Four candidates vie for two Tulare council seats in November
Terry Syre, Alex Gutierrez, Chris Harrell and Dennis Mederos run for District 2 and District 4 seats on Tulare City Council
By Nancy Vigran
Reporting for the Sun-Gazette
TULARE– Two seats on Tulare City Council are up for grabs in November with neither incumbent running.
In District 2, Maritsa Castellanoz, who was appointed by council to fill an interim vacant seat, has decided not to run. Two candidates have stepped up wanting to fill that position.
Terry Sayre for District 2
A retired teacher at Kohn Elementary school, Terry Sayre said she now has the time and ambition to serve on council. As a longtime Tularean she said, “I have felt the call to run for City Council representing District 2. I have witnessed the impact of City boards, councils and government on our city and community as well as its individual citizens for over 50 years.”
First and foremost, she said, is the issue of hiring a city manager, who will subsequently hire a police chief. However, Sayre has expressed concern that the current council seems in a rush to now fill the position before the election. The city has been without a permanent city manager since March, with its fire chief serving most of that time in an interim city manager capacity. The current council has now taken it upon itself to interview potential applicants, and, perhaps, hire someone in the last few weeks prior to the November election.
She is accepting of the current council helping to vet out those who had applied prior to the early May deadline, when the application period had closed. However, she does not feel they should make the final decision, she has said, firmly.
“Urgency,” she said, “can lead to poor decisions.”
Beyond that, Sayre would like to see more attention made to economic development including at the Cartmill interchange. She’d also like “to return courtesy and respect to the city council.”
Within her community, Sayre has served in many capacities throughout the years. “I have been the facilitator of Leadership Tulare for the past five years, an ambassador of the Tulare Chamber for over 10 years, and serve on the Library Advisory Board, and Hospital Foundation Board,” she said. “I am a Tulare Noon Kiwanian and love serving the youth of Tulare. I have also served on the Salvation Army Board.”
“I have the capacity to listen, observe, problem solve, communicate and work with diverse groups,” she added. “I possess creativity, new ideas, energy and the willingness to be inclusive and respectful of all those I come in contact with.”
Alex Gutierrez for District 2
Opposing Sayre for District 2 is Alex Gutierrez. A Tulare native, Gutierrez’ slogan is “Growing up in our district my entire life, I know what it is that our community needs.”
It is important, he said, “to be attentive to every individual’s [citizen’s] needs.” To that end, he has been campaigning door-to-door and listening to the constituents of District 2, and to what they feel is important.
The main issues he sees the city needing to address are infrastructure, economic development, and safety.
With regard to infrastructure, Gutierrez would like to see continued road improvements, as well as attention paid to the alleyways, especially within District 2.
He would like to see reformation of “government bureaucracy,” and would like to help bring more new business into town. He also would like to work toward attracting new forms of industry to Tulare.
Gutierrez also commented, he would like to see more programs for youth and seniors with more outreach to both communities. He would also like to work on more support for the police and fire departments including directing more funds toward those departments.
“Restoring public confidence in city government requires being attentive to constituents’ needs,” Gutierrez said during last week’s candidates’ forum. Something he has been working toward while out campaigning.
Gutierrez currently serves on the board of the Tulare-Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is an ambassador for the Tulare Chamber. He also serves as parliamentarian for the Tulare County Latino Political Action Committee, and volunteers for various local non-profits, committees, and organizations.
In District 4, longtime council member and current mayor, David Macedo, has decided it is time for him to retire from council. This opened the door for two candidates, Chris Harrell and Dennis Mederos.
Chris Harrell for District 4
Harrell filed his paperwork as soon as allowed upon hearing Macedo was not running. He has been campaigning regularly in his district, seeking out one voter at a time. He is no stranger to Tulareans, currently serving as the Tulare Historical Museum’s executive director and curator. A native to Tulare, Harrell volunteered in the museum while he was in high school.
“I want to bring back common sense, honesty, and realism to the City of Tulare and respect for its local government,” Harrell has said. “I want to take Tulare forward.”
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. prompted Harrell to join the Air Force. While serving he spent eight years with Security Forces in South Korea, Guam, and Kyrgyzstan. For 2 ½ years he teamed with Asko, a service explosives dog and Rex, a service narcotics dog. During that time, Harrell also earned his Master of Arts in Diplomacy/Conflict Resolution at Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the U.S.
From his education and time in the service, he said, he has “the mindset to get things done.”
Like Sayres, Harrell is concerned about the current council’s seemingly new rush to appoint the city manager, after months of not addressing the matter.
“It’s not fair to everyone involved, especially the city manager candidate pool,” he said. “It’s not fair to the applicants [as the newly formed council may have called in others for interviews]. It’s not fair to the citizens of Tulare, who were told they [the council] would do one thing [hold off on the decision] and now they’re doing something else.”
Harrell has helped develop fundraisers for the museum, Tulare Teen City and the U.S. Olympic Team. He is a 2015 grad of Leadership Tulare. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Tulare United Methodist Church, and on the Board of Directors of the Tulare Masonic Temple Association. He has led Tulare’s Olive Branch Masonic Lodge for the past three years, and is a member of Tulare AMVETS Post 56.
Dennis Mederos for District 4
Unlike Harrell, Dennis Mederos decided to wait until Macedo was “positive” he would not run again, before he threw his hat into the ring. “With his encouragement, I’ve decided to be a candidate for his seat,” Mederos said.
“We need stability and cohesiveness, so that we can attempt to move forward as opposed to having the issues we’ve had to deal with up to this point,” he said.
Mederos was referring to matters this year which led the current council to restructure, switching the mayor title from Councilman Carlton Jones to Macedo. There have been other issues that have plagued city management resulting in ongoing legal litigation including the firing of former Police Chief Wes Hensley in March on the same day as the firing of former City Manager Joe Carlini.
“The City Employees are the backbone to the smooth operation of our city,” he said. “They must work without unnecessary interference and not in a hostile work environment.”
Mederos feels passionate about several issues of what he says are absolute importance to Tulare, including “support of the city’s police and fire departments, balancing the budget, enhancing infrastructure, economic development, and improving and repairing city streets.”
He also feels it is absolutely essential that Tulare has clean and safe drinking water for all of its citizens.
In 2013, Mederos was named Man of the Year by the Tulare Chamber of Commerce. He was inducted into the Wall of Fame at Tulare Western High School the same year.
An attorney by profession, he is currently General Counsel for the Tulare Chamber of Commerce, the Tulare Industrial Site Development Foundation, and the Tulare Joint Union High School District Foundation.
Mederos has served on the Board of Trustees of the Tulare County branch of the American Cancer Society, the Board of Trustees of the Tulare City Historical Society, the Board of the COS Foundation, and is a past President of the Tulare-Angra do Heroismo Sister City Foundation. He also served the community in 2002 as Chairman for the Tulare Joint Union High School District Boundary Redistricting Committee.