SELMA – When you ask Selma residents what they hope the new city manager can bring to town they offer a flurry of goals: Growth, cooperation and a safer community. According to City Council members that hired her, Teresa Gallavan is the right person to bring all that to Selma.
“She hit the ground running,” said Mayor Jim Avalos of Gallavan’s first three weeks on the job. She’s been meeting with city staff, local business owners and developers interested in building in town to get a feel for the city’s current state and their goals for the future.
“I know she’ll do a great job because of her skill set she has as an economic developer,” Avalos said.
Gallavan comes with years of experience of working as an economic development director and assistant city manager for the City of Lompoc. She’s also worked as the Riverside County Economic Development Agency’s marketing and cultural services manager.
Avalos said he sees Gallavan as a breath of fresh air and said he hopes she’s in it for the long haul.
After Selma’s had a series of employees serving as city manager, stability is one of the key factor they were looking for in a permanent replacement.
“When you have an idea then [the city manager] is gone, then even the developers back away. They’re saying they don’t know what’s going to go on here,” Avalos said. “They’re scared to invest that money and I get it. If I was in their position, I’d feel the same way.”
Councilman Mike Derr agreed that in order for some of the big goals of adding large swaths of housing and commercial developments to town, it takes time and unity amongst the staff to make that happen.
“We’ve had six different city managers over the past five or so years. Big ideas take a team and those don’t develop overnight. They develop over time.”
Since the city council elections have taken place and new council members will be seated next month, there’s more turnover in the decision-makers to take into consideration.
Avalos said that with her upbeat personality, he’s predicting Gallavan will be able to use her personable skills to rebuild a sense of unity in the city’s team.
“I think what got me most was when we were done with the interview and I asked if she had any questions of us, she said, ‘yes.’ That showed me she was confident and I liked that. She’s charming, she’s smiling and she’s very upbeat. Communication’s going to be a main factor and she’s good at that. I like that.”
Derr said that since Gallavan will be a key person that serves as the face of the city to possible investors, her style will serve the city well.
“She talks to you with a smile. And this isn’t her first stop,” he said of her professional experience. “She just has to do what she does and do it well.”
Derr added that since Selma has several construction projects coming up - such as the new police station and a fire station remodel - and infrastructure plans down the line, her timing is crucial in seeing these completed.
“It’s the perfect time for her to step into the program,” Avalos said.
Selma residents say they, too, are looking for Gallavan to help city leaders move constructively forward and address quality of life issues such as higher-end housing, gang issues, building up staff morale and targeting drugs and graffiti issues that mar the community.
Selma resident Shannon Schwamb was among those attending a Nov. 8 reception held at City Hall. Schwamb realizes that tackling these concerns takes money and thus more profitable and larger businesses are needed to provide revenue for the city’s general fund.
“Mom-and-pop stores are dear to our hearts and we want those, too, but we need some businesses that are going to generate taxes,” Schwamb said. “I’m hoping she can help all the department heads come together and form a good plan for good, profitable businesses.”
Another Selma resident at the reception was Robert Cortez. He’s lived in Selma for decades and has seen the city grow and its economy fluctuate over time. Cortez said he’s hoping the new city manager can help the city develop a more centrally located youth center and large businesses to create jobs.
“We need a large producer of jobs. That’s why we have crime here. Kids don’t know what to do and they wind up doing bad things. Instead, if the city manager can bring in jobs, they won’t be running around doing bad things. Maybe she can think of new ideas that have not been thought of so we can move ahead.”
Gallavan said she’s pleased the Council and citizens have shown so much confidence in her.
She and her husband, Ken Van Vechten, visited Selma during the interview process and she’s excited to see so much potential for growth and that residents are passionate about the town. She’s also excited to see the art center, enthusiasm for local sports and backing for public safety and parks.
“I can see that all of you who work and live here care so deeply about Selma,” she said to those at the reception. “There’s so many great things happening here and we need to build upon them.”
Gallavan said her plans include bringing stability to the position of city manager, work with local developers, bolster the city staff, bring key projects to fruition, help the downtown, commercial and industrial areas thrive and address public safety.
“I can see Selma residents and businesses really care and that was important in our decision to come here. I look forward to serving this community.”
On a personal level, Gallavan and her husband are cyclists, cooks and golfers. They’re looking forward to getting to know the area and the residents, she said but, first things first.
“I like to do those as much as I can but I think I’ll be pretty swamped with getting to know everyone and diving into this new job and this new opportunity.”