Sometimes it's hard to see just how much things have changed for the better until you've taken time to really look back at how far you've come.
Mayor Gary Soiseth's State of the City address on Friday highlighted a number of partnerships and programs that came to fruition in 2015 that have benefitted the residents of Turlock. He also outlined plans for an even rosier 2016. While listening to the Mayor's speech, all I could think was how far the City has come in the last seven years.
The City of Turlock is currently in need of a new city manager following the departure of Roy Wasden in December. I remember when Wasden came to Turlock, back in 2009, and I can't help but think that whoever the new city manager turns out to be will have a much different role to fill than he did.
I came across a column I wrote in May 2009, right after Wasden was hired. The title itself — "Showdown at the Turlock corral" — is a good indicator of what I thought of City Hall at that time. Back then I opined that the City needed another law man at the helm because it was "so full of misdeeds that the Council decided only a man used to dealing with criminals had a chance of straightening out City Hall."
Reading that now it sounds kind of harsh, but I had reasons behind my opinion.
When Wasden came on board, the City was facing massive budget shortfalls which turned into dozens of employee layoffs. In an effort to meet its obligations, the Council approved spending 25 percent of the City's reserves within a six month period.
The City was also in hot water with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over its use of HUD funds to purchase a facility at 400 B St. for an emergency cold weather shelter. The City Council closed the shelter and Turlock had to repay the funds.
Back in 2009, I also suggested that Wasden bring his firearm to Council meetings so he could attempt to enforce peace between battling Council members.
Turlock desperately needed a new sheriff in town seven years ago, but things are a lot different today.
For the first time in awhile, the City was able to pay down its debt, use the savings to replenish the reserve fund and invest in neglected services. The 2015 fiscal year was projected to end with a $1.2 million deficit, but instead saw a positive outcome of $300,000.
The Housing department, under Assistant to the City Manager Maryn Pitt, has leveraged HUD funds to finance affordable housing options like the award-winning Avena Bella apartments and transitional units for those who were homeless. The City has a number of grants and loans available to homeowners for needed renovations and Turlock's most high-density development project to date, The Vista student housing complex, is set to break ground soon.
And while the current City Council doesn't see eye-to-eye on all the issues, I haven't heard a council member use foul language in association with their colleagues for years now.
It's clear that Turlock's needs when it comes to a city manager have changed over the years.
I believe what our town needs in 2016 is a super hero. The challenges our new city manager will face are not righting wrongs like in Wasden's day, but instead finding the strength to carry the current City Council's ambitious visions into reality.
Just like Wonder Woman, our new city manager needs to be "wise as Athena, swifter than Hermes, stronger than Hercules" and an ambassador of peace as Turlock works with other agencies and municipalities to complete regional water solutions and drive economic development in the Valley.
The next manager should also be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound like Superman while educating the public on the benefits of high-density housing developments; speeding like a bullet, come to the assistance of our public safety personnel in attaining the manpower and equipment needed to provide the highest-level of service, while also being able to put on a suit and glasses like Clark Kent and get down to the nitty-gritty of line-by-line budget analysis.
I don't know if the qualifications I just mentioned are already on the City's official application for the city manager position, but it wouldn't hurt to add a section for listing any super-human abilities the candidate may have.
No matter what their super powers may be, I look forward to seeing who the City Council chooses to lead Turlock into this next era of prosperity.