Get to know your candidates campaigning for your vote this November
By The Atascadero News Board
ATASCADERO — Campaigning continues for the candidates vying for the three open seats on Atascadero’s City Council. The city council candidates in alphabetical order by last name are Susan Funk, Bret Heinemann, and Heather Newsom. Heather Moreno, running for re-election as Atascadero mayor, has no challengers. Heinemann and Newsom did not participate in the questionnaire.
As a follow-up to last week’s City Council Candidates 2022 Q&A Part I, each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same list of questions from The Atascadero News Editorial Board in 150 words or less in addition to their introduction and statement at 200 words.
The candidate’s answers are presented in alphabetical order by last name. Please refer to last week’s paper for Part I.
Please describe your business experience.
Funk (City Council): I have owned and operated a small business for nearly 30 years doing management in the healthcare industry. I manage data studies and build economic models to help businesses make decisions and understand how their products affect healthcare costs and patient outcomes. Earlier in my career I was a hospital executive. I earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) with a certificate in public management. My company is a member of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce.
Moreno (Mayor): As a CPA I worked for KPMG, auditing the financial statements for small and large clients, ranging from companies with under $500M in annual revenue to large, publicly traded companies. As a manager at the firm, I directed audit teams, coordinated with the tax and consulting departments, and was the point person for both clients and the firm’s partners. Later, I worked as the Controller for Paranetics Technology, an Arizona-based company that manufactured cargo parachutes for the US military, responsible for tens of millions of dollars in revenue and a range of human resource functions for 100+ employees.
What will you do to make the City Council better if you are elected?
Funk (City Council): My current City Council colleagues and I have shown that Council Members with diverse political perspectives and affiliations can work together effectively for the good of the whole community. I’ll continue being a fresh voice on the Council — asking good questions and raising issues honestly even when they are uncomfortable. I’ll continue to emphasize collaboration so that our City can have the kind of forward-thinking, balanced leadership that attracts quality entrepreneurs and employees to our community.
Moreno (Mayor): A good City Council is responsive to the public, which is why I’ve worked to promote strong public participation to ensure our residents have a voice in City policies. As Mayor it’s my job to encourage citizen involvement, build consensus with my Council colleagues, and collaborate with stakeholders in the community for the betterment of Atascadero. When we listen to and treat each other with dignity, and seek the common good, Atascadero prospers.
What is the most important city issue you would like the next city council to tackle? (Examples: vacant housing, crime, transportation, business development, etc.)
Funk (City Council): Homelessness. There is too much suffering, and families and business customers want to feel safe sharing public spaces that weren’t designed to be campsites. We can’t do this by ourselves, of course, and the County needs to be the leader, but momentum is building. I’ll be working to get the newly-approved strategic plan on homelessness implemented here and countywide. Our city and neighboring areas need more pathways out of homelessness, stronger mental health and addiction supports, and more housing of many types that growing families and young people starting their careers can afford.
Moreno (Mayor): A diverse economy, where the amount of good paying jobs is on par with our housing supply. More jobs bring more success for our retail and restaurant sector, encouraging even more businesses to call Atascadero home. In 2021, Council approved a specific position to address economic development, resulting in more businesses locating here. Critical to this is broadband access for all so we’ve created a North County collaboration with Paso Robles, becoming the first in the County to move forward with a broadband strategic plan. We must continue on this trajectory to see a meaningful shift in the jobs/housing balance.
What do you think is going well right now in the city?
Funk (City Council): New restaurants and shops have opened in Atascadero, and more are on the way. LaPlaza is open at last, with thanks to the Zappas family for investing in our community. From movies to music and tamales to classic wheels and Ferris wheels, there are fun events sponsored by the City and others for people of all ages and incomes to enjoy together. More importantly, this new vibrancy is developing in a uniquely Atascadero way, preserving the small-town feel we treasure. Also, in these divisive times, it helps that our City Council is mutually respectful and stays focused on the community.
Moreno (Mayor): A lot! The increased activity and numerous events in our City center are exciting, especially as La Plaza opened, adding to the vibrancy of a burgeoning downtown. Atascadero led the way in implementing a new disaster evacuation and communication system that has become the gold standard for use in the County. The City consistently provides the necessary entitlements in our housing element to meet State mandates and we anticipate exceeding the current requirements to allow for much-needed housing. We’ve made significant investments in public safety, including new officer and dispatch positions and a new CAD/RMS system. And much more!
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
Funk (City Council): I first want to thank voters for approving the local sales tax measure (D-20) in 2020, because those funds have provided vital financial security for hiring and training police officers and making sure we can replace safety equipment such as aging fire vehicles. When residents invest in our community, others do, too. I’ll continue making sure we spend these funds wisely, work to attract head-of-household jobs to our community, and keep nurturing development of a vibrant downtown core and broader tax base.
Moreno (Mayor): The City’s robust budget process, which includes significant public engagement, stretches every dollar through staffing and forced-choice prioritization, doing far more with far less than any other city in the county. We have solid general fund reserves, in addition to funds set aside for building, technology and vehicle replacement. Seeking additional revenue sources is something we’ve done well such as working with Senator Laird to secure $3 million of funding for the Downtown Infrastructure Enhancement project. I’d like to see us work with a professional grant writer to optimize that function and free staff to focus on other important priorities.
What things could be improved to make Atascadero a better place to live, work and play?
Funk (City Council): People tell me they want more restaurants, shopping, good jobs and fun things to do. One key step will be completing the downtown infrastructure enhancement project. It will add over 100 parking spaces downtown and enable people to cross El Camino Real safely. Expanded access to affordable broadband will help, too. Further, we need to keep our community safe by ensuring our city can attract and retain good police officers and firefighters, and by supporting them with the leadership, equipment and training they need, including mental health. And we need to address homelessness for these other steps to be effective.
Moreno (Mayor): We must continue to: invest in public safety and infrastructure (e.g., roads, technology/broadband, equipment); reach out to investors and businesses to support a strong commercial sector (e.g., offer incentives, support Bridgeworks at the Chamber); provide opportunities large and small for residents to enjoy their City (e.g., Tamale Festival, concerts in the park, First Fridays). Most importantly, we are updating the General Plan and your input is needed! What’s important to you as we plan for the next 20+ years in Atascadero? Let’s build our future together.
Why should the residents vote for you?
Funk (City Council): The City will be updating its General Plan over the next year or two. That’s not a boring document that sits on a shelf – it will become the roadmap for how our city develops over the next 20 years. So, it’s more important than ever that the City Council have people with vision and leadership who will listen well and work together respectfully. You can count on me to work hard for you and make sure that everyone has a voice in decisions that shape our community’s future. I respectfully ask for your vote.
Moreno (Mayor): I promise you that I will continue to:
Listen to you and work collaboratively with my Council colleagues and City staff. Build on the relationships I’ve fostered with business and community leaders county-wide to bring continued investment into Atascadero, and to address issues of homelessness, infrastructure, and housing. Identify ways to remove obstacles and develop incentives for businesses to call Atascadero home, and
Always seek the best for our community. I have the leadership our City needs to move Atascadero forward. It’s my privilege to be your Mayor and I would appreciate your vote.