p.m., after which our Harbor Director, Rick Algert, and I attended a dinner hosted by the Cable Fisheries Organization, which funds the annual trips we make to Washington D.C. to lobby for dredging funds.
Wednesday: After reviewing another inches-thick agenda packet, I attended the San Luis Council of Governments (SLOCOG) and Regional Transit Authority (RTA) meetings in San Luis Obispo. These monthly meetings focus on county transportation issues and typically last from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. On either Wednesday or Thursday, I meet with our city manager and city attorney to set the agenda for the next Council meeting and generally catch up on what’s new at City Hall. On this particular Wednesday, I followed the agenda meeting with a rehearsal for the Chamber of Commerce board members’ Fundraiser Follies performance.
Thursday: On Thursday mornings, as often as possible, I attend the 9 a.m. Business Forum on the Embarcadero. This week, however, was the Santa Barbara California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference (CMANC) event. I got back to Morro Bay in mid-afternoon, then went to a 2-hour meeting for the Winter Bird Festival, which is one of my other jobs. From there, I attended the Chamber of Commerce mixer.
Friday: There was a special 2-hour closed session meeting on the issue of nitrates in our water system. I went from there to the monthly County Mayors’ lunch meeting, followed by the ribbon cutting for our new roundabout. That evening, I attended the Seniors' monthly dinner, where I was scheduled to speak.
While this 40-hour week was a bit fuller than others, it was not unusual. I average 20-30 hours a week on city meetings, phone calls, e-mails, etc. In addition, I still make time for my other employment with the Bird Festival, as a photographer, writer, and film production assistant.
While the mayor does have more obligations, the councilmembers put in long hours and juggle their other jobs as well. Of the five of us, only Rick Grantham is retired, so he is able to spend time regularly visiting the city departments for one-on-one contact with our staff. He estimates 10-12 hours per week on city activities, plus another 16 hours per month for his work on the California Men's Colony (CMC) Advisory Committee and the Community Action Partnership board.
Betty Winholtz spends an average of 20 hours per week on council work and another 7 hours per month on the County Water Resources Advisory Committee and the SLO County Housing Trust Fund. As a tutor who has helped hundreds of local students, she puts in a 40-hour week teaching during the school year.
Noah Smuckler averages 20-25 hours per week on Council issues and another 5-10 hours per month on the Air Pollution Control District and the National Estuary Program. Noah spends between 25-60 hours per week in his profession as a chef-for-hire. (If you had a pizza at the Fundraiser Follies, you know what a good chef he is!)
Carla Borchard spends 10-15 hours per week on Council matters, and 4-6 hours per month on the Integrated Waste Management Authority and the Economic Vitality Corp. Her primary job is, of course, Carla’s Country Kitchen, which is a 7-days a week commitment of many hours per day. As first term Council members, both Carla and Noah have also spent extra time at training sessions and educational seminars on Council procedures.
We all spend additional hours on our Wastewater Treatment Plant Joint Powers Committee meetings several times per year with Cayucos, and Rick and I serve on a sub-committee for that group as well.
So that’s what we do in addition to the two monthly Council meetings. It’s a juggling act, but one we took on willingly when we chose to run for election. Holding elected office in a small town is very much a matter of public service. The pay is minimal… $700/month for the mayor and $500/month for Councilmembers, plus health insurance benefits. The hours are long . . . the job will take as much time as you can give it and sometimes demands more. But the rewards of serving the community are great. All of us are dedicated to doing the job entrusted to us by the voters.
I’ve said it before but will say it here again…we all WELCOME your input on any of the issues before us, or concerns you have about our city. Call, e-mail, stop us in the grocery store . . . we can serve you better if we know what you want and need.