The makeup of Farmersville City Council didn’t undergo much of a change following the November election – but its one change is a big one. For the first time in 34 years, the city council will function without longtime council member, Don Rowlett.
At the December 12 council meeting, Rowlett was recognized by fellow council members, city staff, and community members for his long-time commitment to the community. He was given plaques and gifts in honor of his service.
“Don has dedicated his life to the people of Farmersville,” said Mayor Paul Bower.
Councilman Greg Gomez said, “In the four years I’ve been on council, I have learned a lot from you.”
Fire Chief John Crivello reflected on the time that Rowlett served as a volunteer fireman.
Rowlett was first appointed to the city council in April, 1982. He has known every council member since the city’s incorporation in 1960, he said.
“In every election since I’ve run, I was successful,” Rowlett said. He added that he has never campaigned, never put up a political sign and never participated in any candidate forum.
“There’s been a lot of issues [over the years],” Rowlett said, “but, truthfully, the one thing that has benefited the city the most, was extending the city limits out to Highway 198.
“It took a long time; that was at least 20 years ago. A lot of people, at the time, thought it was crazy. But, it has brought jobs and sales tax into town, and will continue to do so.”
Rowlett cited businesses including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway and the gas station, all in the annexed area where Farmersville Blvd. meets Highway 198.
Rowlett was a school teacher and retired from his day job two years ago, he said. It was now time to retire from council as well.
“It was just time – I chose not to run,” he said.
While he says he has no plans to run again in the future, he also added, “You never know. Never say never.”
He also indicated that he felt that he was leaving the council and city in good hands.
Replacing Rowlett on city council is longtime Farmersville resident, Rosa Vasquez. Also re-elected to his seat, is Councilman Gomez.
Vasquez said she ran for council because she saw the opportunity.
“I’ve been here for so long, 46 years, I thought I would do something in return – something for the community,” she said.
Vasquez is a US Naval Reservist, who, in the past, has been deployed abroad. Her family owns La Mejor, a bakery, tortilla factory and hot deli, located on Farmersville Blvd.
She said she feels that the community of Farmersville hasn’t grown the way other local small towns such as Lindsay and Exeter have, and that she would like to see it do so.
“I want to see our city have more lighting and more revenue,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight – it takes time and money.”
Councilmember Gomez has served for the past four years. He is a Visalia native whose wife is from Farmersville, and so they have made the city their home. He works as an IT supervisor for Tulare County.
“I’ve always had a deep commitment to do something for my community,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it [his time on council] – there are a lot of people who care about the community.”
Increasing revenue is the largest factor Gomez sees facing the council at this time.
“Sales tax is down, with gas prices being low, and that effects our budget,” he said. “Maintaining city services is going to be a real challenge, while balancing the budget.”
And, the city actually needs to increase services, he said, citing that public works is in need of more staff in order to properly care for the water system, sewage plant, parks and streets.
“These guys are stretched pretty thin,” he said.
The city is looking to a sewage plant expansion. The city’s street sweeper is broken down and needs to be replaced, he said. And the city’s animal control officer has also taken on the role of code enforcement, and those are two full-time jobs each by itself, he added.
“The residents, they want to see progress,” Gomez said. “And, many say they have seen more progress in the past few years, than ever before in their lifetimes.
“We’re looking for more developers – maybe a shopping center, and a hotel,” he said, noting that there is no hotel alongside Highway 198 between Visalia and Three Rivers. The city needs the tax revenue, he added.
Gomez is appreciative for his re-election and plans to work hard.
“I don’t take their [his community’s] votes for granted,” he said.