This week, after more than eight years of service to the people of Fresno, I have reached the end of my second term and will no longer have the pleasure of representing my neighbors as council member from District 7. It goes without saying the experience has been a wild one, with moments of great joy, great pain, and every emotion in between. All told, serving on the Fresno City Council has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life.
I always tell young people I meet that, despite its challenges, they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to in Fresno, perhaps more than any other city in California. That’s because Fresno is home to the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. Whether they be the CEO of a corporation, a small businesswoman, a minister who goes into the night to pray with human trafficking victims, a bus driver, or a tenant struggling in a substandard apartment building, there is something extraordinary and dignified about each individual who makes up the fabric of our city. People here care about and help one another. I have seen it firsthand.
Being on the City Council wasn’t an easy or routine job. My experience was an intensely personal one, where I shared all parts of my life with my neighbors, and they shared their lives with me. It seems nearly everyone follows local politics in Fresno, and it takes some getting used to. It’s not unusual for a council member to find themselves standing in line at Smart and Final with someone who’s not afraid to be vocal about a “bad” vote we may have made.
Besides the many political battles, I personally picked up trash, placed a man under citizen’s arrest for illegal dumping (I was surprised he obeyed when I told him to stay where he was until the police showed up), disposed of dead animals, fought a menacing brush fire with a garden hose, paid for a homeless family to stay in a motel, and moved and installed appliances for elderly constituents. I even had residents call me on my cell phone for help while they were stuck in an elevator. (They eventually got out.) One time I had my office staff break into the house of a beloved centenarian constituent we thought was incapacitated or worse. (She was fine, just not at home.) The strange yet beautiful experiences I had while serving my neighbors can never be replicated, and each will be precious to me for the rest of my life.
Although my term is finished, my family and I will be staying in central Fresno. We live in a small home on a tree-lined street. My neighbors and I are proud of our little slice of the California dream. Here, we help one another without question or expectation. The man across the street blows the leaves off his neighbors’ lawns in the fall, we bring in our neighbors’ trash cans, we call one another if there is suspicious activity near our homes, and several of us have become extended family members to the matriarch of our street, a spry 92-year old who has watched our city grow and change since 1948.
East Terrace Avenue is just a mini version of our entire city. We are ethnically diverse. We are young and old. We are Democrats, Republicans and independents. We work hard to put food on the table. We serve one another freely, and we strive together to keep our neighborhood clean and safe. We care about Fresno. It’s for this reason I’m confident our city’s greatest days lie ahead. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it all.