An early edition as I am dealing with a number of things over the next few days and next week.
A couple items:
- Staff met with some folks this week regarding planning, growth and big picture issues and it was a really good meeting. Staff is working on an overall plan for community engagement, education and the ability for folks to get involved in some key projects like the upcoming Housing Element Update, Climate Change and General Plan Stuff. You can get the gist of what we are working on from the August 30 Friday Update or look for the initial staff report which will go to the City Council on October 1, 2019. Here is the link to the August 30 update (<click)
- Disappointment last week when the City was notified that we were not awarded a grant for the construction of the Senior Center Project. We will apply again in Spring, 2020!
- The Hotel Winters enjoyed a “soft” opening the weekend of September 6-9 where they had 3 wedding parties and almost 80% occupancy. The Hotel looked amazing and the staff were excellent representatives of our town. Reservations for the coming week can be gotten at www.hotelwinters.com .
- As hotel guests arrived, the flow of people into the Downtown was very evident. I was in two establishments on Friday and the customer service from our restaurants and tasting rooms was simply first rate. It just warms my heart when I see our town shine! The excellence we have in Winters is beyond reproach and it showed last week.
- Getting some complaints about construction on the weekends from the new subdivisions. We are working with the developers to get a handle on both time and days for the many subcontractors.
- Lots of discussion among businesses and groups on insurance requirements and the viability of events. We are scheduling a meeting with key stakeholders and we are going to figure all of this out. Not need to worry about any of the events in town not happening. We just need to work together on all of this!
- This morning I participated in the 9/11 observance at the Public Safety Facility with members of Winters Fire and Police. It was a very respectful observation of an amazing occurrence. Our public safety personnel paying tribute to the more than 3,000 people who died on that fateful day was simply beautiful. The passion, commitment and loyalty to service is an amazing thing to see. Thanks to both Winters Fire and Police!
Last week I shared a little bit about my first year working for the City and mentioned that 9/11 was my second day on the job. A little more on that fateful day.
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.
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, 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.