Politics & Government

Fresno mayoral hopefuls chart first 100 days

A new mayor might not be the only change at City Hall next January.

Few of the 11 candidates running to replace Mayor Alan Autry are happy with how things are going in Fresno. Beyond Autry, the next man in the "who to blame" line is City Manager Andy Souza.

It's not new territory for Souza, who declined to be interviewed. As a political appointee, he knows he is tied to Autry. So do the candidates, several of whom told The Bee that Souza's time as city manager will end when their term as mayor begins.

Some of the best-known candidates are noncommittal, but there's no doubt the city manager is on uncertain ground.

Though the mayor appoints only the city manager, other senior leaders also can be changed if the mayor asks the city manager to do so.

Not every candidate has immediate plans for Souza and other senior department heads. Those who do were asked what they would do during their first 100 days in office. Would they clean house among the city staff? Or would they take it more slowly?

  • Council Member Henry T. Perea said that like everyone, Souza would have to compete for his job.
  • "He has to keep the fire in his belly," Perea said. "All cities evolve, they are always changing. We should be changing too."

    Perea would eliminate the deputy mayor position, and said he sees other departments that could benefit from a change, including Economic Development, which is led by Scott Johnson, former athletic director at California State University, Fresno.

    "Leadership in that department could be much stronger," Perea said.

  • Council Member Mike Dages said he has many changes he plans to make.
  • "Andy would be out," Dages said. "And so would the deputy mayor. That position would be eliminated."

    Dages also would eliminate the education liaison position, as well as public information officers at the police and fire departments.

    "I'd have a hiring freeze start almost immediately," Dages said. "And I'd trim 5% from every department budget."

  • Police detective Henry Monreal would not make any immediate changes among the senior leaders at City Hall.
  • "I'd keep the city manager and the department heads," Monreal said. "Jeff Eben, if he chose to, would remain as deputy mayor as well. I think the deputy mayor is needed."

    Monreal also said his current boss, Police Chief Jerry Dyer, would stay.

    "Our employees are our most valuable asset," Monreal said. "I wouldn't forget that."

  • Council Member Jerry Duncan's first act as mayor would be to issue an executive resolution requiring the city to follow the same rules it imposes on businesses.
  • His second would be to eliminate the deputy mayor's position.

    "I'll be there. I don't need a substitute," Duncan said. Duncan said he would look closely at the city manager and economic director jobs as well.

    "Andy represents the mayor, and I'm finding myself disagreeing with the mayor more and more," Duncan said. "I would also talk to [Planning Director] Nick Yovino about coming back as a consultant."

  • Former Council Member Tom Boyajian would make sweeping changes.
  • "I wouldn't keep Souza, I wouldn't keep the deputy mayor and I wouldn't keep the education liaison," Boyajian said. "I wouldn't have so many public information officers, and I would have Scott Johnson removed."

    Boyajian said a change at city manager would be his most important move.

    "The morale at City Hall is the lowest it's ever been," Boyajian said."

  • Ashley Swearengin, on leave from her job as director of the Regional Jobs Initiative, said it's too soon to say whether Souza would stay on the job.
  • "It's inappropriate to make personnel decisions on the campaign trail," Swearengin said. "I envision starting a process to make sure the right people are in the right places at City Hall."

    Swearengin is sure that she will not have a deputy mayor. But she will have what she called a "downtown czar."

    "Not to be the boss, but as the glue and the link between all the entities with a stake in downtown," Swearengin said.

  • Deputy Mayor Jeff Eben said he believes he plays a valuable role at City Hall, but won't put someone else in the same position.
  • "The title has to be changed because it has caused so much controversy," Eben said. "The mayor needs a staff, but this position has serious baggage we don't need."

    Eben also would keep Andy Souza and other department heads. But he would ask Souza to make some changes.

    "Andy needs to be visible and accountable," Eben said. "But he is a principled man I would trust."

  • Businessman Jim Boswell, former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim and Realtor Ignacio Garibay did not address personnel issues. Businesswoman Barbara Hunt did not respond.
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