Steve Nelsen first ran for the Visalia City Council on the premise that, while the city talks about doing things, “often they are put on a shelf and die and never get dusted off.” This concerns Nelsen, who, in bringing to office a desire to serve the public, has since discovered an even deeper love of service to the citizen. It is, he says, what he is all about. “I have a passion to help,” he elaborates, “to find solutions.”
In his term of office, these solutions have ranged from the founding of the animal shelter, construction of which is scheduled to begin shortly after the new year, to finding property for Imagine-U, and the establishment of a new fire station for the southwest quadrant of the city. An outspoken advocate of public safety, Nelsen is one of only two council members to have completed at least 11 of the 12 programs of the city’s volunteer police service. Ironically, he is prohibited from actually serving on this because he currently sits on the council. “But that’s fine,” Nelsen says. He sits on every committee Visalia has regarding water issues.
Yet Nelsen brings no personal agenda to his service. “I love going out and talking,” he says, “and learning other people’s agendas.” And because Visalia is growing so rapidly–upwards of 200,000 in the coming two decades or so, according to Nelsen–he will, if re-elected, have the opportunity to hear many more of these. That is because, as is customary, Steve Nelsen would become Visalia’s new mayor after the council rotation, traditionally upon the completion of the municipal election.
As the city grows–and expands–any mayor will face major new challenges, not the least of which is updating Visalia’s public safety facilities. Take the proposed new Visalia Emergency Communications Center (VECC) for example. Nobody doubts Visalia’s need for a new dispatch center, but questions regarding whether to attach police and fire administrations to this linger. Nelsen believes a single building, with a smaller footprint, perhaps, but a greater vertical presence is what Visalia will eventually construct. “Monetarily, the city can afford the VECC,” he believes, “but it needs to be built not only for today’s needs but 20 years out.”
In 20 years’ time, Nelsen sees the city expanding southward to just shy of Mooney Grove, southwestward as well, and north and slightly westward toward Highway 99. What Nelsen calls the “East Main Extension” is also on the horizon. This would be anchored by a new office building, the build-out of Imagine-U, and the proposed construction of the VECC.
But one problem that growth brings may never be solved to everyone’s complete satisfaction: homelessness. The increase in this is “still a reflection of the economy,” Nelsen says. “This is not limited to Visalia. It’s all over the country. Everybody’s dealing with it.” In Visalia’s case, Nelsen sits on a newly formed committee of council members, police and concerned citizens to address both homelessness and panhandling. “What we want to do is bring everyone to the table and figure out, one, what we can do and, two, get everybody on the same page and come up with tangible goals.” Because Visalia, he says, is known as a compassionate and caring city.
Unlike the example set, say, by Porterville’s City Council, Nelsen is happy with Visalia’s. And while he regards unanimous votes as something of a rubber stamp, conceding that at times there naturally is contention, he is proud to sit with his fellow council members. “At the end of the day we’re still friends,” he says.