A former mayor and councilman, a former treasurer, and a lifelong Oakdale resident fresh to politics make up the slate to fill the two-year city council seat left vacant mid-term by the resignation of Jason Howard.
Farrell Jackson, who served on the council for eight years and was Oakdale’s mayor from 2006 to 2010, stresses that his experience with city government will be a benefit to the community for the shortened term since it would take a newcomer close to the time left on the term to understand the job.
“Experience really matters here,” said Jackson, who added that he would immediately be able to assume duties with no need to learn the role. “Experience does not mean you’re set in your ways. It also means you’re receptive to new ideas and can bring forward new ideas.”
Jackson points to the unstable city budget as a priority for Oakdale.
“We need revenues,” said Jackson, noting the city has cut as much as it can. “This city has many business opportunities that I know we can pursue.”
Jackson listed various prospects of recovering lost tax revenues, selling treated water from the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and pursuing community development block grant funds.
Jackson also said that due to the city’s current economic conditions, now was the time to lower development fees to attract business and construction to Oakdale. He said the city should pursue a balance of housing, industrial, and retail enterprises since they all complement each other for business prosperity.
“Give a good, fair look at them all,” said Jackson. “Don’t exclude. The fee adjustments would get a return many fold.”
Jackson also said he was against the city’s decision to look at privatization of public works services.
“Just by saying you’re looking at it, you start to lose good people with institutional knowledge of the city,” said Jackson, relaying that 10 employees left the city since the announcement. “These are not faceless people. The far majority lives here, grew up here, and should be treated with respect.”
Jackson is endorsed by the Oakdale Firefighters Association, the Stanislaus County Republican Party and has had Jeff Steves, Mike Bacigalupi, and former Mayor Pat Kuhn as contributors to his campaign.
Oakdale High 1992 graduate and 38-year resident Cherilyn Bairos believes her lack of political experience will work to her advantage for this election.
“I don’t have any baggage or conflicts with the other council members,” said Bairos. “I’d focus on the issue rather than the presenter.”
Bairos grew up on her parents’ dairy farm and has 16 years of experience running a private business. She currently is an insurance agent for AAA in Modesto. She feels her familiarity with running a business and interacting with people would be an asset to the council.
“We need to reach out to businesses before they fail,” said Bairos regarding promoting business and opportunities in the city. “We need to find out the needs, cut through any red tape they have, and reach out.”
Bairos emphasized that Oakdale can easily attract new business, especially with recent eastside land annexations.
“Just don’t wait for them (business) to come to us,” Bairos said. “Reach out to companies that do business in cities our size.”
Bairos believes the city needs to pursue more retail establishments, similar to Riverbank. She wants to see a shopping complex with clothing and shoe stores as well as ‘large ticket’ items for residents.
“People shouldn’t have to go to Riverbank or outside the city for these things,” she said.
Bairos also said she feels the outsourcing of city services is a sensitive subject that would have to have a great financial benefit to the city if it were to be put in effect.
“City employees have come to me and asked, ‘if they do it to one group, will they do it to us?’” Bairos said. “I think you have to look at it more than a 10 to 15 percent savings. There are other costs.”
Bairos is planning a campaign fundraiser on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at the FES Hall at 190 N. Lee Ave. She lists Jay and Diane Gilbert, Earl Ehret, and Mayor Pat Paul as contributors to her campaign.
Bairos said that regardless of the mayor’s support, she was still her “own person” and would act as such on the council.
Former Treasurer Mike Murray said he decided to run for the council position after a long and thoughtful consideration and at the encouragement of many of those who supported him in the past.
Murray, who stepped away from his treasurer post in April amidst fallout with Finance Director Albert Avila when he was asked to sign back-dated treasurer reports, said the experience made him wiser, more cautious and not so naive about trusting in certain subjects in the bureaucracy of the city.
Murray said he wants to look forward for answers and not to the past and has the best chance of the candidates of pulling people together.
“I have no animosity or bias to other council members that maybe some of the others do,” said Murray eluding to Jackson’s prior mayoral race with current Mayor Pat Paul and the subsequent rift as well as Challenger Bairos’ backing by Paul. “I’m not going to tell someone ‘no’ just because they’ve disagreed with me in the past.”
Murray, who holds a MBA and described himself as a “numbers person,” said the city needs a top-to-bottom review of how each department is running.
“We should look at where we are top heavy and where we need personnel,” Murray said. “From a personal standpoint, I don’t think paying three persons to consult at $70 an hour is an efficient use of city money.”
Murray said one of his priorities was public safety within the city and the proper use of Measure O sales tax funds. He feels the current council may divert the money received for other uses contrary to what it was proposed to be used for.
In regard to the outsourcing of public works, Murray said he didn’t want to see it happen because of the financial effect on longtime workers, but the city still had to look at the idea to possibly save money and for increased efficiency.
“If we had a person in charge rather than a consultant, and the staff would stop the infighting and bickering when Joe Leach was there, we probably wouldn’t be looking at it (outsourcing),” Murray said.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Next week, a look at the race for available four-year posts on the council.