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Reflecting on Turlocks year of reforms
Gary soiseth

Reforms in government are never easy, but they’re often necessary. As the great grandson of some of Turlock’s first farmers and residents, I’m committed to preserve our history as a small, close-knit community. As mayor, I’m also committed to reforms that acknowledge our need to be accountable, unbiased and transparent in how Turlock conducts business now and into the future. 

Reflecting on my 18 months in office, I’d like to highlight some of Turlock City Council's bold reforms:


- We’ve increased the oversight of tax dollars spent for tourism services. Following a thorough review of funds “misused” by past Turlock Chamber of Commerce leaders, a settlement of more than $250,000 will be paid back to the City of Turlock.


-We’ve created a new management strategy for contract compliance of outside services. This guarantees that all 475 contracts have a City employee dedicated to strict oversight and full compliance.


-We’ve overhauled our debt management strategy, which includes paying off approximately $5.4 million of high-interest debt, saving taxpayers over $6 million in interest payments over the next decade.


- We've added accountability measures within City departments by requiring clear deadlines for project start and completion dates, even physically posting project timelines inside Turlock City Council chambers for increased public awareness and review.


- We've reformed our building department's fee structure to allow for the deferral of residential fees until a home or development is occupied and actually using City services. Since its creation earlier this year, we’ve deferred more than $1.5 million, which encourages infill development and allows residents to occupy new homes quicker.  


- We've eliminated a long-term contract for our city manager, making this individual’s service to Turlock based purely on merit and performance. Without costly severance packages, our city manager is now even more accountable to Turlock's residents and to the Council. 


- We've reformed the entire event permit process for those that want to operate in Turlock's public spaces. This new, revised process ensures applicants have the required liability insurance, the proper “non-profit” or “for-profit” registration and that they reimburse the City for staff time and resources used. 


-And most recently, following multiple community workshops on campaign finance reform, Councilmember Bill DeHart and I authored – and the Turlock City Council has passed – one of the most stringent and straight-forward campaign finance reforms in any California city

Overall, reforming and refining our processes have placed Turlock on a path toward financial security and dramatically increased our accountability to those we serve. 

Will reforms always yield the results that we’d like to see? Unfortunately, no or maybe not right away. This can be frustrating to some, but I continue to respect the need for accountability too much to abandon such reforms altogether, even if they challenge an established way of thinking or threaten City Hall's status quo method of operating.


As Turlock continues to thrive and maintain its position as a leader in the Central Valley, we must adapt and update how the City operates for all of our residents. We must preserve our history as a strong community while also recognizing that the way we operated years ago as a city of 30,000 has room for improvement, as we now operate a city that is home to more than 70,000.


Over the next two and a half years of my term, we will stay firmly focused on refining and reforming City Hall's way of doing business and we will always be mindful of our ultimate mission: to better serve Turlock's citizens by making real reforms that lead to real results.