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Fresno County Judge Retires, Leaving Opening



Judge Denise Whitehead has retired, leaving an opening on the Fresno County superior Court bench. (GV Wire Composite/Jahz Tello)
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Judge Denise Whitehead, on the bench since 2001, retired in late November from the Fresno County Superior Court.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

Whitehead, appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, was up for re-election next June.

In theory, Gov. Gavin Newsom could appoint Whitehead’s replacement. It is unclear whether that judge would still have to run in June if that happens.

The process for judges to run for the bench starts on Jan. 3 — a voluntary signatures-in-lieu of fees period. The deadline for judges to run is March 11.

According to the Fresno County clerk’s office, 17 judicial positions (including the now-vacant spot from Whitehead’s retirement) are up in June.

Also in Politics 101: 

  • Fresno City Council spends $25 million on federal funds.
  • Other council action: new map finalized.
  • Clovis promotes from within.

Fresno Designates First $25 Million in Federal Funds

The Fresno City Council saved its longest meeting for its last scheduled session of the year.

The chief reason Thursday’s meeting went overtime was three hours of public comment, mainly on how to spend federal COVID recovery (ARPA) funds. The consensus from an organized group of speakers was to spend the money on housing programs such as rent control and right to counsel.

Later in the evening, by a 5-1 vote, the council designated $25 million of $171 of the funds, mainly on public safety. The items include $5.6 million for police vehicles, $3 million for firefighter training, and $950,000 for the Advance Peace program aimed at reducing gun violence in the city.

Another $13 million will be designated at the Jan. 13 city council meeting.

Mike Karbassi voted no, disagreeing that a proposal to spend money upgrade 911 equipment was not included in this round of spending. Garry Bredefeld was absent.

Other Council Action

Other notable items from Thursday’s meeting:

— Despite a last minute plea from some city residents, the Fresno City Council approved a new electoral district map by a 5-1 vote. The most drastic change is District 7, which will expand from central Fresno to the eastern border of the city.

The council did not hold any debate after hearing public comment. Esmeralda Soria voted no, and Garry Bredefeld — who was participating from home via Zoom because he felt slightly ill — did not register a vote.

The new electoral map approved by the Fresno City Council. (City of Fresno)

— The city approved a $145,000 contract with Local Government Strategic Consulting, LLC, operated by political consultants Alex Tavlian and Jim Verros. The group will conduct outreach to create a Fresno veterans memorial district.

The deciding factor was City Manager Thomas Esqueda saying his staff could do the job, but probably not in the timeline that councilman Luis Chavez — the main supporter of the contract — wanted. Chavez hopes for an item in front of voters in the November 2022 election, meaning in needs to placed on the ballot by August.

An amendment proposed by councilman Tyler Maxwell will review the contract for six months before renewing for another six months.

— Without discussion nor objection, the City Council voted to support a change to a settlement with Kashian Enterprises relating to development fees for a senior housing project at Campus Pointe, east of the Fresno State campus.

The initial proposal was to refund nearly $517,000 in fees to Kashian for police and park services. Kashian has argued that the charges are duplicative because Fresno State provides those resources to the development. The final version removed such a rebate.

— Hyde Park is no longer Hyde nor a park. The city council voted 7-0 to change the name to the Florence Site and strip it of park status. The city-owned land at 319 W. Florence has long been problematic for residents in the south Fresno neighborhood and a frustration for city leaders because it was never really adequate green space, a staff report said.

Hyde Park is now the Florence Site landfill by a vote by Fresno City Council. (GV Wire/Johnny Soto)


Haussler Promoted in Clovis

Andrew Haussler

The city of Clovis is staying within its building for leadership positions.

Incoming City Manger John Holt promoted Andrew Haussler to a new assistant city manager position. A 15-year employee at Clovis City Hall, Haussler most recently worked as the community and economic development director.

The Clovis City Council is scheduled to confirm Haussler’s appointment next Monday.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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