Written by Ramuel Reyes
Education: Earned Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State and Master of Business Administration from Fresno State. | Age: 45 | Family: Two sons
What are some of the ways that your office is working with the local business community?
The Mayor’s Business Friendly Fresno 2.0! is a top priority, which is why we developed a new system to dramatically improve the permitting and planning process at City Hall. The new system, called FAASTER — which stands for Fresno’s Accelerated Applications System to Track Electronic Reviews — allows anyone who applies for a building permit with the City of Fresno to submit, pay for and track the status of their permit application online, 24 hours a day.
Our Development and Resource Management Department (DARM) processed a record pace of 5,000 entitlements last year and the demand for permits and entitlements in all segments continues to be high. Extended front counter hours (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) have been implemented and our staff is continuing to improve customer service.
How has your office been involved in the Transform Fresno initiative?
My office has been at the forefront of this initiative since the City’s first application for Transformative Climate Change funding to the current implementation of the $66.5 million awarded to projects in Southwest, Chinatown and Downtown Fresno.
We’re preparing to use $12.3 million in the proposed FY2020 budget for projects including the Park at MLK Magnet Core, Southwest Fresno Fanning Trail and the Chinatown Urban Greening projects.
What are some of the ways you’ve been working to address the homelessness situation in Fresno?
The administration has been working on homelessness since I took office. Over the past year, we’ve worked with the County of Fresno, Fresno Housing Authority, Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, numerous non-profits and national homelessness experts to develop a comprehensive plan and structure called Street2Home Fresno County, based on best practices from across the country but tailored to Fresno’s unique needs. In addition, Mayor Brand worked with the other big city mayors in California to bring $12.6 million of new state funding to our community to help us build shelters and improve services for the homeless. Those funds are just now starting to manifest themselves as contracts are being awarded and facilities and services are gearing up. And we are expecting to receive more funding in this year’s state budget.
What are some of the ways the city is still working to revitalize downtown?
One of my first responsibilities when former Mayor Swearengin hired me was to focus on downtown revitalization and I’m so pleased with the results so far. We have restaurants and breweries popping up every month. There are major business moves taking place, such as the new State Center Community College District headquarters at the old Guarantee Building. And the Club One relocation to Fulton Street will help build on our momentum.
We still have work to do, but we are continuing to use City resources to push downtown development forward including Code Enforcement, reduced development fees and other tools but, ultimately, market forces will continue to drive revitalization downtown.
How will the city be working to incorporate High-Speed Rail into the downtown area, where it runs through?
Well, the Transformative Climate Communities plan and the Fresno High-Speed Rail (HSR) Station Area Master Plan are the blueprints for success. The Fresno HSR Station, the first in North America, is certain to cement revitalization efforts that are already building excitement and momentum in our downtown. Perhaps more importantly, Fresno’s High-Speed Rail station will finally deliver the connectivity necessary to mega-regions like the Bay Area to ensure significant economic diversification and prosperity in the central San Joaquin Valley.
We still have work to do, but we are continuing to use City resources to push downtown development forward […] but, ultimately, market forces will continue to drive revitalization downtown.
What is it about your job that you enjoy the most?
Since becoming City Manager, I have attempted to have one ‘work day’ a month where I get out with staff and join them in their place of work. Whether it be a ride along at Fire Station 4, writing parking citations with our parking staff, visiting our landscape maintenance crews in the Public Works Department, or joining PARCS staff in any one of our City parks, it has been a true pleasure to shake hands and thank folks for the work they are doing for the City of Fresno. It inspires me to see firsthand what our employees are working on. It helps me become more familiar with our operations, but most importantly it is so fulfilling when I am thanked for taking the time out of my day to thank them for their contributions.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My spare time is very limited…. but I spend as much of it as I can with my two teenage sons. They are both very active in sports — ice hockey, water polo and swim — so most weekends are filled with their activities. Weekends and weeknights with the boys are busy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything as being their mom is the most important and fulfilling job I have ever had.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?
I started working in high school at the local Dairy Queen in Washington, PA. That job taught me the importance of customer service and responsibility. It was imperative to always treat the customer with the upmost respect, even in the most stressful situations. That skill has come in handy in many instances in my career, including my current role.
What was the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to make a decision.