Political Notebook

Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier’s new gig: eggs

From left to right: Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Smart & Final Extra store manager Bryce Sumpter and Smart & Final district manager Jim Wood tour the new store at Clinton and Blackstone avenues.
From left to right: Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Smart & Final Extra store manager Bryce Sumpter and Smart & Final district manager Jim Wood tour the new store at Clinton and Blackstone avenues. rappleton@fresnobee.com

If his political career doesn’t work out, Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier could do well as a representative for the egg or grocery industries.

Olivier, the Republican representing Council District 7, briefly found himself in an odd position Friday during a tour of the new Smart & Final Extra store on Blackstone and Clinton avenues.

Olivier and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin were given a tour of the new store by management. Both took the opportunity to greet the many shoppers, most of whom were busy hustling through the crowded store.

The politicians stopped in the egg section. The shelf had nearly been cleaned out – only about an hour after the the store opened. Presumably, this was due to the $1.99 price – several dollars cheaper than other stores, the politicians said.

Olivier spoke to a few of the customers reaching for cartons.

“Do you know why the price of eggs is so high?” he asked. They shook their heads.

“Well, California passed a law requiring farmers to give the chickens more room to move, and that’s why the cost of eggs has increased,” he said.

A state law went into effect on Jan. 1 that required hens be confined in ways that allow them to sit, stand and fully extend their limbs. That, coupled with an avian flu that killed thousands of chickens in California, has driven up egg costs.

Olivier did not mention the flu.

The customers mistook Olivier’s explanation for that of an egg expert. They began asking him about egg sizes and grades. He told them that he wasn’t a store employee – then he did his best to answer their questions anyway. He called for the store managers in the tour group, which had left him in the egg aisle, to help the customers. An employee eventually took over for him.

It happened more than once.

A few other customers – who, if they live near the store, are Olivier’s constituents – asked him why the sticker price didn’t match the price in a printed advertisement.

“It will be the right price at the register,” Olivier said.

He was right. Smart & Final district manager Jim Wood confirmed his answer.

The light-hearted tour could warm relations between Olivier and Swearengin.

Olivier has been highly critical of Swearengin’s progress on her revitalization plan for Blackstone Avenue. On Friday, he praised her hiring of Claudia Ruiz – his former chief of staff – to work on the project full-time.

“It really shows this administration’s investment in revitalizing the area,” he said during a quick news conference, Swearengin standing beside him.

Ruiz did not walk near either her former boss or her new one during the tour, staying several steps behind the group.

Swearengin and Olivier agreed that the store’s opening was a major step forward for the area’s growth.

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