‘Carpe diem’ was the spirit of Mayor Gary Soiseth’s first State of the City address, which set forth several new developments in the next year all aimed at engaging the public, especially the youth.
“Our young people need to feel valued. They need to realize that they — not just their parents — are the key to addressing the issues that face Turlock,” said Soiseth Thursday morning.
Soiseth reflected on his time growing up in Turlock during which he helped found the Teen Advisory Council, an organization of 7th to 12 graders who provide activities for youth in the community. Bringing the same energy to City Hall that he exuded as a leader of TAC, Soiseth announced that the mayor’s office will be recommitting itself to TAC and intends to bring back the Mayor’s Youth Conference in the fall “signaling our dedication to addressing issues important to Turlock’s youth.”
In an effort to connect with the community resource of high education provided by California State University, Stanislaus, a Mayor’s Public Policy Scholarship is also in the works, but that is not the end of the road as far as collaboration between the city and the college. A forum, hosted in partnership with CSUS President Joseph Sheley’s office, will also take place in the spring to gather input from students on bridging the gap between the campus and community.
“Bridging the divide between our City and the campus requires more than simply establishing a scholarship — it requires a mind-shift: the campus is looking for ways to shift from being an island to an anchor of our community, and it is looking for ways to shift from being simply an institution of higher learning to a training ground for future employees throughout Turlock,” said Soiseth.
He also touted the Fourth of July fireworks celebration that will return to the campus this summer.
Members of the public sat side by side with City staff at the pancake breakfast Thursday morning where Soiseth left no stone unturned in thanking each department for their contributions.
“I am purposely speaking first here with you, our city employees, to signify the vital role that each and every one of you play in making Turlock the great city that it is,” said Soiseth. “Each and every one of Turlock's 321 full time, 180 part time, and 52 volunteer staff members should feel valued. You have the solutions to any of the issues we will face moving forward, and this Council wants to support you. Each and every staff member is vital to the success of our city.”
Soiseth also credited the Fire Department and Police Department for their contributions to the community at the sake of their own comfort, something he has witnessed firsthand after seeing several tragedies in recent months, including the near-death experience of a man during the Christmas Eve fire truck ride-along, prompting firefighters to jump to action.
“While these are just a few examples of acts that I have witnessed in recent months, they are emblematic of the daily experiences and sacrifices made by our public safety officers,” said Soiseth.
With a nod toward the progressive steps the Turlock Police Department has taken in terms of technology with developing an application to keep locals in touch with ongoing developments, Soiseth also commended the Police Department’s reactivation of the Street Crimes Unit which will take preventative measures to prevent habitual crime and gang activities.
“Our police and fire departments continue to be the pride of our city. They regularly demonstrate why these four words are more than just an empty phrase,” said Soiseth.
Soiseth also enumerated the success of the Parks and Recreation Division by acknowledging the 183 recreation scholarships administered to youth, 7,200 participants in recreation programs, and over $1 million secured in funding in the past year.
More building permits are being issued evidenced by a 15 percent increase from 2013 and in 2014 74 percent of the permits were issued in five days or less. These numbers, compounded with developments such as the southern expansion of Monte Vista Crossings and the up and coming Dust Bowl brewing facility, demonstrate a steady climb out of the recession stained years of the past.
Soiseth’s innovative spirit extended to the precious resource of water where he celebrated that per capita industrial water use is down 31 percent and residential per capita water use is down 53 percent.
“City Hall is not merely relying on conservation to make our water resources stretch, we are also pursuing infrastructure solutions,” said Soiseth.
This includes achieving an agreement between the Turlock Irrigation District and Del Puerto Water District both of whom desire access to the City of Turlock’s water.
“I believe in win-win solutions… but we need to come to the table with a spirit of compromise and common-sense,” said Soiseth.
And a can-do attitude, because according to Soiseth the next four years is an opportunity to forge a new future for Turlock.
“Put bluntly, we should not want a future Council, a future resident, or a future farmer to look back on these years as a time in which we let opportunities slip by,” said Soiseth.