The summer of 2023 started with mild weather, but right on schedule, things heated up as we got closer to Fair time.  It has always been joked that you can depend on the weather heating up as fair time approaches.  It is a tribute to our exceptional County Fair, or Mid-State Fair as it has become, that not only thousands of local citizens brave the heat to attend, but many thousands of tourists come to the north county to enjoy our Fair.  It is a great time to connect with family and friends, enjoy excellent entertainment, and support the local youth with their 4-H, FFA, and vocational arts projects.  The Fair also showcases its western heritage in the equestrian center, where the public can watch various competitions, from roping to cattle dog trials.  It is another beautiful San Luis Obispo tradition.

Another notable summer event this year is the change in City leadership for Atascadero.  Rachelle Rickard is leaving to enjoy a well-deserved retirement after devoting 26 years to the City of Atascadero.  Rachelle served the last 10 of those years as the city manager.  The city is lucky that Jim Lewis chose to take the job after working as the city manager for the City of Pismo Beach for ten years.  After dedicating so many years to Atascadero to have someone so capable as Jim step in, I know it means a lot to Rachelle.

A change that made me think about how much we all owe both.  It can be argued that Atascadero’s signature structure is the Rotunda, which sits prominently in the Sunken Gardens.  It is a beautiful setting and a welcoming sight on a hot summer day.  Rachelle and Jim deserve a tip of the hat from all of us for their role in rehabilitating the beautiful rotunda building.

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since the San Simeon earthquake damaged the Rotunda building almost beyond repair.  The beautiful building had been built in 1918 as the headquarters for the Colony of Atascadero, California’s first planned community, and became “city hall” after the city incorporated.

The 6.5 magnitude San Simeon earthquake struck on December 22, 2003, severely damaged the Rotunda.  The building is registered as a state and national historical monument, making it much more expensive to repair.  After the earthquake, the city council (Mayor Jerry Clay”, George Luna, Wendy Scalise, Tom O’Malley, and Becky Pacas) had to decide whether to begin repairing City Hall or building a new city hall.  Thankfully they chose to repair it.  Rachelle was the Administrative Services director and played a vital role in the repair of the Rotunda.  Jim Lewis came in just about when things got going in 2005 as the assistant city manager and economic development director.  It took a decade to restore the building to its original splendor.  I was around to see Rachelle and Jim patiently working through the process, and 2013 City Hall reopened.

I can’t imagine Atascadero without the Rotunda building and the Sunken Gardens as the city centerpiece.

-Debbie Arnold

(805) 781-1994


5th District Supervisor, Debbie Arnold

Debbie Arnold moved to San Luis Obispo County in 1973 to attend Cal Poly, she fell in love with both her husband, Steve, and the farming and ranching values that had been a part of the Arnold family way of life for more than 5 generations. While raising two children, she owned and operated a small business in Atascadero for more than 17 years. She then had the privilege of advocating for local families as a Legislative Aide at the County Supervisor’s office and as a San Luis Obispo District Representative for the State Senate. During these years, she worked with a broad range of community groups and interests, bringing people together to solve problems. Debbie Arnold now serves as the 5th District Supervisor for San Luis Obispo County.