Fresno Prepares for New Leadership

January 2, 2009 9:38:28 PM PST
In a few days the city of Fresno's new mayor, Ashley Swearengin, will become the second woman in the city's history to hold the office.Ashley Swearengin has been 'on the job' as mayor-elect with a transition team and a new approach to governing almost from the night she was elected.

Eight weeks ago, she and her supporters were elated. The candidate unknown to most Fresno voters had a victory.

The feeling of that new beginning isn't lost in the details of bringing a new Administration to Fresno's City Hall.

"To see the city reach its potential. It really is what makes my heart beat and I'm anxious to get in the saddle and be able to execute," said Swearengin.

That little hint of the south may sound a bit like Mayor Autry ... her's, she says, is authentic.

"Born in Texas and raised in Arkansas, he only played someone on TV who's from the south," said Swearengin.

Don't expect an avalanche of Autry-like sayings. Friendly joking aside, Fresno's new mayor respects Alan Autry's contributions including his legacy of opening doors for Fresno in Sacramento and Washington.

"The doors are opened because of the Mayor and they don't necessarily close when he leaves office ... The next administration has to be focused, being hands on, doing the heavy things," said Swearengin.

As a wife and a mother of two young children though, there will be limits. She won't be working nights and weekends for any reason not central to her job as mayor. That time belongs to her family.

"I'm pretty much a home body and I need that in order to get through 5 really busy work days," said Swearengin.

Make no mistake, she will be busy. Swearengin's vision for Fresno includes safer neighborhoods and streets, a sound budget and continued support for schools to produce job or college ready graduates. And a downtown revised and revitalized driven by the city and the community. She is not sold on developer driven investment like the agreement between Fresno and Forest City Enterprises.

"Frankly I'm not sure that the 85 acre exclusive negotiating agreement is the way to proceed, but we're taking a look at that right now," said Swearengin.

She is sold on the city's forty-one-hundred employees. And expects her hands on, sleeves rolled up, at her desk approach to the job of mayor to mesh with them.

"And hopefully set them free to be excellent because we got a tremendous group of people down there and they need to be empowered to do their jobs," said Swearengin.

Her immediate priorities are the budget and new resources to address Fresno's concentrated areas of poverty and need for job production.

"Frankly, we've got to be at the head of the line in Washington when it comes time to see some of those economic stimulus come down," said Swearengin.

A huge plate of challenges lie ahead for this serious, energetic new mayor. Which brings us to a lingering rumor from primary night about a perfect cartwheel performance.

"When I made it through that primary election, I may have turned a cartwheel ... it is true ... There are no pictures... NO, you'll never see it on YouTube," said Swearengin.

We may not see her on YouTube doing cartwheels, but we will see a lot of mayor Swearengin in the next four years.

"I'm ready for this job, I'm so excited and pleased to be the person chosen to lead the city forward in the next 4 years," said Swearengin.

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