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Category Archives: City Manager’s Update

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Friday update 9-18-2020

There are a lot of clean cars in Winters this week.  Thanks to the Winters Fire Department, Winters Police Department and Kona Ice, people were able to get their cars washed and raise money for fire victims on Sunday September 13, 2020.  Good job by all the Fire, Police and Kona people, and good job to all the folks that came and got their cars washed.  Once again, the community spirit in Winters has provided for those in need.

Tuesday night the City Council recognized the service of Dan Maguire and Carol Scianna to the City of Winters.  We had hoped to have a party, but, you know…..COVID…. Do we need to say more?

We also received a presentation from Kate Laddish and Elaine Roberts Musser on Emergency preparedness and Evacuation Planning for Vulnerable Populations.   This included a copy of the Recommendations to the Yolo County Supervisors on January 28, 2020.  You can find the report here  http://www.cityofwinters.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/2020_0915CityCouncilPacket.pdf   The report starts on page 47.

We also received an update and information on how various emergency alerts are sent out by Dana Carey with Yolo County OES.  I would encourage everyone to sign up for the alert system at www.yolo-alert.org and put ALL your phone numbers and addresses into the system for the best coverage possible for the alerting system within Yolo County.  To view an evacuation map, go to www.evacuate.yolocounty.org for the map, you can put in your address and it will tell you your evacuation zone.

John Donlevy gave us a BIG list of projects that he and everyone else at City Hall is working on or needs to work on in the coming months and years.  Hopefully this will help our new City Manager see what a great cooperative team of people are working here at City Hall as we all work together on this project list.

Excitement is in the air about the receipt of the Grant for the Winters Senior Center.  We are getting lots of questions of what the next step is and when that will happen.  The next step is that the City of Winters needs to enter into a contract for the Grant with the State of California.  That typically takes 4-6 weeks to get the contract into the hands of City Staff, so we are still waiting on that.  Once the contract is signed by both parties, we are ready to put the project out to bid.  This means it will be advertised for builders to review the plans and provide the City with a bid on constructing the project.  Once that happens, we will review all the bids and award and contract for construction and construction can begin.  It is a process that is determined by State and Federal guidelines since they are providing the bulk of the money for the project.  We have to follow the rules, and in the end, we will have a beautiful facility for the Senior population of our City.

We have received notification from the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Vector Control District that invasive (meaning not native to California) mosquitos have been found in Winters.  I know with all the smoke in the air we haven’t been doing a lot of outdoor activities, but, we need to be sure that we eliminate standing water to minimize the mosquitos.  Ground mosquito control treatments did take place this morning and will take place again on Monday 9-21-2020 between 2am and 5am.  If you would like to sign up for mosquito control notifications you can do so here https://www.fightthebite.net/services/spray-notifications/

Yolo County is launching a Small Business Grant Program today with the launch of the website for information and the grant application period begins on September 28, 2020 at 9 AM.  The website for the program is www.yolocounty.org/small-business-grant

You can email questions to SBGprogram@yolocounty.org.

Seems like I put a lot of links into this week’s update, but, hopefully it will provide good information for everyone.

Have a good weekend

Shelly Gunby
Interim City Manager
Director of Financial Management


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9-11-2020 Friday Update

Today is the 19th anniversary of the attacks on the twin towers in New York City, and the Pentagon.  Many people and organizations have taken the time today to remember those who lost their lives on 9-11-01, including the Winters Fire and Police Departments with a ceremony at 8:46 am to signify when the first tower was hit.  I am reminded today in particular, of how dedicated our first responders are to our communities as I remember scenes from that day.  Here in California we have had a lot of experience depending on our first responders as we have experienced fire after fire these last few years.  I am thankful for all those police officers, sheriff deputies, and firefighters that work so diligently to keep people safe during these incidents.  Thank you to all first responders for all you do for our community.

Today we also broke ground for the newest park in the City of Winters.  3 Oaks Park will be the newest, and one of the biggest parks in the City of Winters when it is complete.   Former City Manager John W. Donlevy, Jr., was the MC for the event, and, as always, was informative on the history of the development of 3 Oaks Park.  This groundbreaking will be the final official act John will perform for our community, with the exception of presenting a project list and transition plan during the 9/15/2020 City Council Meeting.

A few things from last week:

Tuesday September 8, 2020 the Planning Commission approved the Site Plan and Design for a new Single Family Home on Orchard Lane, approved the addition of a parklet on Russell Street for expanded outdoor dining for The Preserve, and approved a tentative map to subdivide property into 7 lots on the corner of Taylor Street and Kennedy Drive.

The Senior Commission meet on Wednesday September 9, and discussed their resource guide, Blue Mountain Terrace Apartments, and discussed the fact that the City of Winters received notification of the award of the $3,500,000 grant for construction of the Senior Center(the announcement was received about half an hour after I sent out last week’s Friday update).

Thursday John Donlevy worked at Winters City Hall to complete his agenda report for the 9/15/2020 City Council Meeting.  This will most likely be the final Winters City Council meeting that John will attend.  Once he completed his agenda report, I wandered by to see that he had removed all of his personal items from the City Manager’s Office and he pointed out where a few things were for the next City Manager’s use.  That office is now completely lacking any personality whatsoever.  Where it once was an office full of information and photos about the City of Winters, and displayed a lot of the history of the City of Winters, it now is just four slightly discolored white walls.

Looking forward to next week, the 9/15/2020 Winters City Council meeting will include the following items:

We will recognize the contributions that both Dan Maguire and Carol Scianna made to the City of Winters during their time with the City of Winters as they enjoy their retirement.  We would have loved to have a party to celebrate the next part of their journey with them, but, Covid-19 has put a halt to all kinds of celebrations, and sadly, that included our ability to provide that type of recognition to Carol and Dan.  Both Dan and Carol retired from the City of Winters on June 30, 2020.

We will also receive presentations from Dana Carey with Yolo County Office of Emergency Services regarding emergency notifications an preparedness, from Fire Chief Brad Lopez providing updates on the LNU lightning complex and Markely Cove Fire, and from Kate Laddish on emergency preparedness and evacuation planning services for Seniors and People with access and functional needs.

Discussion items include The Claim for Transportation Development Act Funds for 2020-2021, Request for extending the closure of Main Street, and the request for reimbursement from Bid funds for expenses for creating the Main Street eating area for outdoor dining.

Shelly Gunby
Interim City Manager


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Friday update 9-4-2020

Shelly’s Friday update 9-4-2020

Items from this week’s City Council meeting:

  • The City Council approved a proclamation for Fall Prevention Awareness week for September 21-25
  • The City Council approved the tentative map for the NeighborWorks project.
  •  The City Council received an update on the Winters Downtown Business Association
  • The City Council approved the acceptance of a grant for Vehicle Charging Stations to be installed at various locations within the City of Winters.
  • The City Council Authorized City Staff to apply for funding through the Prop 68 park grant for improvements to parks within the City of Winters.

Next week is the Planning Commission Meeting on Tuesday September 8, 2020, included on that agenda are the following items:

  • Public Hearing for Site Plan and Design Review for a single-family home on Orchard Lane.
  • Public Hearing for consideration of outdoor seating for the Preserve Restaurant.
  • Public Hearing for consideration of a tentative map to subdivide 2.59 acres on the corner of Taylor St. and Kennedy Dr.

You can find the agenda on the City of Winters website: http://www.cityofwinters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2020_0908PlanningCommissionPacket.pdf

There will be a groundbreaking for the new park in the Stones Throw development on Friday September 11, 2020.

The Winters Fire and Police Department along with the Winters Volunteer Firefighter Association are sponsoring a drive through car wash to aid fire victims on Saturday September 13, 2020.  Kona Ice will also be at the car wash and will donate their proceeds to the fire victims.

Monday is Labor Day, a day celebrating the social and economic achievements of American workers.  This year has seen so many American workers struggle, whether the struggle is figuring out how to teach remotely, work remotely, not working at all,  or working in areas that have had their ability to prosper so drastically affected by shut-downs and limits on business operations.  While many are struggling, it is the American worker that will propel us out of the current economic situation and bring strength, prosperity and well-being back to our country.  So, I am going to celebrate all the American workers from the past, and, pray  for those still working, and those anxiously waiting to get back to work,  as I rest up this Labor Day holiday

Shelly Gunby
Interim City Manager
Director of Financial Management
City of Winters


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City of Winters City Manager Recruitment Community Input

Opportunity for Community Input
Recruitment of City Manager
City of Winters

SUBMIT YOUR ONLINE SURVEY BY SEPTEMBER 11, 2020

The City of Winters has retained the executive recruitment services of Peckham & McKenney, Inc. to conduct the search for the next City Manager.  The firm’s President, Bobbi Peckham, will personally conduct this search process.  The initial step in the recruitment is the creation of a Candidate Profile that will be used to actively recruit potential candidates.  The Candidate Profile includes information regarding the community, organization, position, and process of applying.

To ensure a timely process, Ms. Peckham has met with members of the Winters City Council to obtain their input on the Profile, and a marketing brochure has been created and is available at https://www.peckhamandmckenney.com/city-manager-city-of-winters-ca.

While the recruitment process has begun, and Ms. Peckham is actively recruiting potential candidates, the City Council invites members of the community to also provide input regarding the Candidate Profile via a survey.  Information obtained from this survey will further assist the City Council and Ms. Peckham in the screening of applicants.  The City Council thanks you in advance and appreciates your time and thoughtful response to the survey.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GQG8XW9

What exactly is a City Manager?

The City Manager is appointed by and reports directly to the Mayor and City Council.   They are responsible for making sure that basic services such as utilities, sanitation, and road maintenance are provided efficiently to citizens in the community. These highly trained, experienced women and men are committed to meeting these challenges each and every day, 24 hours a day. The job involves working with a range of individuals involved in public safety, public works, economic development, and dozens of other service areas to move the community toward a common goal and respond to problems efficiently and effectively.

The City Manager provides the expertise of a highly trained, nonpolitical, experienced professional who has the experience, administrative qualifications, and education to produce results.  They also provide accountability to citizens through the City Council, who hires the City Manager as an “at-will” employee and who can fire that person at any time through a majority vote. Professional City Managers are typically members of the International City/County Management Association (http://www.icma.org) and subscribe to a stringently enforced Code of Ethics that governs not only their professional but their personal actions as well.

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The Last Friday Update on July 31, 2020

I’ve been doing the Friday Update now for 11 years. The goal has always been to inform and keep folks in the loop on what is going on. I have tried to include everything, including the controversial issues. I hope people have appreciated getting them as much as I have writing them. This is my final edition.

A couple things from the week:

  • The August 4 City Council Meeting is cancelled and was adjourned to August 18.
  • We made the Fox 40 News this week for inviting some folks to come Downtown to support our struggling businesses and to get a glass of wine. Yup, the flyer called it a “protest” of three long time employees leaving and encouraged people to come Downtown and bring signs. Some folks just have no sense of humor (I don’t think they even read the flyer). I did not see the tv news segment, but my brother said it was hilarious and sad at the same time.
  • The Covid “complaints” which come to the City are sent to me. Many are the result of need for community education for businesses and folks. Some are just mean with folks wanting to chase young people out of the parks, one guy tried to stop a wedding, and some are just indignant. We will get through all of this and I, personally will be glad when it is over.

Today is my last official day in the office as the City Manager of the City of Winters, a title I will hold dear and proudly for the rest of my life!

The last 19 years of my life have been literally the best both personally and professionally. I am grateful beyond measurement for what Winters has given me and the people who have become a part of my life. It has simply been, the best. An incredible ride to say the least.

I especially want to thank:

  • The 17 City Council Members who gave me the opportunity to do what I do. Winters is blessed with amazing leadership and the home spun guidance from people who served because of their commitment to community service and guiding this town. Not a selfish or self serving person in the bunch. Harold Anderson changed my life 19 years ago by walking me down Main Street. Cecilia “got us to the table” and the rest just fell into place.
  • The 122 City staff members I have worked with. They say rule number one to being successful is to surround yourself with people who are smarter and more capable than you are. In my case that is a pretty low bar, but all that has happened over the 19 years can be credited to a very talented and capable supporting cast. They have been my “dream team.”
  • The Wallace Family, especially John and Charley (of course with Newt and Ida). There are few who have defined Winters more than the Wallace’s. The approach, values and commitment of this family  for the last 70 years is what has made Winters. I have personally witnessed John and Charley do some of the most kind and generous acts of friendship for people (including me) I have witnessed in my life. Their Winters Express (with Debra) recorded our history and told a story everyone wanted to read each week. An absolute blessing. People who have changed and enriched my life.
  • Those who have given literally their entire being to “bringing back”  Winters including John, Melanie, Joe, Karen, John S, Dan M, Charley, John W, Newt, Ida, Carol S,  Tony T, Debra, Barb, Terry, Kathy D,, Bobbi G, Nanci M, Diane J, Woody, Wade, Kathy and Jessica. All amazing people who have given their all to this town and were amongst our most important partners and collaborators.
  • All those with Winters AYSO, Rotary, WJUSD, WEF, HAC, WFoL and Putah Creek.

I have been proud to carry the Winters “flag” and that has been embodied within the framework of being a member of an incredible team. Its always been a team effort with each carrying a different part of the equation.

During the time I lost some people along the way who were some of my best friends, collaborators and confidants. Scotty Dozier led the redefinition of Winters Fire, Alfredo Rodriguez taught me how to change the lives of young people and Robert Chapman was a dream councilmember for a then young City Manager. I will share that I loved each of them.

Finally, my wife Kathy and my kids Sam and Emily. The soul and commitment of our family is Kathy and the kids were supportive for the entire ride. I am a lucky and blessed man to have a family who loves me and puts up with all the crap I bring.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank the entire Winters community for the honor of being able to serve. I will pray for the continued success of our town.

Thanks,

John


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Friday Update for July 17 2020

All,

A super heavy City Council Agenda for July 21 2020

  • Public Hearing- SB2 Permeant Local Housing Allocation Program Grant
  • Public Hearing- CARES Funding/CDBG
  • Joint Initiative Petition to Amend the General Plan to Establish Urban Growth Boundary
  • Executive Search Firm- City Manager
  • Second Reading of Walnut Lane Subdivision and PD Overlay
  • Designation of delegates for League of Cities Conference
  • Collection of Delinquent Utility Bills- Water, Wastewater, Solid Waste
  • Animal Control Services Agreement
  • Purchase of Spray Heads for WWTF
  • Acceptance of Subdivision Improvements- Stones Throw
  • City Engineering Services Agreement
  • Surplus of City Vehicle and Sale
  • Presentations On Climate Action Plan, Solid Waste-Overage and Contamination by Waste Management, Presentation from Assembly and State Senate
  • August 4 Meeting Cancellation

A couple items from the week:

  • Kudo’s to Winters, Vaca District and Cal- Fire for their all night work up on Pleasants Valley and Quail Canyon. This is the third fire in the past month in the same area. A tough summer thus far but our fire personnel are doing their best. Always proud of Winters Fire!
  • The Yolo County Covid 19 shutdown 2 is again prohibiting indoor dining, barbers, wineries, breweries and other businesses. This second shutdown has resulted in significant staff reductions for many local businesses. This shutdown is just different and probably more serious than the first. Please do your best to wear a mask, practice hygiene and if you don’t feel well, get tested or just stay home.
  • Congratulations to City Councilmember Jesse Loren who has been selected as the next Sacramento Valley Division President for the League of California Cities. Jesse’ hard work as a member of the League’s Board of Directors, the Environmental Services and Community Development Committees makes her the logical choice for this position. Jesse has distinguished herself for leading issues for rural communities, the Hispanic and Women’s Caucuses and her influence on key legislation. This is a BIG DEAL and a reflection of the “Winters” influence in Northern California.

Finally, the past week has had a number of contacts from the many young people who I have worked with in the many years of my involvement with AYSO, the Winters JUSD, WHS Athletics and in our community. In total, I worked with almost 70 youth referees and literally hundreds of players through the years. At City Hall, we have an internship program (which we cancelled this year due to budget) which has 28 graduates.

My association with the young people has always brought a lot of satisfaction because I think Winters produces really good people in our schools and community. Kids from Winters represent exceptionally well and I have always been proud to be on soccer fields literally throughout the West where people tell me “what a great team that was from Winters”. It just feels really good and has always made me feel very proud.

Over the years, I have written a ton of “letters of recommendation” for colleges, schools and a variety of job applications. I have always tried to stress which the young people that “soccer is life” and it teaches all of the life skills you will ever need to be successful. This week was a very pride filled letter for a young man applying for Officer Training School with the United State Air Force.

The young man is a local kid, going K-12 with the WJUSD, Sacramento State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. More importantly, he was one of my youth referees for 4 seasons, an exceptional player for both AYSO and WHS AND he was a U12 Coach for two seasons. As a referee he leaned assertiveness, a player teamwork and competition and as a Coach he gained leadership, strategy and coaching skills. Parent coaches did not stand a chance against his team because he just knew the game better than they did.

Its amazing what life brings you sometimes as you see these young people evolve into adults. A real feel good week for me with some pride mixed in.

Have a nice weekend.

John


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Chapter 5 Key Projects

Chapter 5- Key Projects

Over the years, we have worked on numerous projects which all brought a variety and different types of controversy. It seems every time we did something, there would be an undercurrent of discord or a sense that we were upsetting the apple cart somehow.

Whether the project being private or public, even our best projects had periods where they became a grind. A reality is that the “controversy” became time consuming but it never deterred our drive to get things done. The results in many respects were better than we imagined!

When I actually write my book, I will detail the very many projects, but I thought I would share in this edition the two most important which I think were fun and groundbreaking for the getting Winters to where it is today.

Main Street Village:

Probably one of the leading and pioneering projects in Downtown was Main Street Village which was the vision of John Siracusa and Paul Fair.

The project started with a simple request which was to move a former school building which John had purchased from the rural part of the Winters in Solano County. The Central Lane School and John played like it was “historic.” The idea was to move the structure into Downtown and rehab it. In 2002, John had done a similar rehab and move effort with the Abbey House which he and his wife Liz turned into a bed and breakfast. The move of the Abbey House was quite a spectacle but it showed the creativity of John and the idea of finding buildings which could be relocated and bring a classic flair to business development.

The site for Main Street Village at the time was a compilation of uses. A truck and trailer storage lot, the City Parking Lot on Railroad Ave, an old ag shed for wool processing and the Penmakers Building and property owned by Elliot Landes and Al Vallecillo.

The project entailed bringing the old school building to the site, constructing a building and doing an extensive rehabilitation to the wool building. The tenants would be “a coffee shop, restaurant, offices and artist lofts.”

The portion of the project with the Penmakers Building and property was to become mixed use with housing and more commercial. An apartment building was eventually proposed but never materialized into a meaningful project. Eventually, the property was sold to John Pickerel and it is used as mostly a storage building for various Buckhorn businesses, a vegetable and herb garden for the Putah Creek Café and parking.

I would describe John Siracusa as the real pioneer in the renaissance of Downtown because he was the first to really risk the idea of expanding businesses from the Historic Main Street District block which had not seen any new construction since the mid 1960’s.  John and Paul brought an unconventional approach which needed to be tested in how they pulled off this project. I will be honest, the “artist lofts” we felt would just be studio apartments and we never really understood how this artist colony would jell into a business community. John was determined and we needed to just sit back and see what would happen.

The controversy of this project came quickly when they delivered the former school building into town and placed it at the location it now sits. Literally the next day, the naysayers started chipping about the ‘eyesore” now sitting in our business core. A couple weeks later, someone broke out the windows over night. We told them to secure the location and the chain link was just not the look anyone wanted. It was a rough start.

As the project evolved, John and Paul started to deliver. Without question, John is a very creative guy who will do the unconventional which ads a coolness factor to the project. His “Wylie” smile and mischievous nature makes you a little uneasy as he describes his concepts but the reality is that John always seemed to deliver with a quality which is second to none.

The project took some time to take shape but when it started going, it became magical. The rain downspouts were copper, they preserved an oak tree by building the deck around it. John found a collapsed barn outside of town and re-used the old wood and timbers into the project. The wood floors inside the businesses were polished. They found some old railroad track under the ground and decided to re-use them as the parking stops.

Then the businesses started to arrive. Steady Eddies and Ficelle opened and they instantly became a hit. Winters had always been a cycling destination, but now with a coffee shop, it went off the hook. The food from Ficelle was excellent and gave an alternative to the Buckhorn which was very much needed (at the time, the Putah Creek Café was only infrequently open for dinner).

The risk and reward of this project has probably been more difficult than John and Paul would have ever imagined. Hopefully the emerging vitality of Downtown Winters will fill the project in due time.

Downtown and Phase I……

When it came to the renaissance of the Downtown core, probably the quietest, unassuming and most visionary of the City Council I have worked with has been Harold Anderson. During his tenure on the Council, Harold represented the City on many outside boards and commissions which gave him exposure to many of the cutting edge thoughts in urban planning. Much of that evolved through evening meetings, dinners and thought provoking presentations by groups like the Local Government Commission, Valley Vision and other advocates for the “new urbanism.”

Harold would encourage and drag his colleagues to all of these dinner meetings to learn about smart growth concepts, form based zoning codes for existing core areas, the importance of creating opportunities for higher housing densities and vertical development, “parklets” and the idea of regenerating interest in an “old downtown” by creating a pedestrian oriented/walkable streetscape. Harold was persistent in getting these ideas plugged into budgets and his subtle influence led amazing results.

Downtown Master Plan

In 2005, Harold convinced the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to grant us some funds to do a Downtown Master Plan. We got the funds, and ended up hiring an urban planner from the Bay Area named Terry Bottomley to come facilitate a workshop series on coming up with an overall strategic plan for the core Downtown. The process was to involve all of the businesses and property owners and start building a vision to make the area more pedestrian friendly, address parking concerns (ugh!), talk about rehabilitation of existing buildings and plot future business expansion.

We had really kicked many things into gear on different fronts and, frankly, I lost track of time and days with the pace we had set. As we went through the calendar, the only available day for the kick off meeting came up as March 17. It looked good on my calendar, Terry was available, so we dialed it in. As we sent out notices, people started to remind us that we had scheduled an evening meeting on….. St Patrick’s Day! Ugh, for many this is a religious holiday and we needed to make amends.

Dan Sokolow was our Community Development Director and Cas Elena our recently hired Redevelopment Manager. As we sat in the conference room trying to get through the St. Patrick’s Day meeting dilemma, I told them to just “fix it” and maybe get some snacks and drinks. Jokingly, I told Dan (he is a very straight laced non-drinker) that “we better have beer” at this function.

As the meeting night came, Dan, Terry and Cas set up the meeting and I bounced into the room a little late from a prior meeting. The Council Chamber was filled with about 25 people and there was a real positive buzz of folks visiting. As I looked to the back of the room, then Chamber Executive and future key City staff member Dan Maguire comes walking from the back with a handful of Guinness Beers and starts handing them out to attendees. People start handing him back some empty’s and others request a refresh. “Where the heck are they getting all these beers, I thought?” I walked back and sure enough, Dan and Cas had fully stocked ice chests full of beer, corned beef sandwiches and a nice selection of hors d'oeuvres . I grabbed a beer from the ice chest, went into the room and started the meeting. We were off to a really good start.

Over the course of two and a half months, Terry led us through a process which was transformative. Pedestrian and bike amenities, public art, outdoor dining, new street cross sections, a form based code for architecture, parking concepts, bikes, alley activation and locations for future buildings. Terry had a rule that once we agreed on a concept, we would not revisit it until the end, which kept us moving forward. In the end, we had the Downtown Master Plan which became our “projects list”.

Ultimately and not understating any of the future projects (which will be discussed individually later in the book) the Downtown Master Plan resulted in the, Trestle Bridge Rehabilitation, expansion of Rotary Park, the Community Center Parking Lot, Phases I, II, III and IV of the Downtown, gave architectural guidance to the Putah Creek Car Bridge, 27 façade improvements and a real sense of purpose and quality for how we would move forward. Ultimately, the Hotel Winters.

I always preach my “base hits” mantra and we were doing just that.  We did the Downtown Street Lights, Little League Lights, just activated the City’s first traffic signal, lots of street projects and were doing things pretty well. I felt really good at this point and with the new master plan we needed to think about swinging for the fence on some items.  I had some really good staff and we decided to go for it- let’s do a first phase of the Downtown Street Scape Program- Ground Zero became Main St and Railroad Ave.

Phase I and “The Hole”

“Phase I” involved a pretty radical redefinition of what Downtown would look like. We would completely re-do the Main/Railroad Intersection with brick pavers, narrow the street, provide areas for outdoor dining, create “spaces” for people to sit and enjoy the ambiance and it would construct a new parking lot by the Community Center.

The Planning and City Council processes to get Phase I through were painful to say the least. The hue and cry of “ruining the Downtown”, staff being “anti-agriculture” with the narrowing of the intersection (how are we going to get the corn combines through town?) and, of course, you are eliminating 4 parking spaces in the core block. One thing about Winters is that the members of WAVE are consistent with never talking about the possibilities, they are the “Chicken Little’s” of the community who can never find a positive aspect to any proposal.

One aspect of the process to note came from our Redevelopment Manager, Cas Elena which I think was critical. During the design phase, she took a stand before the City Council that we needed to use “real brick” versus concrete pavers. It would add $100,000 into the project costs but would create a higher quality feel to the streetscape. The naysayers challenged the idea of trying to be “to fancy” and escalating costs.  Cecilia Curry, who was on the Planning Commission at the time, backed Cas and made an argument for enhancing the image of our Downtown. When it got to the City Council, it was decided, real communities have real brick!

The project was let to bid in the late summer of 2008. The proposals come in and the contract is awarded to Maxicrete, led by Winters resident Dave Rodriguez who would be the foreman with KO Construction of Winters as the lead subcontractor. It could not have been better news, with Winters interests leading the project.

The project involved the complete excavation and replacement of the Main/Railroad Intersection. This would involve replacement of all utilities, the pour of a giant concrete pad, then the installation of a new brick roadway. It also involved the removal of all sidewalks and frontages in front of the Buckhorn and Putah Creek Café with the installation of seat walls and patio construction. “Easy!”

Dave and Joe Ogando hold a business meeting at the Putah Creek Café one evening to announce “the plan”. They have decided that to do the project correctly, they would completely close the intersection, detour traffic and do it all at once. As Dave said, “we are going to tear the band aid off all at once and get it done!”

The next morning, the calls are non-stop with the idea that we are closing down the entire Downtown. “How could you even thing about doing this?” I met with the project team and they were firm on the strategy. Tearing the band aid off was the best alternative and they needed me to support it. I gave the green light and off they went.

Within the next week, the excavators came in and the project was off and running. Everything was torn out along Railroad Ave, including trees and hardscape. Then, the intersection and up comes the chain link fence, k-rail and the flashing lights.

Oh, and did I mention the YEAR? Yup, this is 2008 and the damn economy decides to melt down while we are in process. The Great Recession decides to crash in on us and the worst hit were restaurants which were closing all over the region. Just at the time when we decide to throw up a chain link fence and block the entrances into both the Café and the Buckhorn. Our timing was perfect!

The Hole

One of my most cherished photo’s is a picture taken in front of the Buckhorn at about 2:00 am and it is just a big hole in the ground. It was an important hole and defines a lot of the risk and reward which leaders and businesses face in their decision making almost every day.

The key aspect of the brick installation is the pour of a concrete slab underneath. You have the concrete, then a sand cover and then the brick goes on top. You excavate, pour, sand then lay the brick.

Dave and Joe put together a 24 hour a day construction schedule to knock the project out. The big nights were the final excavation and grading which would essentially tear out the front of the restaurants. The concern was doing excavation next to 100 year old buildings and the timing to the businesses could reopen the next days. No messing around, they needed to get in and out in one night.

This was a big deal so I decided to stay out all night with the construction crews.  The intersection is completely lighted, the tractors and crews are working hard and they move in to start the Buckhorn. They are not messing around as they dig in and it is me, John Pickerel and Joe Ogando standing there watching. As they dig they bring up garbage from the 1898 Earthquake, they hit some unmarked pipes and they keep on going but they hit a snag and John, Joe and I watch as the workers start re-evaluating strategy. The freak out factor at this point is very real.

John is calm but nervous. He takes out his cell phone and snaps a couple pictures. The thoughts running through my head are some spurts of panic and doubt. There is complete silence and all I can say to John is “I hope all this works?” John shared a couple expletives and we each walked to different parts of the project for a bit.

A couple days later, John brought me one of the pictures he took of “the hole.” I have kept it on my shelf since that day.

This project helped us embrace the idea of doing things in an unconventional manner. Some examples which we implemented:

  • When we closed the intersection, an older gentleman named Frank Ramos who ate breakfast at the Café each morning could not walk through the detour. The construction crews would allow Frank to drive into the construction zone, they would help him into the café, then take his car and park it and bring it back when he was done.
  • We rented this oversized golf cart which seated 9 people and the City Staff took turns shuttling people from the parking lot to the restaurants. People LOVED it and it gave us a change to ad some hospitality to the many visitors.
  • Signage is really important and we probably had 5 iterations. We made fun of the disruption and it made people laugh.

I need to recognize the people who I think really got the Phase I project done. The contractors included Dave Rodriguez, Joe and Cole Ogando and an entire slew of guys from Winters. The project literally defines us and if not for the care of these guys and the quality of workmanship people would have a different view of us.

The Ogandos are an amazingly talented family and I think they really came through for us on this one. Dave Rodriguez brought this totally crazy excitement and made the project special. Dave passed away a couple years ago and I told his sons at the service that his legacy lives on every day in Downtown Winters.

Nick Ponticello, Alan Mitchell, Dan Sokolow, Cas Elena, Dan Maguire, Shelly Gunby, Carol Scianna, Nanci Mills and Dawn Van Dyke from the City Team were amazing. From the design to funding to construction, they are the ones who brought this project forward. I tell folks how blessed I feel to have worked with some really good people, and on Phase I, this is the team who got it done!

--John


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Chapter 4- Building Vision

Chapter 4- Building Vision

By December, 2001, the City Council was already changing and I was starting to get a grasp on things.

In December, Chris Calvert left the City Council after building and moving into a home just south of the City in Allendale. The replacement selected for Chris was Bruce Guelden who had just left the Planning Commission after the City Council decided not to reappoint him. (Think about it, let’s not appoint someone to the Planning Commission, but let’s put him on the City Council with two years left on the term- totally makes sense).

So every new City Manager’s nightmares starts when those members who appoint/hire you start to leave the City Council. There was one gone, Chris and now there is Bruce, a person I had only met at a Halloween Party at his house (a story I will later tell). Bruce seemed like a reasonable guy but he was quietly super informed on the General Plan (more than I was) and seemed to have some history on development in Winters.

December was also the City Council election filing period for the March, 2002 election. The two seats up for election were one being vacated by John Frazier who was not running again and incumbent Tom McMasters-Stone who would run again. During the filing period, former 14 year mayor Robert Chapman pulled and returned papers to run.

The final filing day was a Thursday evening at 5:00. It looked like just two would run until that same day, Dan Martinez pulls and returns papers with an hour to spare. Dan comes in with the minimum 20 signatures on his petition and immediately gets the lecture from Nanci that that is a really bad idea, because few people will actually admit to not being a registered voter when asked. Nanci immediately sends the petition to the Registrar and gets a reply back, all twenty signatures were good! We have a competitive election!

Ill talk about the City Council in another chapter, but in March, the election was held and Dan and Bob were elected. In a big surprise, Tom comes in third and is out. This is where I learned from saged wisdom that people who graduate from Winters High School get elected in Winters!

So, great, I am six months into the job, have not even moved into my new home (which was under construction) and I have three people on the City Council who did not hire me who were now my bosses. Yup, everything is just lining up as planned in my first City Manager job!

For years, I have had a mentorship group who I rely on for advice. They are former bosses and city manager’s (who knew my father) who I had dinner with regularly to gain wisdom and advice. Immediately, I am on the phone asking for advice on dealing with this situation. Besides laughing at me and telling me to stop whining, they unanimously gave me the same advice, get the Council on the same page by doing some strategic planning.

Thus, time for a planning meeting!

I have never been thrilled with our City Council Chamber as a place to hold any type of meeting. In 2002, the seats were fixed theatre chairs from the former movie theatre in town. We needed a better location to meet around a table and the only place Nanci could come up with was the “Green Room” at the Community Center because the main room was used for the senior nutrition program.

So, the meeting is set and we meet at the Community Center. The Council is Jiley Romney, Bruce Guelden, Robert Chapman, Dan Martinez and Harold Anderson. The staff at the meeting besides me were Nanci Mills, Police Chief Steve Godden and our Finance Director Shelly Gunby.

We are crammed into this little room filled with theatre costumes and props for an upcoming play. The room has no white board or functionality for a business meeting so the best I could do was this wooden painters easel and a flip chart I purchased at Staples in Vacaville. Not ideal but what came from this meeting is what has shaped Winters to this day.

Over the years, I have gotten a lot of credit and blame for things which have happened, but the reality is that the vision for Winters has been carved by amazing City Council members, community members and businesses who have their pulse on the community and the direction of where they want to take the City. This was the meeting which told John Donlevy what to do as the City Manager!

Shelly was tasked with writing everything on the flip charts and I asked everyone two simple questions- Where do you want to go and what big things do you want accomplished!

The direction just flowed:

  • Downtown needed to be the center of our universe. Figure out how to bring life back into a place which died in the early 1980’s.
  • Public safety needed to be a priority. Working out of an old garage for police and reliance on a mostly volunteer fire staffing base needed to be improved (in December we had disbanded the local ambulance and service came from Davis now).
  • Work with the WJUSD and support them in improving.
  • Youth and Families needed to be what Winters in known for!
  • Development needed to be measured and well planned.
  • They wanted a new library (which a bond measure had just barely failed in November)
  • Putah Creek and implementation of a master plan for trails and restoration of what at the time was a massive blackberry bramble. The Council wanted public access to the creek!
  • Fiscal sustainability. They wanted responsibility in how we managed the City’s money.
  • Winters needed to be a participant in the region. Re-establish relationships and develop new ones.
  • The community needed a sports park, the community center needed renovation and we needed to consider a community theatre location.
  • Staff needed to be a priority and we needed to build a team.
  • Fix and maintain our utilities. This included improving internet which was only dial up at the time.
  • The City needed to be a champion for our business community.
  • Look into redevelopment.

The meeting was absolutely magical for me. The entire group wanted mostly the same things (with some different priorities) and universally they wanted to move the City forward and wanted me and the staff to figure it out.

Some takeaways from that day:

  • Quietly, this City Council had very strong leadership across groups within the community. They were strong and demanding within the context that they sincerely wanted these things to happen. These were very nice people who wanted THEIR town to be a place people would be proud of.
  • At this meeting I found how important my foundational staff would be in both Nanci and Shelly. They were strong and super competent and were ready to take on the tasks. Through the years, they became the cornerstones of the organization, my key confidants and colleagues who I could talk completely “unfiltered and honestly” with on the big issues. As the City Manager, “it’s pretty lonely at the top” and having two people who I could talk with and people who were not afraid to set me straight is absolute gold. They were not afraid of me and I was only slightly afraid of them at times.
  • Chief Steve Godden gained my eternal respect. He had literally kept the law enforcement in Winters together with duct tape and toothpicks for almost 25 years. He was a man with true vision who simply never had the support that I could bring. The current public safety facility is actually his idea. The man owned the room when he spoke at this planning meeting. I have always been sad that I did not have a chance to work with Steve longer because I know I could have learned so much from him.
  • Building the “team” would be essential. City staff, key consultants, the Planning Commission and community participants. We needed the right mix of attitude and fortitude. The Council would need a lot of information.

As we left the meeting, I remember Harold, Bob, Dan and Steve standing outside talking. Multiple generations of “Winters Guys” who had just given me marching orders on direction for the City. Each brought a strong level of commitment and enormous influence to enable big things. I got a lot of confidence from this and instant respect for these people whose entire life was Winters, California.

Steve came by my office a little later with Shelly and Nanci. They chided me a bit that the list seemed long and difficult. So “what item are you going to pick from the list” came from Steve. “I think they want us to do all of it” was my reply. Nanci didn’t blink nor did Shelly. Nanci with her subtle confidence essentially said “let’s just go for it”. Shelly who has forever been supportive and solution oriented said “I think I know some people we need to talk to” if we are going to figure out how to do all of this.

I stayed late that night transcribing all the notes on the big pieces of paper. I will admit that I called Tom Stone to get his input.

As I looked at the list, I started breaking each down into tasks and it just exploded into so many more tasks, some of them rather large. Winters was a town which was outwardly resistant to anything perceived as “change”. I remember thinking “so how do you do big things in a town like Winters without pissing everyone off”?

My first organizational mantra came to me and that was the concept of “base hits”. We would start doing a lot of little things and move up to the big ones. People who win the batting title each year do not hit a lot of home runs. That would become our goal.

Some insight into how we began implementing the vision……..

Earlier that month, a guy by the name of Frank Young had come by my office asking for an old street light relic (donated by his family) which had been taken down and replaced by the standard “cobra head” lights by PG&E. He walked me out to the light which sat in the “Main Street Mini Park”. The light did not work and Frank said “if the City isn’t going to fix it” give it back to him and he would fix it for his house.

It came to me, our first base hit- replace the Downtown street lights with the old fashion type.  We did that!

Hit #2- the Little League Field lights had just been decertified by Little League. I totally knew ballfield lights from building parks in Grand Terrace. We did a volunteer install (which I will describe later).

We were on our way! Little things to lead to bigger things down the road. Show people that you can do little things which are improvements and build the confidence of the community.

That night after the planning session was a cold Tuesday night in March, the Buckhorn was super quiet, the rest of the town was completely empty and it was just a gloomy night.

I got into my police car to drive home to Kathy and the kids. I felt really inspired by the day. I liked lists and challenges. I also felt assured by “my team” who I would later realize were the foundation of all our later successes.

The interior lights in the police car had stopped working and it was just this very dark car. I also set a goal to get a new car to drive.

John


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The Book- Chapters 2 and 3- My first few days and September 11

The second in my series on Winters and my experience as City Manager……………..

Chapter 2- My first week in Winters…………..

I flew from Ontario into the Sacramento Airport the night of Saturday, September 8, 2001. The  plan was to stay a couple weeks with my brother, Jeff in his apartment in Sacramento until I could move into the double wide mobile home off Highway 128 which would become available at the start of October, just before Kathy and the kids would arrive. We had listed our home in Grand Terrace and I had purchased a lot for a new home to be built in the Silver-ridge Development on Roosevelt Ave. The prospect was the home would take until March to build, so we would live in “the country” for a bit because there were no places to rent in town.

The day before the first day and my “City car”…………

On the Sunday, Jeff and I drove from Sacramento to the home of Dave and Nanci Mills, where I would pick up the keys to my “City car” which I was assigned to drive. We arrived around 11:00 and Nanci invited us in for a visit. The Raiders were playing the Kansas City Chiefs and it was Dave Mills and Dave Lorenzo in the family room watching the game.  Nanci  offered us each a beer and we sat and talked and watched the game.

The welcome from Nanci and Dave was so warm and reassuring. On their walls were all sorts of hunting and fishing photos of Dave’s sporting conquests. Dave Lorenzo has a pretty sarcastic and a little dirty sense of humor which was awesome. We hung out for a little over an hour then we left to go pick up my City vehicle which I had never really asked about in my contract negotiations as to the type of vehicle. Nanci said it was a “white Chevy” parked in the lot directly across from City Hall. “You cant miss it”!

Jeff and I drove to City Hall and sure enough, there it was, my “City provided vehicle”, a converted 1998 Chevy Caprice police car, with side mounted lights, radio and cold license plates. Yup, I was driving a police vehicle with a giant 400+HP corvette engine, pursuit suspension and gun mounts in the front seat. Nope, I was not in Southern California any more and the glitz and glam of being the City Manager was a car Winters bought used from the City of Colfax when they disbanded their police department. Jeff was laughing hysterically as I slid behind the wheel of car. I looked like a 5 year old kid in the drivers seat. Just hilarious!

Again, it was Sunday and the only business open in Downtown was the Putah Creek Café. We decided to head back to Sacramento.

I left town headed east on Russell/Covell in my City Manager/police vehicle. The corvette engine was awesome but the cop suspension on the car made it rock like a boat. I hit Highway 113 and turned on the on-ramp and decided to see what the car had in it and it and there was no disappointment, the car just hauled and I was up to speed in no time. We merged on to 80 and the cars in front of me parted like the Red Sea thinking I was an unmarked cop car. Jeff tucked in behind me and we just cruised to Sacramento completely unimpeded. When we pulled into Jeff’s apartment complex a couple guys turned and hustled into their apartments. There was a new sheriff living in the Howe Avenue Apartments and it was me!

My first few days on the job and some perspective on changes which have occurred …………….

My first day on the job was September 10, 2001 (the day before 9-11). I left Sacramento at 6:00 to get into City Hall early, empty some boxes I had brought and to take a drive around town. My wife, Kathy had sent me with some homemade baked goods so I could make a good first impression with the Staff.

Downtown that morning was basically empty and quiet except for a couple gentlemen drinking coffee in the Putah Creek Cafe. The Masonic Building (Adry’s, El Pueblo, Bike Shop), the Cradwick (Winters Healthcare Medical), Opera House (Palms, Scoop), Winters Winery (Berryessa Gap), Smiths Memorial Funeral Chapel (Devillibus Room, Spin a Yarn, Jewelry), Yolo Traders (now Yolo Traders), 18 Main (now Keller Williams RE), RR Antique Shop (Turkovich and ARC Guitar), 206 Railroad (eventually Irish Pub now “Preserve”) WERE ALL EMPTY.

Main Street Village did not exist and was a semi truck yard and  an old wool processing shed. The location now hosts Steady Eddies, Ficelle Restaurant, Hooby’s, Edward Jones, JMS Construction and 6 lofts. Rotary Park was only the gazebo and a small grass area, surrounded by the metal building of the Winters Farmers Coop and a truck scale.

The Trestle Bridge was a chain linked off structure of overgrown blackberry, bramble of trees and weeds. The rear of the Community Center was a very small lawn and an empty lot overgrown with blackberry. There was no way to see the creek, no trail and the area was pretty sketchy.  Today, we have an iconic entry structure in the Trestle Bridge, a new car bridge, amphitheater, the North Bank Trail where hundreds walk daily and a restored creek where thousands of salmon now spawn annually and the public can enjoy recreational opportunities.

Side Note on the Trestle Bridge: The first project we did was the Trestle Bridge and I credit Nanci Mills and Gloria Marion for the direction on that. Before a function one evening, Gloria, Nanci and I were sharing some wine in the back of the Community Center and I asked them what was one project we could do to really spark an interest in the revitalization of the town. Gloria didn’t event blink and led me to the window to look at the bridge. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to walk out and actually see the creek”? Gloria asked. Thus, project 1, the trestle bridge!

On this first day I met Police Chief Steve Godden, Fire Chief Dave Kidder (kind of grumpy) and a Deputy Fire Chief named “Scotty” Dozier. I got a tour of the Police Station in the garage of the former City Fire Station garage and Steve explained how we typically had only a single officer on duty each shift. Dave and Scotty explained to me that three paid staff covered the City/District from 8-5 mon-fri and “volunteers” covered overnight and weekends. They told me they were decertifying the local ambulance because they could not staff it and that ambulance response would go back to 20 minutes 90% of the time. I thought this was all insanity. Without question, Steve, Dave and Scotty earned my eternal and undying respect and quickly moved public safety up on the priority list as areas to improve upon. Today we have the Public Safety Facility, 4 minute ambulance service and 24/7 fire service with multiple police staff on every shift.

My second day on the job was 9-11 and is a completely other story. Chapter 3 which is next!

My third day on the job involved a night meeting at the Winters Library on First Street to discuss Measure B, to build a new Downtown Library. We sat at a table in the children’s reading area which was a mildew infested area with water destroyed ceiling tiles and a smell which complimented the overall ambiance. The meeting at the library was where I met a number of folks who I would later learn were members of what I think is one of Winters best organizations, the Winters Friends of the Library. Sitting around the table were the likes of Carol Scianna, Rebecca Fridae, Charlotte Kimbal, then County Librarian Mary Stephens, Jack Graf and Mary Jo Rodolfa.

Two months later Measure B did not pass. 6 years later, we walked into the brand new Winters Community Library on the Winters High School Campus because some of us never gave up.

Nanci Mills had set up some meetings with people she felt I needed to meet and get to know. This included having lunch with an extremely assertive and mildly bossy lady named Bobbie Greenwood who talked with me about the Winters Swim Team. Following the 2003 swim season, the community pool at WHS was condemned by the Yolo Health  Department leaving the town without a pool. As the City Manager, I was told to get a new pool built. In 2006, we were swimming in the newly christened Bobbie Greenwood Swim Center.

I also met with a former Mayor named Robert Chapman. He came up to my office and we sat and talked about each others backgrounds, shared a little philosophy but mostly we seemed to have an instant connection. Bob was a “Winters guy” having lived here his entire life except for military service. Ill talk about Bob more, later.

Chapter 3- September 11, 2001

I watched the second plane go into the second tower of the World Trade Center when I was getting ready to come to work on that Tuesday morning at my brothers apartment in Sacramento. He had the Today Show on and mentioned a plane crashing into one of the buildings. We watched in horror as a news camera picked up the second plane roaring through Manhattan and exploding into the second tower.

I jumped into my City car, fumbled with the radio and found a talk radio station which was talking about the attack. On the ride to Winters I heard about the attack on the Pentagon and that they were shutting down all air traffic around the Country. Simply surreal.

When I arrived at City Hall, I ran into the building looking for a television. It was janitorial day and the two people looked at me like “who the heck are you” when I asked them for a tv. I spent a couple minutes trying to convince them that I worked here. Finally I showed the one guy that I had a key to my office and he bought that I was a new employee! The City only had a single, 13” television, no cable with a really cheap antenna with only a 2’ cord on it. I put the tv on a chair, found a bay area news station and got a horrible, but watchable picture and things unfolded.

Staff began to arrive to work that morning a little before 8. We all gathered in the upstairs conference room and watched the news reports and the eventual collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. What I remember most about the moment of the first collapse was our Recreation Coordinator Gloria Marion grabbing and holding on to my hand as the first building went down. We all stood there in silence, me and Gloria holding hands as the massive dust cloud erupted like a volcano on the New York Skyline. The ghostly figures walking from the streets, covered in grey ash in utter shock. We all had a tear in our eye and nobody really said anything.

Later that morning, our Police Chief, Steve Godden came to my office. He told me that all the government offices in the area were closing as a security measure against terrorism. I told him, that being the new guy, I had to ask why Winters would be a target for international terrorism. He mentioned the dam and we talked it out a bit and decided that we would keep the doors open for folks to come by with any questions.

Gloria Marion was one of the most social people I had ever met. From the theatre productions to her side job styling hair, she seemed to know everybody (and she did). That day it seemed like hundreds of people stopped by City Hall to check in. Most of the people were older, many just looking for someone to talk and visit. I think many were as in shock as all of us and just looking for a little reassurance to share some sorrow. Gloria had an incredible personality and a deep, assuring voice. I can only imagine the number of people she gave solace to that day but it was awesome. She and Nanci Mills held court downstairs and made a difference for many.

Because it was a Tuesday, the town was basically closed during the evening. The Buckhorn was open but nobody was there. Downtown was very different that night than people see it today with the Buckhorn and Tienda Liquor Store being the only businesses open in Downtown. The place was just empty.

We had turned off the little City Hall tv and I remember working late into the evening. I called my wife Kathy and we decided that we did not want our kids to watch the television of what had occurred, so she read to them that evening.

Being from Southern California, Winters seemed just pitch black dark as I exited City Hall that night. The only lights on were the front light on City Hall, our flag pole light and a light burning in front of the Fire Station. I looked up at the stars and was amazed. Because of the mass of the City lights, they really don’t have stars in Southern California!

As I got into the car to head to my brothers apartment in Sacramento, I ran into Gloria walking up the street from a hair appointment she had with a customer. I pulled over to offer her a ride (she lived only a block from City Hall but I did not know that) and she politely declined. I thanked her for being there for so many people who visited City Hall that day. I also thanked her for holding my hand that morning as things unfolded. She looked at me and said “You looked scared”. We both smiled at each other, laughed and I proceeded to drive off. I knew at that moment that I would really like working with Gloria. And she was right, I was scared!

The warmth of a small town sometimes comes out in different ways. When horrific events happen, its nice to know that we have the type of place where when people have some fear and need comfort, they know they have a place to come.

9-11 also brought my first opportunity to see the community come together for something important and meaningful, which did not disappoint.

The Thursday (September 13) was supposed to be the night I flew back to Southern California to be with Kathy and the kids. All flights were cancelled, so the plan was for me to drive my brothers car south on Friday and drive home again on Sunday night. Instead, we called a town hall meeting for that evening for people to come out in a program which was sponsored by all the local churches ministerial group to talk about our national tragedy.

I walked from City Hall to the Community Center and the place was packed to overflowing. Chairs were set up theater style and every single one was taken. The perimeter was standing room only with the entire rear filled with the Winters Volunteer Fire Department all wearing their uniforms. I was blown away by the turnout and even more surprised when I saw that I was on the program as one of the main speakers (time to think of something to say).

The first speaker was a gentleman named Hank Jones who a couple months later would move into the house next store to my family. (Hank was a retired Marine Corps Brigadier General and one of those missionaries who smuggled bibles into Muslim nations where Christianity is banned). Hank was a kind yet powerful speaker who brought a strong religious platform to his speech. Following him was tough, but then it was my turn.

As I took the podium (four days into my new job), I decided to share my impression of what I thought Winters was all about. Family, community, service and the place where someone wants to raise their children. From meeting with the “Chiefs” I learned that Winters was a community which could overcome even the scarcest resources and be successful. It was a community which in the time of 9-11 needed to come together as our nation needed to come together and support one another.

I ended my talk by recognizing the Winters Fire Volunteers who were standing in the back of the room and thanked them for their service. The entire room both inside and out erupted in applause and cheers which seemed to just roar and last forever. Pride just beamed from the volunteers with the well deserved recognition.

The meeting ended in typical Winters fashion (my first experience) of everyone folding up their chairs and putting the room away.

In 10 minutes, the room was clear and I was walking back to City Hall. People were walking up to me with kind comments and treating me like I had been here forever. A number of Fire Volunteers came up to me and introduced themselves. The charge I got from the community was amazing.

I got in my police car to drive to Sacramento and called Kathy to share my experience of the evening. When I told her that everyone helped clean up the place afterwards, she thought I was lying. I told her that I really think coming to Winters was a good decision. Good people!

Oh, and nobody in Southern California ever cleans up after an event………………

John


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Friday Update on June 25 2020

All,

A couple items:

  • July 2 will be a special meeting of the City Council to consider the Urban Growth Boundary Initiative. The meeting will be on zoom, so look to the City website for the link.
  • July 7 will be the regular City Council Meeting. Topics will include the Walnut 10 Subdivision, I505 Overpass Planning Grant, Elderberry Conservation Area Monitoring and an update on Mail/Vote Ballots.
  • Look for more information on Covid-19. The good news is that reopening activities are not necessarily spreading the virus. The bad news is rates are soaring nationally, primarily from family gatherings which is causing huge increases in cases. Spread the word, stay away from your family, wear a mask and stay away from large crowds.
  • Tomorrow is the last 10-10 sign off for Winters Police Officer Creig Urquhart who has served the City for the last 19 years. The Police Department will have a sign off ceremony at 6:00 pm and will give him an escort out of town. Look for lights and sirens up Grant on Friday evening.

Finally, I announced my resignation this week to become the new City Manager in Auburn, California. For the news release, go here: http://www.cityofwinters.org/donlevy-appointed-city-manager-in-auburn/

I have been doing the Friday Update for public distribution now for the past 15 years. In the final weeks, I thought I would take an opportunity to share a little about my story here in Winters. In 19 years as the City Manager of a small town, the stories really pile up, so I thought I would share my journey to today.

How I got here………

So it is June, 2001 and I am sitting in my office in Grand Terrace, a small (14,000 population) city pressed between the cities of Riverside and San Bernardino. We were an upper scale community with the new residents and doctors from the neighboring Loma Linda Medical University living there perched up on a hill overlooking the greater Inland Empire. I was the Assistant City Manager in charge of literally all city services from parks and sewer to capital projects, fire and the county sheriff contract. I had two very young children and a pretty good career.  I loved working in the small city, doing literally everything with a passion for building parks and just getting things done.

The phone rings and it is an executive recruiter named Bobbi Peckham who said a friend of mine (Fred Diaz) had given her my name as someone who she should convince to be the city manager of a little town called “Winters”. She asked if I was interested. First, I asked her “where in the heck is Winters”. She tells me it is near Davis. I asked her “where is Davis”? Her retort with a very sarcastic “do you know where Sacramento is”? And I said, “yes, I know where Sacramento is”!!! She said 30 miles west.

She gave me the rundown on the City, essentially full service with 35 employees, police, fire, public works, water and sewer and a quaint downtown “with a lot of potential”. I asked her how much it paid and she said $90,000. I told her I was making about $130k and she told me that was not possible and that I would need to take a pay cut for this job. I said “no” I was not interested. She said the interviews were the second week of July and I told her that it was not possible because I had a scheduled two week vacation with my family in Northern California and would not be available. She offered to pay for me to stay in a hotel anywhere in Northern California if I would come for the interview (which I never collected on). I figured a free hotel room and a visit with some people would be worth it. I told her ok and we set the interview- July 8.

Our first look at Winters……..

The kids and I had driven up a few days before because my wife Kathy (a neonatal intensive care nurse) was working.  The interview was on a Monday so Kathy flew into the Oakland Airport on the Sunday. The plan was to stay in a hotel in Vacaville, check out the town, go to the interview then head up to my mothers summer house in Arnold, Calavaras County.

We checked into the hotel then headed to Winters where we planned a late lunch and a tour around the City.

We arrived into Downtown at about 2:30 and the place was empty! The Putah Creek Café had just closed and the Buckhorn did not open until 4:30. The only business open in Downtown was the Tienda Liquor Store. The hardware store was closed, Pizza Factory was out of business and Dean’s Frosty was not open either and for some reason we did not see the Roundtable. Really the only businesses open in town seemed to be the Chevron out by the freeway. Legitimately, you could have fired a cannon down Main Street and not hit a car, the place was empty!! (I told Kathy that Winters must be either heavily Quaker or Mormon religion).

No lunch, a bag of chips and some sodas found us at City Park and the coolest wooden playground I had ever seen. The best thing I did in my career was build parks and this playground was just the best. Not plastic, a little dangerous and places for kids to hide and be kids. The most intriguing item at the park was a plaque which said the playground was built by the community over a seven day period. It had a huge list of names and donations. In one way, I did not believe it but it really stuck with me that a community could build such an awesome amenity for the children.

The interview……..

My interview was on Monday morning and the good news was that the Café was open for breakfast so Kathy and the kids had a place to eat. The only businesses which were open in Downtown that Monday morning was the Café, First Northern Bank, Eagle Drug, Tienda Liquor and Kimes Ace Hardware. The only other businesses in Downtown which were legitimately operating at that time was the Buckhorn, Winters Eyecare (two days a week), Camilles Salon, Chris’ Florist, the Quilt Shop, Ocean Chinese and Relleno’s Mexican Food.

The interview was upstairs in the Opera House that day and it went GREAT. Beyond my professional qualifications, the focus of the interview was community involvement. A supplemental questionnaire I had completed included a bunch of questions about my what I did to participate in Grand Terrace. I would bet that more than half of the interview talked about my coaching soccer and little league along with my entering various chili cookoffs. Kathy was in PTA and coordinated March of Dimes. The Council was super nice and seemed to care more about family than my background in finance, public safety or redevelopment.

I left the interview for the drive to Arnold. Somewhere out of Stockton my cell phone rings and it is the recruiter. She tells me “congratulations” that I was their #1 candidate and they want me to come back later in the week. I asked her how many were left in the process and she divulges that I was the only one to show up for the interview! My heart just sank and my radar turned on!

Yup, I was the only one to show up for the interview!

“Ok, what’s wrong with the place”? “What do I need to know” and “Why was I the only one to show up”? She immediately works to reassure me that there was nothing wrong and that small towns just had a tough time recruiting qualified applicants. She tells me that I need to come back and really get to know the Winters and the City Council. The big time sell was on! I told her she needed to find another candidate before I would come back. She said she would try but I needed to come back which I agreed to do on Thursday.

John and Kathy meet Winters…….

Kathy and I drove down from Arnold on the Thursday and we arrived at around 10:00. I had a brief meeting with the interim city manager who provided me information on the City budget and financial condition. He told me there was a lot to do on formatting for the budget but the financial condition of the City was solid. I asked for a couple items to review and he said he would send them.

I was then met by Councilmember Harold Anderson who said he was taking me to lunch at the Buckhorn. That sounded great and we walked down Main Street and soon ended up at a Rotary Club Meeting. Harold began introducing me to a huge cast of characters which included the likes of Robert Chapman, John Greenwood, Bill Cody, Charley Wallace, Howard Hupe, Larry Justus, John Carbahal, John Barbee, David Hoobyar, Ed Anderson and Jack Graf. There was a lot of give and take that I was being considered for the City Manager job. Charley announces to many of them that I was the only one who showed up for the interview. The group was fun and they asked if I would join the Club if I moved to town. It was a good lunch, program and they all seemed like a fun group.

After lunch, Harold took me down the street to the Winters Express Office on Railroad Ave. In the back room I found my wife Kathy, Councilmember Jiley Romney, City Attorney John Wallace and his assistant/School Board President Mary Jo Rodolfa. The entire discussion focused on our family and children. Jiley and Mary Jo talked about schools and raising children in Winters. John told me that his family ran the newspaper and he was also the town attorney along with Harold. They wanted assurances that we would put our kids in the public schools.

John walked me around the Express Office and I met his parents Newt and Ida. John showed off a picture of Newt in the White House Meeting with John F. Kennedy. I met the Editor, Debra Ramos. I also saw Charley. They all seemed really nice!

I finished my visit with John by talking about the community. Specifically, I asked him about that plaque at City Park and the playground structure. “Was that story about the community building that playground in a week really true”? John got very serious and said the story “was absolutely true”! The playground had been financed and built entirely by volunteers. I later told Kathy about the plaque and she said that in talking with Mary Jo and Jiley, they both talked about doing things in the community.

We drove back to Arnold with our heads spinning. Was this a real place? Did we want to move from our roots in Southern California 500 miles north to a little town. The entire day seemed surreal and all the people so genuine. That night we camped at Calavaras State Park. The next day while lounging at the pool, my stepfather walks up to me with his arm extended to “shake the hand of the new City Manager of Winters”. The recruiter had called and told him they were going to offer me the job. I was floored, excited and sick to my stomach all at the same time!

Over the course of the next month, the Council came to Grand Terrace for a site visit and to meet City Council and Community members who I worked with there. They eventually offered me the $90,000 salary and I took it. Kathy and I were terrified but we determined Winters would be the perfect place to raise our children.

So we are deciding to take a 40% cut in pay, move 500 miles away from family and friends, Kathy would need to find another job and all because we thought the people were nice. Yup, the plan sounds solid!

The Offer and Hire……

In August, I flew to Winters for the City Council Meeting to ratify the employment agreement. The City Council was Chris Calvert, Tom Stone, Jiley Romney, John Frazier and Harold Anderson. The only other people in the room were John Wallace as City Attorney and Charley Wallace representing the Winters Express.  After the vote, Charley took a photo of me and Mayor Tom Stone (which is one of my cherished possessions).

The Council said we would all go out to dinner at the Buckhorn to celebrate which we did! The meal was incredible and everyone in the place seemed to know each other.

Before we left the City Council Chamber to go to the Buckhorn, Charley asks me “how long are you going to stick around before moving on” (I was 36 at the time and this was a good stepping stone job to bigger things)? I told him that we would see how everything works out. Charley smiled and told me that “you will never be considered to be from Winters and your kids can only “be from Winters” if they graduate from Winters High School”.  I took that as a challenge and a sense of community ownership and pride. I liked it and have always felt it was heartfelt from Charley.

I am really proud to say that my kids are Winters High School graduates and we will always consider ourselves to be from Winters.

Next Segment: My first days on the job.


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Donlevy Appointed City Manager in Auburn

Donlevy Appointed City Manager in Auburn (pdf)
On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, Winters City Manager John W. Donlevy, Jr. announced that after almost 19 years he will be leaving Winters to accept the City Manager’s position in Auburn, California.
In announcing his departure, Donlevy expressed his gratitude for the many people and organizations he has worked with during his tenure and his genuine love for the Winters community. “This has been my dream job for almost two decades, where we have raised our children and a place we have been proud to call our home”. “Being the City Manager of Winters has enabled me to work with some of the most amazing City Council and Staff members and accomplish many dreams for one of the best communities anywhere”.
Donlevy credits the 17 different councilmembers he has worked with and key staff over the years for the many successes. “I have been blessed to work with people who genuinely love Winters and give their entire lives toward the benefit of this community”.
During his tenure, the City has seen many changes in services, facilities and the business community.
In facilities and infrastructure, Donlevy helped bring many key capital projects including the Public Safety Facility, Winters Community Library, Bobbi Greenwood Swimming Pool, the replacement of the Putah Creek Car Bridge, renovation of the Trestle Bridge, Moody Slough Overcrossing, Grant Ave improvements including the City’s first traffic signals, roundabout and pedestrian improvements. Donlevy also helped facilitate restoration projects along Putah Creek including the 5 phase ecological restoration of the creek channel and the construction of the North Bank Trail. Key park projects under Donlevy have included the construction of Walnut Park, the soon to be built Three Oaks Linear Park in the Stone’s Throw Subdivision and the collaboration with the grassroots Project Playground and the amazing renovation of the City Pak Playground. Donlevy also has played a key role in the funding for a new Senior Center which will be under construction in 2021.
During his tenure, the City and Downtown property and business owners collaborated to helped bring the renaissance of Downtown Winters. Beginning with the formulation of the Downtown Master Plan, the City commenced with 4 different phases of capital projects, establishing pedestrian areas, the expansion of Rotary Park, roadway and intersection improvements and the renovation of 27 different facades. The Downtown witnessed considerable expansion with the addition of Main Street Village, significant parking improvements and ultimately the construction of the Hotel Winters.
Business expansion in the Downtown and community under Donlevy has been considerable. “New” businesses during the tenure include Steady Eddies, Ficelle, Velo City, Hooby’s, Preserve, Chuy’s, El Pueblo, Turkovich Wines, ARC Guitar, Berryessa Gap Tasting Room, El Pueblo and the Collective. Additionally, the successful recruitment and addition of the PG&E Gas Academy, Dollar General, Yolo Credit Union, AM/PM, Burger King, Taco Bell, the Hotel Winters, Carboni’s and the future Fairfield Inn.
Donlevy acknowledged working with the key business and property owners for whom he credits as the saviors and visionaries of Winters including John and Melanie Pickerel, Joe and Karen Ogando, John Siracusa, Dan Martinez, Baldo and Elia Arce, Mike Olivas, Chris Turkovich and the entire Wallace Family. He credits Charley Wallace as the “man who really saved Winters”. He also thanked past Winters Express Editor Debra DeAngelo for her role in “telling the story and recording the history of our town”!
Public Services advanced considerably under Donlevy and included expansion of both Police and Fire Services, including police technology, body worn camera’s, expanded patrol, the Public Safety Facility, 24/7 Fire Services and paramedic level emergency medical services and ambulance services. Donlevy also played a key role in the renovation and expansion of the City’s water and wastewater utilities including extensive replacement and renovation of the collection and distribution systems. “The bones of our utility system are solid and the efficiency of our operations are beyond reproach”.
Regionally, Donlevy has been a 15 year board member for the Yolo County Emergency Communications Agency which provides 911 services. He has also played a key role in the expansion and improvement of animal control services. He is the Chairman of the Yolo County City/County Manager’s Association and is a 17 year member of the League of California Cities City Manager’s Executive Board.
Housing has expanded at a very measured pace over the years with the implementation of four major subdivisions which are currently in construction. Key affordable housing projects under Donlevy have included Winters I and II Apartments, the renovation of the Almondwood Apartments, construction of Orchard Village Apartments and the current construction of the Blue Mountain Terrace Senior Apartments.
Donlevy, his wife Kathy have been involved in many community organizations and projects. He served on the AYSO Soccer Board for 16 seasons, serving as a coach, referee, coach administrator and the referee administrator. They were active with Winters Youth Day, Winters Schools, the Winters Volunteer Fire Department and the Rotary Club of Winters, where he is a past president. Kathy was a long time leader for Winters Girl Scouts, on the school site council, PTA and on the AYSO Board. In 2017, John and Kathy were named Winters Citizens of the Year.
Donlevy will start in Auburn on August 10 along with a phased transition in Winters which will end in September, 2020.
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To reach John call his direct line at 530-794-6710 or email at john.donlevy@cityofwinters.org
For Council Comments:
Wade.Cowan@cityofwinters.org
Bill.Biasi@cityofwinters.org
Harold.Anderson@cityofwinters.org
Jesse.Loren@cityofwinters.org
Pierre.Neu@cityofwinters.org


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Friday Update on June 19 2020

All,

Just a few items this week:

Finally, a little on police and law enforcement which has been in the news lately.

The one thing I know about life is that being a police officer is one of the most difficult jobs anywhere. The complexity of the laws and dealing with split second decisions on the nuances of situations make it one of the toughest challenges for anyone. Over my almost 36 years in local government I have always worked and collaborated with our law enforcement personnel and I have learned more about society and personalities than in any other area. Today’s society is filled with many complexities because of the evolution of our criminal justice system and how it deals with people.

A short discussion on dealing with the mentally ill and domestic situation which lead to headlines.

In the mid 1970’s, the State of California “defunded” and eliminated all of what were formerly called “mental hospitals” which housed the disturbed, addicted and outright mentally ill. Much of this was done under the guise that the State would fund “other programs” to help these folks. Eventually the funding ran out and the promised programs simply did not happen.

In the 1980’s, crime began to escalate with the addicted and mentally ill folks becoming aggressive on the criminal front. That let to a “get tough” on sentiment on criminals and these people began the wave on incarcerated individuals. “Three strikes” was created and eventually, the prison populations exploded and there was a building boom on incarceration facilities. Literally, the prisons became the location to house the addicted an mentally ill. In some cases, the three strikes penalties placed them in prison for decades.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and we have multiple measures for “judicial” reform. The objectives are to get the non-violent offenders (drug offenders, mentally ill) into “treatment” versus incarceration so we essentially have thousands being released from incarceration which has been providing treatment, health care and protection. In many cases these folks end up on the streets in the homeless populations or into families or locations which are incapable of adequately caring for them. When situations arise from mental or addiction relapses the first thing that happens is people dial 911. Combined with recent legislation like AB109 and Propositions 47 and 57 which essentially decriminalized everything (including drug use and possession), we now find police in a simply ridiculous situation. In the news this week it is being reported that District Attorney’s are now waiving prosecution on all “misdemeanors” (essentially meaning that there are no paths for ramifications for most actions).

The most dangerous call a police officer can receive is a “domestic” call. This covers the spectrum of family members assaulting each other, relatives stealing or causing a commotion. The reality is that these situations are extremely volatile because emotions can swing in multiple directions, especially against law enforcement when they may decide to arrest an individual. Even the most accosted spouse will physically intervene with law enforcement when the family member is about to be arrested or gets physical against the officers. Many of these decisions are split second and allow practically zero time for assessment of background on a mentally ill person. What is common in most domestic cases- drugs, alcohol and mental illness!

The jobs of police have swayed between enforcing laws to become social workers to marriage and family counsellors. I can assure you that the typical police vehicle has more pamphlets and business cards for social service agencies than handcuffs or bullets. There is not a single police agency which will not agree that there is more which needs to be done with mental health and services for the domestically afflicted. The discussion in Yolo County on rapid response teams for mentally ill is a regular topic for our top law enforcement. Maybe a first step in the many discussions being held today is to focus on dealing with those with mental illness which seems to be at the root of so much of what we deal with.

John


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Cancellation of Independence Weekend Fireworks Show

Due to strict prohibitions under the Covid 19 guidance from the State of California and Yolo County Health, the City has decided to officially cancel the fireworks show previously scheduled for July 3. Under the guidance from the State, such a display would constitute an “event” which are not allowed until “Phase IV” of the reopening.

We are deeply disappointed in needing to make this decision and look forward to a show next year.

Thanks,

John


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Friday Update on June 5 2020

All,

A couple items for the week:

  • The State is expected to release extensive new “guidance documents” for many industries at noon today. From Child Care to Hotels and travel, this is expected to be a significant move by the State. Industry links can be found here: https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/#top
  • For businesses looking for some really good information on conforming with the Covid 19 “guidance” requirements, go to the Yolo County Business Toolkit which is excellent! Here is the link: https://www.yolocounty.org/health-human-services/adults/communicable-disease-investigation-and-control/novel-coronavirus-2019/covid-19-business-toolkit
  • Staff is meeting with the organizer of the announced protest at Rotary Park scheduled for next weekend. At this point, we have very few details on the event and our goal will be to work with them to insure as “peaceful” event as they are advertising.
  • Kudos to our Public Works Team on an excellent road rehabilitation program for 2020. The striping went down and everything just came out GREAT! Our leader in this area is Eric Lucero and the general contractor was Vintage Paving of Winters. It is really a blessing having Vintage do work because they bring both excellence in how they run their business but also a lot of home town pride in giving us the best they can.
  • Enough cannot be said for the collaboration of our Downtown Merchants in evolving to the new Covid 19 demands. The place looks just amazing and the “soft” opening helped avoid things becoming an “event” which would have gotten us into a lot of trouble with the County and the State. I encourage everyone to visit our businesses, get a meal and enjoy a bottle of wine in the ambiance of the best Downtown anywhere!

Finally, the Covid 19 pandemic has been traumatic on our local businesses and because the limited openings are happening does not mean that we are out of the woods on anything. These businesses employ hundreds of people and support a wide range of interests. Whether they are the barber or cosmetologists to our finest restaurants, they have been economically hit beyond comprehension.

Over the months, I have had an opportunity to communicate with most of them in some conversations which absolutely pressed every emotion. The word “resilience” is much over used, but our business community seems to embody it to the word of definition. These are proud people, the backbone of our community, they are independent and solid! They are role models for every student graduating from Winters High and symbols of the greatness of our nation. These are folks who have it all on the line and have been summarily hammered by all which has occurred.

I am always proud to say that I am from “Winters” and never more than today. I got my hair cut yesterday and it never felt better to be sitting in a chair which I know had been empty for months, stealing livelihood and pressing the individuals. The shop was following all the guidelines and getting themselves “back in business” in our “new normal”.

To say I am grateful for our business community is just too little. I would like to encourage everyone to get into Downtown, get that hair cut, buy that dress or gift and enjoy a wonderful meal and a bottle of wine. Do a staycation at the Winters Hotel as they reopen.

Let’s get our town rolling again!

Have a nice weekend.

John


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Friday Update on May 20, 2020

All,

Just a few items moving into the Memorial Day Weekend:

June 2 City Council Meeting:

  • City Budget
  • Growth Referendum
  • Downtown ABC Permit

A couple other items:

  • Yolo County submitted an “attestation document” to the State regarding Covid 19 which allows it to move into the second part of “Phase II” which allows reopening of “non-essential” businesses and dine in service for restaurants. The Yolo County Board of Supervisors has held off on reopening businesses in the County pending additional information and the development of protocols. They will consider options at their May 26 meeting.
  • Two new members of the Planning Commission will be seated this week. Nancy Northrop and Chris Rose will join the commission! Welcome!
  • The Walnut 10 Subdivision will be on the May 26 Planning Commission Meeting which will be done via a zoom meeting.
  • The City will be switching our legal advertising from the Winters Express to the Woodland Daily Democrat newspaper.
  • Staff participated in a meeting with PG&E and local emergency planners regarding Public Safety Power Shutdowns. Overall a good meeting with the City in a good position to avoid shutoffs. The County areas will be in the same boat as last year!

Finally, as we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice this weekend, one can never forget the families affected and the potential lost by those who have served and given their lives for all which we hold dear. With the Covid pandemic, the traditional Memorial Day Services will not be held which is a shame. Our veterans and the Cemetery District always do a wonderful job of honoring those from Winters who have given for us all.

If you are out, I encourage you to drop by the cemetery and walk through to pay your respects to the fallen. A few years ago, our Mayor Wade Cowen shared the following about visiting the graves of our deceased military.

“While visiting some cemeteries you may notice that headstones marking certain graves have coins on them, left by previous visitors to the grave. These coins have distinct meanings when left on the headstones of those who gave their life while serving in America's military, and these meanings vary depending on the denomination of coin. A coin left on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a message to the deceased soldier's family that someone else has visited the grave to pay respect. Leaving a penny at the grave means simply that you visited. A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together, while a dime means you served with them in some capacity. By leaving a quarter at the grave, you are telling the family that you were with the soldier when they were killed.”

“According to tradition, the money left at graves in national cemeteries and state veterans cemeteries is eventually collected, and the funds are put toward maintaining the cemetery or paying burial costs for indigent veterans. In the US, this practice became common during the Vietnam war, due to the political divide in the country over the war; leaving a coin was seen as a more practical way to communicate that you had visited the grave than contacting the soldier's family, which could devolve into an uncomfortable argument over politics relating to the war. Some Vietnam veterans would leave coins as a "down payment" to buy their fallen comrades a beer or play a hand of cards when they would finally be reunited. The tradition of leaving coins on the headstones of military men and women can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire.”

To all of our countries “Gold Star Families”, may you know the gratitude of all of us who live in the peace and freedoms from your families sacrifice.

Thanks,

John


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Friday Update on May 9 2020

All,

This week two emails with some explanation and an admittance of just being wrong.

As many who subscribe to the Friday Update know, I try to bring some insight into my job as City Manager, both the good and the frustrating to give some perspective on the joys and challenges of being the City Manager in Winters. My rant on my frustration with Covid 19 yesterday was void of balance and almost inexcusable. Yesterday was a day when the emotion and frustration came out,  I was wrong to not bring balance and just crossed a line I work to not cross.

Here is the balance which has been included in my past updates but cannot be understated:

  • The Covid 19 pandemic is a once in a lifetime plague which brings a never anticipated challenge to our entire world. The virus is dynamic and the response needs to be dynamic. It's frustrating and my sense is that the most pressure is on the people who I criticized. Just a dumbass thing on my part.
  • Yolo County is, without question, the best County in California. The leadership and collaboration among the elected and appointed leaders is without comparison. The success on low rates on Covid 19, quality education and outreach is reflected in the low infection rates. From the Board of Supervisors, the County Manager, the Public Health Officer to all in the Covid 19 response team, every day is a day of unquestionable confidence that they are working to do the right thing. It has been the highlight of my over 35 years in city management to work Yolo County where we genuinely make things happen within a team format. Except for one outlier, Yolo leads in dealing with this outbreak on all levels including health, testing and sheltering the at risk homeless population. Simply the best!
  • Without question, the Governor is in an untenable situation. He is an impressive leader in so many ways and has been beneficial to rural cities and counties. As I disagree with some of his approach, I would guess he would have the same with our approach. The success on Covid 19 needs collaboration and I am certain that we will get there. He is our Governor and I root for the success of our State every day.
  • As we work with the business community on all of this, the advice and direction is empirically clear; follow the rules, adhere to the guidance and do not go against the directives from the State. They are the law and to be followed.
  • The economic impacts on the City and our finances is devastating. 2021 will bring an almost 25% reduction in our staff. Just crazy.

I will share that the impacts on the small businesses and individuals from all of this has become overwhelming. At Winters City Hall, we are on the front line with our business community. As the economic impacts are hitting them, we are experiencing them first hand and almost constantly. To regularly meet and talk with folks who are literally losing everything from the ramifications of Covid 19 has become emotional and obviously fueled much of my rant (which was a mistake on my part).

I talk with the business people in Winters every day. When it comes to Covid 19 and reopening their businesses the first thing from their mouths is the safety of their employees and customers. Not a single business wants to “go rogue" they just want to go to work.

The success of Winters has become a physical part of many of us. The businesses who have arisen (and are now being impacted) are family. As we learn and know of what this pandemic is doing to their livelihood and their personal lives it becomes equally personal. These are all self made people who don’t want anything from anybody except the chance for them to do their business and support their families. They risk everything and are now possibly losing everything. They are the best part of our nation and what makes Winters such an incredible community. This all has become an absolutely crushing experience because there is so little we can do. We will continue to do what we can and do our best!

The goal of my Friday Update is to be insightful and informative, mildly provocative but never dumbass or divisive. Yesterday was just the latter and I apologize for the deviation.

Have a nice weekend.

John


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Friday Update on May 8 2020

All,

Super busy week.  Here are some updates:

May 19, 2020- City Council Meeting

  • Weed Abatement Public Hearing
  • Resolution Initiating Proceedings for the Annual Levy and Collection of Assessments for the City-Wide Maintenance Assessment District, Fiscal Year 2020/2021
  • Resolution Preliminarily Approving the Engineer’s Annual Levy Report and Declaring its Intention to Levy and Collect Annual Assessments and Providing Notice of Hearings Thereof for the City of Winters City-Wide Maintenance Assessment District, Fiscal Year 2020/2021
  • Resolution for OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) Trust Set-Up
  • Authorization to Purchase New Radar Trailer for the Winters Police Department
  • Winters Highlands Ph. 2 Public Utility Easement

Other items and happenings:

  • Hotel Winters is expected to reopen on May 22. Book your nights at www.hotelwinters.com .
  • Look for the Walnut 10 Subdivision to go on the May 26, 2020 Planning Commission Meeting. Staff met with the applicant this week and it looks like it is ready for the scheduled public hearing.
  • The Regional Water Quality Control Board is asking for a review of our work plan for the evaluation of the former landfill property, testing and groundwater. This is a big deal if we are required to put an additional “cap” on the existing property.
  • Staff has been working with Napa County, the Bureau of Reclamation, two Congressional Offices and both of our State legislators to try and get Lake Berryessa opened back up. Everyone seems supportive but it seems like it is mired inside a faceless bureaucracy which does not seem to care they have put hundreds of people out of work and devastating local businesses.
  • Road and slurry work is commencing throughout the City. So far, no major issues. Look for stripping in a couple weeks which should look really nice.
  • On-line bill pay for utilities and permits is in the works. An evaluation is under way and staff will meet on it next week.
  • The Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Planning Group for the Covid 19 protocols has essentially been dissolved. The State of California will be determining protocols for business operations. I will share that many of us put a considerable amount of time working on this committee and its abrupt conclusion was kind of a shock. Looks like purview will be 100% with the State and the Board of Supervisors.

Finally, the Covid 19 pandemic has evolved into a seven (7) day work week. Working to somehow represent our business community within an almost faceless State bureaucracy and edicts which have shut down our economy is an amazing experience. If someone would have told me that the Governor could shut down the entire economy, determine “essential” and “non-essential” jobs, prevent small businesses from operating while allowing large corporate stores to freely operate I would have told them they were crazy!

This week I sat in a meeting where the Yolo County representative essentially described the need to watch the Governors “noon briefing” then follow him on twitter for the next hour in order to determine what State Policy was just seemed surreal. When “emergency powers” for the Governor were conceived I don’t think anyone imagined the ability to put millions of people out of work and essentially wipe out small businesses (the backbone of our nation) and essentially bankrupt most cities throughout the State. The idea that you cannot go to the dentist or get a haircut because the Governor says so is just unconceivable.

The original purpose of the “shelter in place” was to prevent a “massive surge on our healthcare system” and “prevent community transmission”. Now, hospitals sit mostly empty and are laying off employees including doctors and nurses because there is no work. They are hemorrhaging money with the end to regular healthcare. On Thursday the “new” reason for not allowing a resumption of the economy is the need for “herd immunity”, testing and a vaccine. The Governor set an almost unattainable standard by requiring 14 consecutive days without a Covid 19 death before a County can move to the “enhanced phase II”. In Yolo County, there have been 20 deaths with 16 attributable to a single convalescent home, 3 from travel and 1 from “community” transmission. I guess we all need to watch the Governors noon briefings and follow him on twitter to see if he changes his mind.

As a city manager, my biggest concerns are the unchecked powers the Governor seems to feel he now wields. Yesterday the State announced a swing from a $21 billion reserve to a $54B deficit for the upcoming State budget. Does this mean that the Governor can simply enact his own edicts without any checks on his decisions.

To help you decipher the news and statements going around, here are a few important phrases. If you hear the phrase “executive order” it means the Governor has singularly made the entire decision with no checks or balances. If you hear “alignment with the policies of the BAY AREA” it means strict governmental controls on business and behavior. If you hear “going Sutter or Yuba” it means lesser governmental control and a return to more normalcy. In almost 20 years of primary and higher education, the text books never said its supposed to work this way in a representative democracy.

We are going into week 10 of no dental work, haircuts, swimming pools, prohibitions on public gatherings, prohibitions on travel outside the County except for “essential” activities, small businesses, dining out or going to or watching a baseball game. And, we need to cover our faces everywhere!

Thanks,

John


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Friday Update on May 1 2020

All,

Working through another active week. Some key items:

City Council Agenda for May 5:

  • Housing Element Consultant
  • Budget Workshop
  • City Council Liaison Assignments
  • Weed Abatement
  • RADAR/ALPR Trailer
  • Weed Abatement
  • Proclamations for Older Americans and Big Day of Giving

The inside on some items:

  • A big push this week to get Lake Berryessa and Markley Cove back open. We are literally working all angles with our State Representatives, Congressional Reps, the Bureau of Reclamation and Napa County. We should hear something next week.
  • Staff will be recommending a deviation from our practice of two year budgets. The unpredictability of the pandemic and the anticipated recession means stepping back and literaly living week to week. This means putting together a one year budget for Fiscal year 20-21 and moving in concert with actions from the State of California.
  • Over the last week, Staff has taken an ax to the City Budget and Finances, cutting a projected $1.2 milliion deficit from the previous $5 million General Fund spending plan with draconian service cuts. The City will eliminate 4 full time positions (including a Police Sergeant), will institute across the board pay reductions for all City personnel and recommend closure of the  Community Swimming Pool and programs, Community Center, elimination of City library funding and a consolidation of many service functions.
  • The Budget Workshop will give an opportunity for City Staff and the City Council to review the ramifications of the reductions. This week has been one of the most challenging of my professional career from a fiscal problem solving standpoint. The Covid 19 pandemic and a few other issues has the City literally on the verge of bankruptcy.

Finally, the extension of the Yolo Health Directive for an additional 30 days is a significant hit to the Winters Economy. The directives come from the State and the Governor which makes it difficult from when you consider the lack of local control on all of this. I will share that working within the Yolo County framework is a blessing to both navigate and solve many of the issues which are arising. There is real collaboration amongst the County and Cities which is not seen everywhere. There is a level of pragmatism which is not always appreciated but I can tell you that from where I sit, it’s a pretty good feeling knowing that you can trust that even on those issues which we disagree, we will work together to persevere on the next.

Wishing everyone a wonderful, safe and healthy weekend.

John


  • -

Friday Update on April 23 2020

All,

A couple items:

  • Look for the Yolo Health Officer to release revised Covid 19 Guidelines by Tuesday of next week. The current restrictions will end on May 1, so expect some modifications in regards to things like face masks, outdoor spaces and business operations. As soon as they are released, we will post them to the City’s website and social media.
  • I would describe the Business Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday as very productive. The reality is that as some Covid 19 restrictions are lifted, we will experience the return of visitors who will need to follow the appropriate social distancing. The City is moving 10 picnic tables into the Downtown, adding signage and working with the business community on messaging as we move forward.
  • The fiscal realities of the Covid 19 pandemic are beginning to emerge for the City of Winters. Our revenue shortfall projections in the current fiscal year is climbing toward $500,000. As we put together our next two year fiscal budget, we will be faced with significant shortfalls and some additional expenses from potential future litigation. Expect that there will be major cuts in community areas.
  • Look for budget workshops with the City Council at the upcoming meetings.

Have a nice weekend.

John


  • -

Friday Update on April 17 2020

All,

A short overview of the City Council Agenda:

Discussion Items on the City Council Agenda:

  • Designation of the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem-The canvassed results of the March 3 Municipal Election are in and the recommendation is for the certification of the results as sent from the Yolo County Elections Office. Per Ordinance 2004-04, the current Mayor Pro Tem is elevated to the position of Mayor and the person receiving the highest vote total is Mayor Pro Tem.
  • Second Reading on revisions to the Municipal Code regarding Accessory Dwelling Units. This ordinance brings the City in conformance with State law which is required of “General Law” cities like Winters. Bottom line, ADU’s can be on most residentially zoned properties, cannot exceed 50% the size of the existing dwelling unit or 1200 sf.
  • Planning Commission Appointments. Recommendation is for Chris Rose and Nancy Northrup to replace Pat Riley and Lisa Baker who both have resigned. Pat was and has been our longest serving Planning Commissioner (off and on for over 18 total years) and Lisa is the current vice chair. Both were excellent commissioners whose expertise and knowledge really contributed to the Commission.
  • SB1 Road Repair Projects Resolution. Projects include Spot repairs, crack seal and Slurry on Second St., Abbey and East Abbey Sts. Overlay and grind projects for East Main, Morgan St., and Railroad Ave.
  • Yolo Covid 19 Relief Fund- Requesting City participation in the Yolo County Covid 19 Relief Fund which has been launched to support the many first line and non-profit organization is Yolo County supporting residents. For more information, go to https://www.yolocf.org/news/yolo-covid-19-nonprofit-relief-initiative/
  • Planning Projects and Development Status- A review of the status of the SB2 projects, Housing Element Status Update (out for consultant services), City Limits Specific Plan (out for consultant), Climate Action Plan (in process) and Community Engagement. You can link the update on current projects on the “Current Projects” tab of the City Website by clicking here: http://www.cityofwinters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2020April21PlanningUpdate.pdf
  • Current applications include only the Walnut 10 (54 units on Walnut Lane). No formal application though discussions for Farmstead (off Grant Ave). Also in the works is the 24 unit Neighborworks “self help” project which proposed to go into the Stone’s Throw subdivision which will be before the City’s Development Review Committee on April 21 2020. No applications or discussion on anything related to the north area of the City.

A couple other items:

  • Staff is working to collaborate with the local business community on information on moving out of Covid 19 restrictions. A “virtual business town hall” meeting will be scheduled next week to begin sharing information and ideas.
  • The fiscal realities are expanding with the City. Staff is now estimating our impacts exceeding $400,000 and carrying into the next fiscal year(s). We will not hit any of our revenue projects on either sales or transient occupancy taxes. The City has frozen all “non-essential” spending (except for fuel, repairs and utilities). We will meet with our employee associations next week to discuss the situation.
  • Formulating a City Budget in a pandemic is almost impossible with the potential negative ramifications of a recession and other factors being significant. The current fiscal situation has been tight and we expect it to become even more difficult. Look for a budget workshop with the City Council in May.
  • State finances are devastated and will probably get worse. 10% unemployment combined with lost incomes and deferral of sales taxes will mean the State will probably wait until August to actually adopt a budget. Cities need to keep an eye on the State which has a habit of “borrowing” revenues in tough times (at the detriment of cities).
  • California is the 5th largest economy in the world which has an almost $140B tourism economy which represents almost $79B GDP and 2.5 percent of the total California GDP being summarily shut down. Tourism brings in almost $12B in State and Local Tax revenues, most of which goes to localities.

 

Finally, this week is National Dispatchers Week in recognition of the seldom seen but critically important emergency dispatchers of our 911 system. They are literally the first people most talk to in the most critical and desperate times of their lives. For almost 12 years, I have sat on the Board of Directors for the Yolo 911 Agency known as the Yolo Emergency Communications Agency (YECA).  I will share that these are some of the top public safety personnel I have been involved with in my career.

Over the last year, YECA has handled over 305,000 emergency/non-emergency calls. In total, they handled almost 205,000 dispatch events for police, fire, medical and other events.

Dispatchers not only receive the initial 911 calls, but also are literally “on” every event with police, fire and EMS until it is resolved. They are the security blanket “in the ear” of the police officers as they take critical calls, relaying essential information on backup and other resources which are on the way.  In the best situations, they walk people through the delivery and birth of a child and the worst being with the last breaths of a critically injured police officer or sheriff deputy. They deal with the most difficult situations with split second decision making, pulling and delivering information across a panel of 8 computer screens with radio traffic in one ear and phone conversation in the other.

Dispatchers bring strength to those in desperate situations, hope to those dealing with the unfathomable and are the backbone to all first responders who do the heroic. In our area, they have deciphered the code words of domestic abuse victims in need of aide and walked children through directions to a trail where the parent had fallen over a cliff. Simply amazing!

They are “angels” incarnate who bind our public safety system. I cannot express how honored and grateful I am to work with these dispatcher professionals.

Stay health and safe.

John


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