Harry Armstrong, the undisputed dean of elected officials not only in the central San Joaquin Valley, but in all of California, is still a member of the Clovis City Council – even though he’s not physically present at meetings.
Armstrong, who will be 86 in October, has been participating via phone following a monthlong stint in Community Regional Medical Center, where he battled a nasty case of pneumonia, and some recovery time at home after being discharged.
“Everyone has been very supportive,” Armstrong said. “I still kind of have my finger on it. They keep me well informed.”
Clovis Mayor Nathan Magsig said Armstrong is fully participating not only in council meetings, but also in city government.
“I see Harry multiple times a week and he is as engaged as ever,” said Magsig, who will leave the council at the end of the year to join the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
Armstrong was first elected to the City Council in 1970. He last attended a meeting in December. He got sick at the new year, and was in the hospital most of January. He participated in the February council meetings via phone, but had a relapse and missed the March and April meetings. The Clovis council typically meets twice a month. He returned in May, participating by phone that month and in June and July.
His home has been designated a public place so he is able to participate in the meetings.
Though limited to his residence, Armstrong said he hopes to return to the City Council chambers as soon as he feels strong enough. At first, it would likely be in a wheelchair, but eventually Armstrong hopes he’ll be able to walk on his own.
“I’m improving on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that takes time. I intend to be back.”
The pneumonia, he said “knocks the hell out of you. It really took a toll on me.” It was likely exacerbated by Armstrong’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, which is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe.
Through all this, Armstrong said he has no intention to step down.
He was re-elected last year to his 12th term in office, though there wasn’t actually an election. Armstrong, Jose Flores and Bob Whalen took out nomination papers, but nobody else did, so there was no official election.