Titled “A Time for Change,” Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul addressed over 100 people gathered at the Gene Bianchi Community Center for the city’s annual State of the City Luncheon on Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Paul reminded the audience that last year she pointed out that if the city didn’t make any significant changes, “it was a ship that would crash into a lighthouse.” She noted Oakdale was in trouble with weak organizational structure, especially in the management ranks of the city.
Since Paul’s election in November of 2010, the Oakdale City Council has purged or presided over the departure of nearly its entire staff of department heads. In the last year alone the city saw the retirement of its former police chief, Marty West and the departure of Public Works Director Joe Leach and Community Development Director Danielle Stylos.
Paul introduced the new city manager, Bryan Whitemyer, who started with the city on Monday, Feb 4. The city has been without a permanent city manager since April 2011 when the council dismissed Steve Hallam.
Paul highlighted several accomplishments for the city in 2012, naming the budget, a restructured leadership staff, grants, and ongoing evaluation of the city animal shelter.
The mayor also noted successes in the city general plan, revising the city attorney contract, auditing under best practices, and public works reorganization.
Measure O funds were also pointed out as Paul spoke about the need to attract new business to town and bringing back of street lights, street sweeping, and police hiring.
“What a great image for a new business coming to town,” Paul said sarcastically, “dark, dirty, and no cops.”
The Hershey Building closure was also addressed as Paul jokingly attempted to put it on the market.
“If anyone would like a beautiful building, see me or Bryan,” Paul said. “We’ll sell or lease it to you at a good price.”
Paul briefly addressed crime figures in her update, not discussing any increases, but called on Police Chief Lester Jenkins to speak about a Tuesday night shooting incident, Jan. 29.
Chief Jenkins pointed out that until last November the city had gone nearly four years without a homicide and spoke about a rising gang element in the city. Jenkins said more police were needed to aggressively deal with the subjects who only recognize active police contact as a means for suppression.
When asked about the rise in violent crime in recent months – the November double homicide, a December party where two persons were shot as well as the attempted homicide from two nights earlier and the shooting at a police officer the night before – with a police force that is at only 66 percent of where it was five years earlier, Paul said that she hoped the new city manager would recognize the shortcomings and Chief Jenkins would go to him for more officers. She said it was also up to the citizens to let the council know and for the council to push for more police officers.
“This is a priority – public safety,” Paul said. “You need to feel safe in your home.”
Moving toward the future, Paul highlighted upcoming April events including the annual rodeo, the Oakdale Car Show, I Love Oakdale, and a new chili cook off in May to benefit a proposed carriage museum.
Grant Writer Amy Augustine was acknowledged for two city grants, the river trail and skate park, that were secured in the last year with those projects moving forward.
Paul also spoke about the proposed North County Corridor Bypass.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see it,” said Paul, citing delays and studies by Caltrans. “Stay tuned for two more years from now.”