published on November 14, 2016 - 10:07 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Fresno Pacific University’s School of Business welcomed Mayor Ashley Swearengin Oct. 27 to speak at the first of three sessions as part of the college’s 2016-17 leadership series, “Strengthening the Economy of the San Joaquin Valley.”

Andrea McAleenan, an associate professor of business at FPU, said this is the second year the School of Business has hosted the series. The goal is to engage with the business community in a deeper way by building relationships and sharing insight.
“FPU’s School of Business is committed to convening a series of conversations relevant to the business, government, education and non-profit communities of the Valley,” McAleenan said. “The Leadership Series features thought leaders who inform and challenge us on issues ranging from community revitalization, access and the use of capital for positive change, the ingredients needed to develop successful companies and ways to develop the authentic leadership needed across sectors.”
During the Oct. 27 session, Swearengin reflected on her tenure as mayor, using examples from her life as Fresno’s leader to demonstrate the importance of sound leadership to a group of students and community members.
“Mayor Swearingen shared inspiring lessons from her leadership journey as Mayor of Fresno that called for vision, a plan and persistence,” McAleenan said. “We intend to expand this discussion further and learn from other leaders in the diverse sectors that characterize this Valley.”
Fresno, Swearengin said, has changed since 1993, when she and her husband, Paul, decided to plant roots in the Central Valley.
“Many of these things have changed and have gone in the right direction, but we had chronic double digit unemployment in 1993, the highest concentration of poverty in the United States in 1993, the IV drug capital of the west in 1993, teenage pregnancy capital of the west in 1993, auto theft capital of the country in 1993, all these really bad things,” Swearengin said. “We were often the first of the worst back in those days, and we certainly still have struggles with some of those issues but things were much worse back then.”
It was the desire to help transform Fresno that motivated Swearengin to go into community and economic development and then run for mayor in 2008. Since being in office, Swearengin said she has faced many challenges as a leader, but ultimately was able to accomplish many initiatives, such as establishing an Office of Independent Review, forming a long-range plan for the city and partnering with the state and federal government to bring programs and resources to Fresno.
After Swearengin shared her story, series attendees formed roundtable discussion groups to reflect on what they learned and could apply to their own leadership style.
The next session will be held Nov. 18 and will feature John Katovich speaking on community-funded revitalization.
Katovich is the founder of Cutting Edge Counsel and Cutting Edge Capital, both committed to fostering quadruple bottom line practices for business, nonprofits, cooperatives and communities, and providing strategies for the new impact economy. He was general counsel and chief regulatory officer at two national stock and options exchanges, CEO of a NASDAQ regulatory subsidiary, and general counsel for two private companies that raised over $400 million. He also co-founded a broker dealer, Turnstone Securities, also focused on providing capital formation services to socially responsible businesses. The session will be from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Bitwise. The cost of the session is $25.
“At this session, we’ll look at the revitalization downtown and how to bring capital in and use it,” McAleenan said. “This is a chance to dig into John’s knowledge further and then work in groups that focus on questions about what action steps we can take as a community.”
A third session will be held Feb. 9, 2017. It will be hosted by Bill Smittcamp, CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods, and Gary Lim, CEO of Flagship Food North America. This session will be held at FPU from 7:30 to 10 a.m.

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