SELMA – There were some new faces taking the helm of city and school leadership as some long-standing employees and board members retired this year. While familiar traditions such as the Raisin Festival saw the coronation of new Raisin Royalty, new traditions were also started in the arts and business communities. Here’s a look back at some major events in Selma throughout the year.
1) Council envisions Selma as ‘role model’ city
City Council conducted a series of community forum workshops with professional facilitator Jackie Ryle in early January to set a planning vision for Selma. Mayor Jim Avalos said his goal is for Selma to have thriving businesses, a robust housing market, strong schools and well-equipped fire and police departments. “It’d be like the better version of Visalia,” Avalos said. “We’d be a role model for the other cities around us. But it takes ‘we,’ not just one person.” Public safety garnered 61 votes and was by far the most pressing priority on the list.
2) Selma to rebuild Fire Station No. 2
Selma’s City Council took steps Jan. 16 to remodel Fire Station 2 at 2861 A St. to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements and make room for growth. The cost would be an estimated $4.7 million.
Then-Fire Chief Mike Kain said the station needs a major overhaul as firefighters have had to build their own kitchen and bedrooms. “Our employees have done everything they can to make this fire station work,” Kain said. “We’ve simply outgrown the facility. More importantly, it doesn’t meet a lot of the new OSHA requirements. Our No. 1 concern is the health of our firefighters so we’re not transferring these carcinogens into our living and work area.”
3) Chief proposes police recruitment programs
Police Chief Greg Garner detailed their department’s recruitment efforts at a January City Council meeting as the Council looked to fill empty positions and fund even more to meet public safety needs.
“It’s one thing to be back at [previous] staffing [levels], I still think we have to work to the ideal goal which is about four or five officers more than what we’re staffed at,” Councilman Louis Franco said.
4) Salazar named Citizen of the Year
Sal’s Mexican Restaurant co-owner Karl Salazar was named as the 2018 Selma District Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in March. Also honored were: Selma High School’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps as the Junior Citizens of the Year; Waste Management as the Business of the Year; Sara Ayeni as the Educator of the Year; California Water Service for Distinguished Community Service. Salazar’s the first person to win the award twice and was noted for his community involvement. “He’s one of those citizens who when he walks through the doors, he’s always ready to make a difference,” Pastor Joe Alvarez said.
5) Budget includes funds for one more officer
Selma Finance Director Isaac Moreno reported there were enough funds in the City’s $13.8 million budget to hire at least one more police officer next year, give the current fire and police staffs raises and with the anticipated increase in sales tax, have enough to keep 20 percent in reserves.
The report was presented at an April 6 budget workshop where Selma's City Council looked at the City’s financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget was finalized before July.
6) Sikhs celebrate faith’s founding
Local Sikhs marked their founding of their faith during the 24th annual Vaisakhi parade that wound through Selma on April 15. Sikh Center General Secretary Nindy Sandhu said their faith is based on principles similar to what most Americans hold dear. “We want the community to understand us since we’ve been living in the United States for over 100 years. We were basically farmers back home so we’ve settled in farming communities in California. Our values are very parallel to American values – equality, justice and no oppression.”
7) Floral Avenue reconstruction to start
A long-awaited road reconstruction for Floral Avenue was officially kicked off with a ground-breaking ceremony April 17. “We expect some minor inconvenience, but the permanent benefit to the businesses and the community of Selma will be worth the wait,” Selma Mayor Jim Avalos said of the $1.6 million project.
8) Police Station bond committee sworn in
Marvin Forbes, Colleen Nelson and Rod Nelson will serve as the Measure P Bond Oversight Committee. They were sworn in at a May 1 meeting at City Council Chambers.
Measure P was approved by voters in the November 2016 election to raise $4 million by assessing property taxes at a rate of $16 per $100,000 of assessed value for 30 years. These funds will be added to another $4 million that Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula helped secure from the state of California to build the new station. Funds will also be used to update the 911 dispatch technology and improve video policing. “Hopefully, it will make our police officers’ job easier having a state-of-the-art facility,” Forbes said.
9) Raisin Festival Queen named
As the newly crowned Raisin Festival Queen, Alyna Esquivel said she has a lot to be thankful for and even more to look forward to in her new role.
“I hope to bring a positive attitude to everything that I do. Everything that Selma’s given to me, I’ll be able to give to someone else,” she said at the May 4 coronation at Lincoln Park. Esquivel, 22, was sponsored by the Selma Rotary Club. She attends Fresno Pacific University and works as a physician liaison at Selma’s Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center.
10) Selma Fire Chief Kain retires
It was an emotional farewell for retiring Selma Fire Chief Mike Kain at the May 7 City Council meeting. Surrounded by family and his fire department staff, Kain said despite it being a demanding, 24-hour-a-day job, he’s thoroughly loved his firefighting career.
“To get paid to do what you love, that’s what makes it worth it. I call those people in the blue uniforms my family and it’s been a great career.”
11) Veterans monument unveiled
A Veterans’ 7-foot tall pentagon monument installed by Selma’s American Legion Post 12 is just the beginning of the organization’s plans to build a plaza to honor U.S. service men, women and family members. The monument was unveiled during a Memorial Day ceremony May 26. Legion Commander Eliseo Zuniga is spearheading the effort and said it will be a personal honor to help oversee the plaza’s creation.
“A lot of people take this country for granted but I’m really grateful for the opportunities this country’s given me and my children. It’s in my heart that I need to get this done.”
12) Selma High gets new principal
Guillermo Lopez was introduced as Selma High’s new principal following Mark Babiarz’s retirement.
“It’s like I’m living a dream,” he said of his new position in the district. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said at a May 22 reception during a Selma Unified School District Board meeting
Lopez said he’ll use his life experience as an immigrant’s son to support the teachers and parents as they help SUSD students reach their educational and life goals. “I’m passionate about what I do and I’m passionate about my community that I work in.”
13) ALMS graduates students
As the group of Abraham Lincoln Middle School eighth-graders readied inside Selma High’s gymnasium for their June 4 promotion ceremony, they adjusted their ceremonial robes one last time as Activities Director Jennifer Miller-McColm called for them to line up. By the end of the evening, these soaring ALMS Eagles would be Selma High Bears.
“It doesn’t matter if you’d made mistakes, where you come from, how much money you have or what others think of you. These things are all part of the process of life,” ALMS Principal Charles Coleman said. “The most important thing to remember is you have greatness inside of you. It’s up to you allow that greatness to make the world a better place.”
14) Selma High’s Class of 2018 graduates
Valedictorian Raj Bains set the tone for his fellow graduates at the June 7 graduation ceremony of Selma High’s Class of 2018.
“I talk about what success means and what people need to do to just push themselves in the future and make sure they can accomplish their dreams. If they really try and put their head into it, they could really do it.”
15) Farmers market organizers grow town pride
Jesse Crouch and Jorge Cruz launched a first in a series of farmers markets in Downtown Selma that they hope will be the catalyst for more than just more fruit and vegetable sales in town.
“There are about 110,000 people within 10 minutes of Selma and we’re trying to attract all those people,” Crouch said.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a community center as a commerce hub to build up nonprofits and entrepreneurs,” Cruz said. “We want to reinvest in the community of Selma.”
The men say a farmers market in the Downtown area would bring more awareness to the locally owned businesses there while also building a sense of home-town pride they feel is slipping away.
16) New theater group stages ‘School of Rock’
Selma Arts Center kicked off a new theater troupe for area teen actors under Adrian Oceguera’s direction. Their debut production was “School of Rock” which ran the first week of August.
“I wanted to give them something they could call their own. Admittedly, a junior company isn’t anything new, but we didn’t have something readily available in Selma.”
Through this new program, he’s hoping the teens get to hone their skills and continue with theater into their adult lives. “Our program is about educating, first and foremost. We want them to get the tools they’ll need to succeed in the theater world,” he said.
17) Selma summer concerts continue
Selma’s Lincoln Park filled with the sounds of music every Friday in August as the Selma District Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 season of free Concerts in the Parks continued. Art in the Garden jazz band was the first performer and each week featured a different style of music.
Drummer Ernie Palacio said live audiences give you instantaneous gratitude.
“You see it on the smiles on people’s faces.”
18) New city manager hired
Teresa Gallavan was officially named as Selma’s new city manager at the Aug. 20 City Council meeting. Her start date was Oct. 22. Gallavan has served as the city of Lompoc’s interim city manager, assistant city manager and economic development director since 2011. Before that, she worked as the Riverside County Economic Development Agency for 15 years.
“I’m looking forward to working with the Selma City Council, the city staff team and the community for the continued growth and betterment of Selma and its citizens,” she said.
19) Selma to get transit yard
Selma is partnering with the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency to bring a bussing maintenance facility to the city’s industrial park. The agreement was unanimously approved at a special Aug. 29 Selma City Council meeting. FCRTA operates 25 transit subsystems with 80 vehicles that operate in 13 rural incorporated cities throughout the Central Valley.
“We could have gone to any one of the 13 incorporated cities in Fresno County. There were a lot of reasons we choose this community. Historically, we’ve had a very good working relationship,” FCRTA General Manager Moses Stites said.
20) Block Arty showcases Downtown talent
Dancing School’s Director Elizabeth Zobian organized the first art-focused showcase for Downtown Selma, Block Arty for Aug. 30, to promote not only the talented performers that live in the community, but the long-standing venues where they hone their arts.
“I look right at Kratos Music and Centro De Folklor every day. I love that we, The Dancing School, are surrounded by other arts organizations. It just seemed like it was time to get together and celebrate all the arts downtown. I’m excited to support the other artists and to share our dancing with the community.”
21) Police station bid exceeds budget
Only one bid had been received to build the new Selma Police Station. Since it was nearly $2 million over budget, the proposal was rejected at the Sept. 4 Selma City Council meeting. Fresno architect Arthur Dyson designed the station and by the Aug. 30 deadline only Seals Construction had sent in a proposal. This lone bid “far exceeds the engineer’s estimate,” Assistant City Manager Isaac Moreno said.
Mayor Jim Avalos assured audience members the station would be built “one way or the other,” but many were concerned more taxes would be required, or that the city’s general fund or reserves would be dipped into.
22) Firm hired to prepare for Selma High stadium construction
In order to get ready to hire possibly up to 150 different contractors to reconstruct Selma High’s stadium and other Measure O projects, the school board hired Colbi Technologies at its Sept. 11 meeting. Colbi will oversee the pre-qualification process needed to get contractors ready.
This move ensures Selma Unified complies with state laws regarding possible financing options through a lease-leaseback arrangement.
“We weren’t aware of this law that we’d have to have prequalifications,” Assistant Superintendent Larry Teixeria said. As part of the State Assembly Bill 1565, prospective construction bidders have been required since January 2014 to submit a standardized prequalification questionnaire and financial statement if they want to be considered for such project arrangements.
23) Selma appoints Petersen as fire chief
With four generations of fire-fighting in the family, Selma’s acting Fire Chief Rob Petersen seemed the logical choice for the job as the City’s permanent Fire Chief. Petersen’s hire was made official Dec. 8. Chief Petersen has served the City of Selma for 18 years, including the past six months as the acting fire chief upon outgoing Chief Mike Kain’s retirement. Petersen oversees the City’s two fire stations, a department of 26 employees and a budget of $3.2 million.
“As a life-long member of the Selma community, and a fourth generation member of the Selma Fire Department, I am honored to be appointed as the fire chief,” Petersen said.
24) Elections finalized
Sarah Guerra and John Trujillo were sworn in Dec. 10 as new City Council members after the General Election results were finalized. Long-standing Councilman Mike Derr shared some advice as he stepped down after 28 years on the Council. “Remember, you guys are the servants of the people. Give this work the attention it deserves.”
On the Selma Unified School Board, Diane Jensen and Roger Orosco were sworn in as their new members. Board President Jennifer Winter was unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election and was re-appointed to continue serving on the board for another four years. She’ll also continue as president of the board.