HANFORD — A few weeks after his 16th birthday, Dameane Douglas said he remembered having to go to the Kings County Government Center to pay for his first speeding ticket, a memory he’ll never forget.

Tuesday he was back for a more positive reason as the representative for Assemblyman Rudy Salas at the center's 40th anniversary celebration.

“The great thing about this building is you realize it’s not just the walls, but the people inside the walls that make this a great place,” Douglas said.

“We’re all very proud of this facility,” Chairman Craig Pedersen said on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.

Pedersen said the ceremony was a way to recognize not just the Government Center, but to remember and reflect on all the past decisions that have made the county successful.

“It’s with great pride that we celebrate this today, and that in the effort of continuing to move Kings County forward, we never forget where we come from,” Pedersen said.

Supervisor Joe Neves gave the crowd a brief history of the area, saying Kings County was created in 1893 after many attempts and setbacks. He said the name of the county was taken from the Kings River, which runs through the area.

Neves said back then the newly formed Kings County had no courthouse, no offices, no stationary and no money.

“Pretty much like today,” Neves quipped, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.

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Neves said the talk of a joint city-county complex started in 1952, but would take more than 20 years for the $12 million 168,664 square-foot Government Center to be opened. The center sits on 101 acres on the north side of Lacey Boulevard, as well as six acres on the south side.

“Kings County residents should be very proud of its history and present operations and future development as the site continues,” Neves said of the Government Center.

The ceremony was attended by special guests, including Justin Mendes, district director for Congressman David Valadao; Weston Anderson, representative for state Sen. Andy Vidak; and Douglas.

“I’ve been up and down the state looking at government buildings and this one is perfect,” Mendes said. “It represents the rural area that we’re in — it’s not too flashy, it’s not art deco — this is a great building. I’ve spent a lot of good times in here and I’m looking forward to the next 40 years.”

Douglas and Anderson presented a certificate of recognition from Salas and Vidak to mark the 40th anniversary of the center.

“If these walls could talk, I’m sure they would write the story book of Kings County,” Anderson said. “The future going forth looks bright.”

Capt. David James, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Lemoore, also gave a speech, saying the base has been a partner with the county since its inception in the late 1950s.

“We genuinely thank Kings County for its efforts in those days before the Government Center was built, and now, for its continued support,” James said. “I look forward to working with you for 40 or more years to come.”

The ceremony culminated with a rededication of the cornerstone of the Kings County Government Center from Mark Dawson, worshipful master of the Hanford Masonic Lodge.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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