Editor's note: We invited the mayors of Stanislaus County's smaller cities to share their thoughts on what 2013 will bring for their communities. This is part of that series. Previous essays are available at www.modbee.com/opinion.
The city of Ceres is going through a rebirth of sorts. After a lengthy period of financial struggles, we have started a process of reinventing ourselves. It is clear that the paradigm for local cities has changed. Financial resources are not what they used to be, the state seems to hinder more than help, and the challenges are many.
Yet, with change comes so many opportunities. We have adapted to the new paradigm we are in, and we see plenty of reason for optimism. We know that change, even when it shakes up what we view as being normal, also brings with it new opportunities.
I like to think of Ceres as a diamond in the rough. Too many years have been spent lamenting the feeling that we are stuck in the shadow of nearby larger communities. We no longer see things that way; we are a vibrant community with unlimited opportunity for growth and prosperity, with scores of dedicated citizens who genuinely care for each other and who are dedicated to our core principle that "together we achieve." And achieve we will.
One of our major advantages is that a smaller community can adapt quickly to changes in the economy and in society itself.
Our council just approved a contract with an economic development firm to create a comprehensive economic development plan to help us position this community for business retention and to attract new commercial enterprises. This plan, once finished, will be the first of its kind for Ceres. This alone will open doors and create opportunities that have eluded us in the past. There are many reasons businesses will be considering Ceres as a place to prosper: We have one of the lower crime rates; we have plenty of employable people for hiring; it is easy to do business with City Hall; and because we are still relatively small in size, the elected officials and city staff are easily accessed for support and problem resolution. We are about as "anti-bureaucracy" as any local government can be.
Ceres has several areas that are second to none for access from the freeway and for purposes of business development. Consider the Mitchell Road-Highway 99 interchange, which puts prospective businesses within blocks with easy access to retail and other commercial business development. It is one of the easiest access points along Highway 99 and we plan to take full advantage of this great situation.
We have also recently annexed 900 acres along Crows Landing Road, which will provide our city with a great opportunity for future development for many generations.
In addition to making community livability and safety a priority, we have made the following major priorities:
Developing a secure and safe long-term drinking water supply
Emphasizing "green" economic opportunities and increasing our energy conservation efforts.
We have already established ourselves as the only community in this region where all street lights have been modified to use energy-saving LED technology.
We have our eye on much more of the same to the extent that Ceres will start earning a reputation for being green, and for encouraging industry that produces these kinds of products to be based in our community.
Challenges await us in Ceres, but we are uniquely blessed with a large base of long-time stable residents who know this community and will work tirelessly to preserve its heritage and to move it forward into the future. Our community is, at the same time one that is diverse, and we have in many ways developed a rich relationship with many of the different groups.
We have much to do, but we have limited funds with which to work. However, we stand ready to meet the challenges. I call on all of our residents and business operators to be part of this future as we work to secure our water supply, as we develop a vibrant business environment, revitalize our downtown area and to bring about the best possible quality of life for all people who live, work, recreate or visit here. I look forward to 2013.
Vierra was appointed mayor of Ceres in January 2011 to fill out the unexpired term of Anthony Cannella and then elected in November 2011 to serve a four-year term. He previously served on the Ceres Planning Commission from 2001-2003 and on the City Council from 2003-2011.