LEMOORE — Lemoore Interim City Manager Nathan Olson gave over an hour of his undivided attention to community members Thursday morning in the city’s first community roundtable. It is something he would like to continue doing to better reach out to the citizens of Lemoore.
“It’s nice,” Olson said after the meeting. “I like to sit down in front of people and hear what they have to say.”
Olson said the idea for the community meetings started when he was the public works director and wanted feedback from the public. Admittedly, not many people went to those meetings he held, but the idea stuck with him.
Nothing was off-limits at the meeting. Olson would answer any questions that were asked, and if he couldn’t answer, he promised he would get the answer.
Some of the issues discussed included the city’s fees regarding impounded animals, homeless people, city budget, expenses and contracts, and the undeveloped Venture Place land in Lemoore’s Industrial Park.
Olson said as the interim city manager, he generally hears the complaints people have; and he was glad he heard what those who attended had to say and had face-to-face discussions with them.
He said the only way the city can improve is to hear the feedback, and forums like the community roundtable are the best way he can gauge how the city is doing.
“It wasn’t like ‘Well I think the general services I’m receiving from the city are no good’ type thing,” Olson said. “So that tells me that, as on organization, we’re providing the services that our residents are enjoying at this point.”
Olson said the laid-back and more relaxed setting offers people an alternative option for those who may be intimidated to get up and talk during the City Council meetings.
Connie Wlaschin, a very involved Lemoore resident and staple at every City Council meeting, said she thought the community roundtable was a great idea.
Wlaschin said she usually gets her questions answered from council at the meetings, but liked the roundtable because it was a smaller, more intimate setting.
“I was really pleased with [the discussion],” Wlaschin said. “It was very diversified.”
Wlaschin, who was born and raised in Lemoore and has owned a business there for over 32 years, encourages everyone to get involved in the community and go to the council meetings to know and understand what goes on in the city.
Danielle Keener saw the announcement on the city’s website when she was looking up the city’s master user fee schedule. She said she saw the roundtable as a way to get her voice heard about an issue that is close to her heart: rescuing animals.
“I think it’s really nice to be able to voice your opinion and have a conversation with somebody who oversees our city,” Keener said.
Although her questions couldn’t be answered right away at the meeting, Keener said it was still good to get feedback from Olson and be assured the city would follow-up with her and provide the answers she sought.
Keener said the community roundtable was definitely something she would attend again because she learned a lot about the goings-on in the city from the questions others asked Olson.
Only a handful of people attended the meeting and Olson said he’ll work on getting the word out to the community so more can attend in the future. He said he would like to have the meeting at least quarterly, but people don’t have to wait for a meeting to speak with him.
“I have an open-door policy,” Olson said. “I encourage people to call, to reach out to myself or staff.”
Olson said he thought the meeting went great because people got things off their chests and some of their questions answered.
“Anytime you can have a meeting with people who have concerns and they leave smiling and talking and happy, then I think you’ve built bridges,” Olson said.
Olson said the issues that were discussed will definitely be looked into and the meeting’s attendees will get a follow-up call from the city.