She is the Vice President of Las Madrinas Guild for Valley Children’s Hospital, Secretary of the Fox Theater Board of Directors, and an active volunteer at St. Paul’s School and the Bethlehem Center. Fifteen years ago she retired from the corporate world to raise her four kids with husband Dr. Mark Wiseman and started her new career in the non-profit world of community service.
Now Wiseman is testing the waters of public service. At a gathering of about 100 people at a supporter’s home, Wiseman laid out why she is running for Visalia City Council District 3.
Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian, who was on the city council for nine years, two of those being mayor, introduced Wiseman to the crowd. Shuklian said that many people ask for her endorsement but that she has stayed away from getting involved with individual campaigns. But getting to know Wiseman changed Shuklian’s mind.
“I’m not one for saying we need a woman just for the sake of having a woman on the council,” said Shuklian, “but I fell in love with Merritt’s passion and excitement for Visalia.” Shuklian said that Wiseman is very thoughtful when considering issues and “that will convert to her being a good decision maker.”
Wiseman’s husband said he would put “mom” at the top of her resume, adding, “I think government would benefit if there were more moms in office.”
Wiseman said she had been considering running for city council for a long time and when Mayor Warren Gubler announced that he was retiring she jumped at the chance.
“I felt like city council was a natural step for me in serving my community.”
Besides noticing her boundless energy, on meeting Wiseman for the first time you feel like you are reuniting with an old friend: and the feeling is mutual. When asked what’s the best part of Visalia, she said, “the people.”
Wiseman said two of the main issues facing Visalia are homelessness and traffic circulation, with the most frustrating bottlenecks in the city being in her northwest district.
Wiseman has looked at other cities for inspiration on how to handle Visalia’s homeless problem. She said on one side is San Francisco, which started a new program two weeks ago where the city is taking guardianship of their homeless and making sure each one of them is getting the services they need. On the flip side is Fresno, where they have been much tougher.
“We need to have a balance,” she said.
Visalia’s back to work program and the city’s participation in a countywide homeless task force, whose meetings she attends, is a good start on getting our homeless off the streets, she said.
Another important issue for Wiseman is growth. Her district encompasses the Industrial park, which is the fastest growing area of Visalia. Wiseman said the northwest quadrant of the city is experiencing “growing pains” that she feels can be alleviated through better traffic circulation.
When asked whether she will be voting more like Councilmember Phil Cox or Councilmember Greg Collins on development, who are usually on opposite sides of the issue, she said that they both come from a different direction.
Wiseman wants to see Visalia grow while preserving the best parts of the city. “I am going to come from my own direction too,” she said.