On July 4, America celebrates its 241st birthday. On the same day, two Clovis city councilmen celebrate 100 days on the job.
When Drew Bessinger and Vong Mouanoutoua took office in March, they became the first new members of the Clovis council in 14 years. GV Wire asked Bessinger to evaluate his time in office thus far.
“It’s been busy. We have had a lot of issues come before council. A lot of land use issues, which is frankly one of the areas that I’ve had some weakness on that I’m working on getting on top of,” Bessinger says.
It’s a good thing Bessinger has Andy Haussler to rely upon. Haussler serves as the Community & Economic Development Director for Clovis.
“We’ve done workshops for all council and spent time with any council members that want to learn about whatever areas that we have staff with expertise in,” Haussler says.
Bessinger won a special election in March to fulfil the remaining two years of the term of Harry Armstrong, who retired last year after four decades as a Clovis councilman.
When not serving on council, Bessinger is the interim police chief for the city of Fowler. He formerly served as a captain for the Clovis department.
The development of businesses in the northeast part of town are expected to fuel Clovis’ expansion. Bessinger sees an increase of medical facilities as part of that growth. He hopes the proposed California Health Sciences University will be a key component in branding Clovis as a medical destination. [Editor’s note: The Assemi Family, founders of CHSU, also own the parent company of GV Wire].
“If we can get folks from all over the Central Valley and include the Central Coast to not want to go to San Francisco or Los Angeles, that would help us in many different respects,” Bessinger says.
Back at City Hall, Haussler shows on a planning map the areas of future growth. Already underway are the Dry Creek Business Park near Herndon & Minnewawa; the Research & Technology Park near Clovis Community Hospital, at Temperance & Highway 168; and a planned industrial park district to the northeast.
Haussler estimates a 1,000 acre expansion of Clovis’ sphere of influence- bringing upward of 10,000 jobs.
“If we can make Clovis a medical destination…it’s a clean business with good paying jobs, and serving a definite public need,” Bessinger says.
Part of that is funding and maintaining public safety services. “It comes from commercial and residential growth. We need to make sure we are watching our pennies; that we are using all resources like grants and things like that, but those things have kind of dried up. When grants are out there, they are not necessarily going to give it to the safest community in the Central Valley. In some ways, we are victims of our own success. That’s frustrating,” Bessinger reflects.
He’s also concerned with less officers in the recent budget. “We didn’t get any more staffing this fiscal year. We did get some dogs, which are a force multiplier, but as we grow, we need to continue to grow all of our services to include public works and fire, especially. We are not going to be able to maintain the services if we don’t get the commercial growth to help pay for those things,” Bessinger says.
Although already serving decades as a public servant in public safety, Bessinger reflects on his new role as an elected councilman. “I have to remember my function as a councilman is not to do the direction to the people who do the work; my direction is to city management, and that direction comes from the people.
“It’s been fun. There is always challenges. But, after five decades in public service, I’ve dealt with a lot of challenges.”
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