SELMA – With well wishes from community, business and faith leaders, Jim Avalos was sworn in as Selma’s mayor at the Dec. 4 City Council meeting. Councilman Scott Robertson was sworn in as mayor pro tempore.

Avalos and Robertson were optimistic, but realistic, about the city’s future and the challenges it faces.

Councilmember Scott Robertson called the event a pivotal point to move forward.

“Yes, there have been setbacks but it’s like the stock market that goes up and down. On a general trend it goes up, and I can tell you Selma’s going up,” Robertson said. “We’ve moving forward and taking Selma in that direction.”

Avalos acknowledged family members in the audience and said he hopes the Council can move forward to address economic growth and safety concerns residents have brought to the council over the past year.

“I’d like to thank my mother. Without my mom, I wouldn’t be here. I’m grateful and I’m blessed to be here to see everyone’s support. I thank you all and my wife as well,” he said of his wife, Lorane Avalos.

“We have different ideas on the council. That’s good because it gives you a different perspective on life. Each one has different ideas and I like that. That makes for a strong council. We may not agree all the time, but that’s OK. At the end of the day, we move on and respect each other.”

Avalos awarded outgoing Mayor Mike Derr a plaque calling him someone “you can learn from. You carry on with the respect and dignity of the City. I’m hoping I can meet the expectation because Mike has met that more times over while being on the council.”

The Council changed the manner in which it chooses a mayor in October 2016 to a seniority system. Councilwoman Yvette Montijo proposed the idea in an effort to eliminate divisiveness on the council.

“It’s not a matter of personality. It is more a matter of making systemic change which, in my opinion, will make the selection of mayor far easier,” Montijo said at the time.

During Council reports, Councilman Louis Franco said he was “disheartened” to realize that a year into his service on the council one of his highest concerns has not been settled.

“My main goal when I was sworn into office was to find a quality city manager. A year later, my main goal is to find a quality city manager.”

David Elias had been hired as city manager in April but recently resigned amid charges of misusing public funds while serving as Fowler’s city manager. Former Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea has been hired as an interim and will assist in finding a permanent replacement.

“Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong,” Franco said. He said he hopes the Council can move forward to “do far greater things than we’ve done before and do them at a better pace. We, I believe, need to raise our expectations. Like Jim said, it’s about working together.”

Selma resident Janalee Jones brought up the recurring concern about public safety and beefing up the police department. She’s hopeful the Council will address the issue more concretely when it returns in January.

“I really, really hope that you show us, instead of sitting up there and talking to us, you show us how you’re going to help us combat the safety issue. I understand government takes time and it’s slow but in the meantime, kids are getting stabbed, houses are getting broken into, people are getting shot. We can’t take too long. We have to see some kind of change soon.”

Council went on to approve an agreement with the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency to provide police services for its public transportation vehicles. The Council also updated lists authorizing Interim City Manager Perea as one of the people authorized to sign checks, make withdrawals and input deposits on the city’s financial accounts. Council also approved an agreement with Gateway Engineering for Community Development Block Grant projects until 2021. The engineering work is for various street and alley improvements.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.