After a four-year break from the Hanford City Council, Sue Sorensen is making a comeback. Sorensen won election to the council in November with 39.2 percent of the vote in a four-way race. She is now serving as the city’s vice mayor.
Sorensen previously served on the council as mayor and vice mayor from 2008 to 2012, at a time when she was not very optimistic about the efficacy of the city council. She stepped down just four months before the end of her term, citing an unsuccessful four years on a board with a turbulent history and a high turnover rate.
“I hate to walk away,” Sorensen told the Hanford Sentinel in 2012. “This is killing me. I know what needs to be done, but they’ve not allowed me to have goal-setting, to have strategic planning, to have team-building.”
So, what’s changed now?
“That is probably the hardest question that I could be asked,” Sorensen said initially.
Sorensen elaborated that she originally had no plans to return to the council because she felt that she had served the city well. Despite these plans, Sorensen said that she heard many voices from within the community of Hanford asking her to reconsider.
Through what she described as “a very slow process,” she decided that she would return in order to make Hanford “a better place for both families and business” and campaigned on a wide range of issues from zoning ordinances to business incentives and the development of a strategic plan for the city.
While Sorensen noted that the development of a strategic plan for the city is a team effort by the entire council, she added that certain measures that end up in the plan are often spearheaded by individual members.
One of the most important items for Sorensen includes the quality of the public parks in Hanford.
“If we continue to add parks to our community, we need to have a standard of expectation of how they’ll be maintained,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen stressed that she would like to work with the parks and recreation department in order to find out what the city can do to support the city’s parks.
One of the biggest items on the council’s agenda is the future of Hanford’s Bastille, the former Kings County jail. Built in 1897, the Bastille functioned as a jail until 1964, and has been home to a number of different restaurants and bars since. However, the building has been vacant and in need of repairs for the last several years.
“In our strategic plan, it’s something that all council members agreed needs to be addressed,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen added that she thinks the Bastille could help to infuse life into the center of Hanford if it were maintained. Plans for the future of the Bastille are still under active development.
Hanford Mayor David Ayers praised her for her work in the community and said that he was excited to work with Sorensen again.
“She’s a very kind and honest lady and I enjoy working with her,” Ayers said. “She’s opinionated and stands by what she believes.”
Sorensen was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1953. After her father was discharged from the Air Force, her family moved to Fresno where she graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1971. She then moved on to Reedley College where she received an associate degree in dental assistance.
In 1973, Sorensen married her husband, Kirk, and the two moved to Hanford shortly thereafter. They purchased a small business located downtown after only three years in Hanford. The business has been transformed into a dental laboratory that is now known as Sorensen Denture Studio.
Sorensen eventually returned to school at Taft College where she earned a degree in dental hygiene and graduated as the valedictorian. She has worked as a registered dental hygienist for Dr. Jack Melvin in Hanford for the last 20 years.
Outside of politics, Sorensen is extremely active in her community. Many of the community service events that she has participated in came about as a result of her children.
To name only a few, Sorensen has worked as 4-H and Boy Scouts leaders, the sober grad committee chairwoman, Hanford’s parks and recreation commissioner and Hanford’s planning commissioner. She has also served on the Hanford Education Foundation and the College of the Sequoias Foundation.
“I’m very passionate about community service,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen said that she thinks community service is one of the most important things that a person can do in a small town like Hanford.
Sorensen cited her family as one of the motivations for keeping the community of Hanford strong. She is the mother of three grown children and has eight grandchildren, some of whom are growing up in Hanford.
“You can sit on the sidelines and complain or you can try,” Sorensen said. “I’m trying to make the best decisions to benefit the community.”