Written by The Business Journal Staff
Noting that earlier this summer, the board approved a $2.7 billion 2016-17 operating budget — 6 percent higher than last year — Mendes said that the county continues to hire new employees and “restore positions cut by the recession.”
The county now employs 7,593 people, Mendes said, nearly 100 more than were employed in 2015.
While Mendes recognized the county’s role in producing $6.6 billion this year in agricultural commodities, which are currently exported to 96 different countries, he also noted that poverty remains a challenge for the county.
“Slightly less than 50 percent of Fresno County residents are on some form of public assistance,” he said. “That’s just a fact.”
Vowing not to turn his address into a political speech, Mendes nonetheless encouraged attendees at the event to oppose Proposition 57, the controversial ballot initiative that proposes increasing parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allows judges rather than prosecutors to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults.
“If you liked Prop 47, you’ll love Prop 57,” Mendes joked and then added, “We can only stand so much of this insanity that comes out of Sacramento.”
Mendes actually began his 25-minute speech by recognizing the two Fresno County correctional officers, Juanita Davila and Toamalama Scanlan, who were shot earlier this month in the lobby of the Fresno County Jail. Both are continuing their recovery, Mendes reported, with Davila now back at home while Scanlan remains in the ICU at Community Regional Medical Center.
Many of those attending the event were county employees and Mendes encouraged them to work together as a team. “Government is about ‘we,’ it’s not about ‘I,’” he said. “Government is about good business and in good business, you have to be loyal to the organization.”
Mendes said the same philosophy was true for members of the board of supervisors. “If we want our employees to be loyal to the county first,” he said, “we need to put our political careers second.”
Mendes concluded his address with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald — “It hasn’t always been easy but I’ve learned something along the way.”
Then the event’s emcee, Fresno Chamber president and CEO Nathan Ahle, brought the breakfast to a close by showing a short video honoring Supervisors Henry Perea and Debbie Poochigian, who are stepping down from the board at the end of this year.