By Reggie Ellis
tulare county – Unlike major cities to the north and south, the mayors of Tulare County are selected from among their fellow city council members. They have not more voting power than those to their left and right but they do play an important role in setting the tone for the council. The mayor not only signs checks for employees but is also the public face of the council to the community. They are asked to be model citizens and carry themselves with impartial pride in the largely non-partisan seats.
Every two years, city councils reorganize and select a new mayors as seats change hands. Two of the foothill mayors took on the title prior to the election for reasons outside city hall, but all four will represent their cities well for the challenges of the next two years. Here is a look at the mayors in Exeter, Lindsay, Woodlake and Farmersville.
Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza
After overseeing four of the most successful year’s in the city’s history, it made sense that Rudy Mendoza should serve at least two more as Woodlake’s mayor. Mendoza was first elected to the City Council in 2008 and has served as the city’s mayor since 2012. In that time, Woodlake has hired city administrator Ramon Lara, balanced every department’s budget, converted the city to water meters, attracted new employers and transformed its downtown with safer sidewalks, more lighting, new water mains and drainage and murals.
“All of these projects gave people a sense or pride,” Mendoza said. “We wanted projects that weren’t hidden away but could be seen by anyone driving through out community every day.”
The linchpin for those projects was the downtown improvement project. Improving every aspect of downtown from the underground pipes to the antique street signs has attracted more activity on Valencia Boulevard, which in turn attracted employers like Rite Aid, Dollar General and Family Dollar. This project tied in the wider sidewalks, pedestrian features, benches and lighting of the roundabout at Valencia and Naranjo Boulevards, also known as the intersection of Highways 245 and 216.
“That was something that has been in the plans for a long time,” Mendoza said. “And these projects go to show that when everyone is working together, we can accomplish the things we want for our community.”
Mendoza said the city’s biggest strength is its community spirit. He said many people ask why Woodlake doesn’t have a recreation department to which he replies, “We do, but we don’t use public funds to pay for it.” Mendoza said Woodlake has very successful youth sports programs for football, volleyball, baseball, soccer and swimming all run by volunteers. Woodlake also has a vibrant event calendar sponsored by local service clubs that includes parades, festivals and cultural events.
“There is sometimes a feeling that Woodlake is just a small town so we can’t have the things that other cities have,” he said. “But I think we have the ability to have everything we need in Woodlake.”
When he isn’t leading the Woodlake City Council meetings, Mendoza is serving the rest of Tulare County residents as a member of Congressman Devin Nunes staff. Mendoza also maintains a consulting business where he advises small business owners on human resources, labor law compliance and other employer regulations.
“I want to continue involving people to make this community, my home and my children’s home, the best place it can be,” Mendoza said.
Farmersville Mayor Paul Boyer
While Woodlake is wrapping up all of its major projects, the City of Farmersville is just getting started. And who better to lead a city of blue collar residents on the cusp of rebuilding itself than a project manager for the company who builds high-quality, low-income housing.
As a community specialist with Self-Help Enterprises for the last 25 years, Paul Boyer is adept at helping low income communities adapt to have safer roads, cleaner drinking water and better public spaces. He was first elected to the City Council in 1994 but was recalled after just 18 months. He ran again in 2000 and won and served on the Council until losing in the 2012 election. He was re-elected in 2014. Boyer previously served as mayor from 2002-2004.
The City recently completed the expansion of its sports park and dual roundabouts at the Highway 198 interchange. Projects that will begin this year include the widening of Visalia Road, a bus turnaround and sidewalks along the southern end of Farmersville Boulevard, sidewalk and bike lanes along Walnut Avenue around Farmersville High School, and Boyer said the city is nearly ready to open a Tulare County Library branch for the first time since 1994.
“We have a lot of projects which I’m happy about because we need them,” Boyer said.
Boyer said these projects all seem to be happening at the same time because state, federal and local transportation funding has become available simultaneously. Projects of this scale can only be completed by the city when there is outside funding to help pay for them and Farmersville has been unable to come up with funds to even get them started.
“I have never seen more projects get done in the city than I am seeing now,” said the 65-year-old Boyer.
But the tax base is growing. Farmersville has seen a Little Ceasars, Rite Aid and several new restaurants open in the last year. Later this year, work is expected to begin on a full-scale renovation of the former Farmersville Market grocery store on Visalia Road.
“I hope one day we can get a hotel on the north side of town,” he said. “It would be a great place to stop for people on their way to Sequoia National Park.”