The optimism and enthusiasm ran high this week in the Merced City Council chambers as three new faces joined a new mayor at the dais.
Mike Murphy, who served a single term as a councilman, was sworn in as mayor during Monday’s regular meeting at City Hall. He called it “a humbling experience” to be elected mayor in his hometown.
“Merced is a city on the rise, and there isn’t anything in the world I’d rather be doing right now than being the mayor of Merced,” Murphy said. “Merced has a rich history, but I truly believe the best days are ahead of us.”
He said the city has improved economically and become a safer place in the past five years, adding that there is more to be done. Five years ago, in 2011, Merced was laying off scores of employees to make up for budget shortfalls, and has since seen a healthier economy.
Merced is a city on the rise.
Mayor Mike Murphy
And, following two years of double-digit homicide counts, Merced has recorded one so far in 2016.
“Energy and investment” will continue to come to Merced as the UC Merced Project 2020 rolls in, Murphy said. The university is undergoing a $1.4 billion upgrade to double the size of the campus.
Also taking the oath of office was teacher Anthony Martinez (District 1), nurse Jill McLeod (District 3) and Merced County Deputy District Attorney Matt Serratto (District 5).
Speaking highly of the city’s staff, Serratto showed his enthusiasm about getting to work. The northwest District 5 representative also praised nonprofits and citizens involved in community work.
“I want to encourage everybody to get involved and do something good for the city,” he said. “I can promise you I’m excited – excited to get to work.”
The downtown district’s McLeod said she wants to be a voice for constituents, so she urged them to speak out. “I hope that attendance at City Council meetings is something people will consider doing more frequently,” she said.
Martinez, who represents southeast Merced’s District 1, said he was encouraged by the election and its record turnout. The Merced County Registrar of Voters Office has said 73.2 percent of voters cast ballots.
It shows a resiliency in this town. It shows a dedication to progress. It shows that nothing can stop us.
Councilman Anthony Martinez, District 1
“It shows a resiliency in this town,” he said. “It shows a dedication to progress. It shows that nothing can stop us.”
Also during the meeting, the council unanimously appointed Councilman Kevin Blake, who is on his first term in office, as the new mayor pro-tem.
A section of the meeting was set aside to honor outgoing Mayor Stan Thurston. Councilman Tony Dossetti, who did not seek re-election, and Councilman Noah Lor, who has termed out of a council seat, also were recognized.
In their first meeting as a new council, members approved a pilot program to open the Boys & Girls Club on Saturdays, which would cost $12,490 for the next six months. The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Josh Pedrozo casting the “no” vote.
The council also approved dates for the new year’s town hall-style meetings: Feb. 8 at Rivera Middle School, 945 Buena Vista Drive; Feb. 16 at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center, 645 W. Main St.; and Feb. 23 at Tenaya Middle School, 760 W. Eighth St. All three meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m.