Sharp’s election as Hanford mayor could change council power dynamics

Newly elected Mayor Diane Sharp wants to a see a better city website, public pickle ball courts and economic expansion.

There was no discussion prior to the votes at the December 21 meeting. Council Member Art Brieno and outgoing Mayor Francisco Ramirez abstained in voting for Sharp. And Brieno nominated Ramirez for another term.

“I don’t have the assurance she has the preparation she needs,” said Brieno who has often been at loggerheads with Sharp. “Hanford is a diverse community. (She needs to be) sensitive to different neighborhoods.”

Ramirez and Brieno, Districts E and D respectively in heavily Hispanic south Hanford, have tended to focus more on needs of minorities and recreational opportunities.

Ramirez’ nomination never came to a vote because Sharp’s nomination was considered first and she got the required majority. Council Member Kalish Morrow nominated Sharp for mayor and Saltray provided the third vote. Sharp will serve as mayor until the end of the year.

Morrow was then unanimously elected vice-mayor.

Although Sharp, the daughter of the late locally prominent attorney Sid Sharp, promised harmony on the council and described the mayor’s position as ceremonial, both statements are subject to interpretation.

Although Sharp describes the council as a “team,” in the past there have been two distinct power blocks on the council.

Sharp previously lined up with former Mayor John Draxler who resigned to move to Sacramento. The council then appointed Amanda Saltray, to take Draxler’s District A northwest seat.

The other block involved outgoing Mayor Francisco Ramirez, District D, Art Brieno, District E, Saltray and Morrow, District B.

When last year the council was racked by a scandal involving a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Community Development Director Darlene Mata involving Brieno, it was Sharp who was Brieno’s harshest critic. Brieno was ultimately censured by the council but retained his seat.

Further, the acting mayor can set the agenda for the council on important community matters. The mayor also works closely with the city manager to shape the council agenda. Sharp has praised City Manager Mario Cifuentes’ ability and said Hanford is lucky to have him.

An example of how the acting mayor can set the agenda occurred on the hot-button issue of expanding Hidden Valley Park.

It was Ramirez who—after 50 years of debate— last year spearheaded the effort to rezone the 18-acre next to the park so it could be used for park expansion, not housing development. Ramirez’s rezone effort was ultimately successful (4-1 vote) with Sharp voting no.

Sharp has a share in a revocable trust of 12 properties including two downtown and many on Lacey Boulevard, according to the county assessor’s office. This has lead Sharp to have to recuse herself on important city issues such as changes to the General Plan.

Sharp has had an interesting road to the Hanford City Council.

She won the most votes to replace then Councilmember Ramirez after he was recalled in February of 2018. Then nine months later Ramirez won, in a surprise upset, gaining his seat back from Sharp by a narrow margin.  A few years later Sharp bought her new home in former Council Member Martin Devine’s District C and decided to run again. Devine chose not to run against her and she won her seat unopposed.

Sharp is a Stanford graduate with an AB in communications. She ran a business in the ag industry and was a fundraiser for the United Way. She is the mother of two. Sharp has served on numerous boards including the Westside Elementary School Board (Five Points) and various PTAs.

Sharp is well-educated and well-spoken and can be a fierce opponent in political debates. She has many backers in the community and strong local ties.

Sharp is pledging to enhance the livability of the community by encouraging people to invest in sports, the arts, historical, social, religious, human service organizations and neighborhoods in need.

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