Fresno Council Celebrates Women of the Year – GV Wire

Celebrating Fresno’s women of the year as a group, city council members humorously acknowledged recent tensions.

In the past, council members and the mayor celebrated the winners at separate events. On Tuesday morning, the city celebrated together at City Hall.

A week after trading accusations and insults, the banter was high spirits as officials paid tribute to the women who contributed to Fresno.

“When women are in charge, you get things done,” Mayor Jerry Dyer said.

Encourage women in law enforcement

“I went for a ride and it completely changed my perspective.”Fresno PD Captain Mindy Casto

Fresno Police Captain Mindy Casto was honored for Bredefeld-nominated District 6. She is the highest ranked woman in the department.

Casto started at the age of 16 in the explorer program, and he has now served for over 25 years. Law enforcement was not his focus growing up. President of the FFA in high school, Casto thought she was working on the family farm.

“I took a ride and it completely changed my perspective. And from that moment I knew that was what I wanted to do. When someone calls 9-1-1, I want to be the one to come and help him solve the problem,” Casto said.

Last week, Chief Paco Balderrama pledged to hire more women in the department and in leadership positions.

Her advice to young women considering working in law enforcement?

“Not everything is like on television. These are usually the most exciting parts. The truth is that officers use force less than half a percent of all their contacts in the field,” Casto said. “It’s not just about fighting, running, jumping and that sort of thing. It’s a lot more gray matter and there are plenty of hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of excitement and sometimes fear.

Tark’s former secretary loves hockey

District 4 Councilman Tyler Maxwell (right) pays tribute to Iris Levesque. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Iris Levesque noticed kids getting into hockey because of Wayne Gretzky in the mid-1990s. But they had no place to play. When she saw kids about to be kicked out for playing the sport on a tennis court in Cary Park, she took action.

“These children are not juvenile delinquents. They were just kids who just needed a place to play their sport,” Levesque said. “I’m just defending the voice of children. My idea is that if we increase the number of places where our children can play, we will all be better off.

Levesque founded a non-profit organization, Let the Kids Skate, to help bring inline hockey to Fresno. She got funds, equipment and places to play, in collaboration with the city and the NHL. At least two parks in Fresno have in-line rinks thanks to Levesque’s efforts.

“Without Iris, I can tell you a lot of these kids wouldn’t have this opportunity,” Councilman Tyler Maxwell said of his nominee.

Levesque is a longtime employee of Fresno State, who once served as secretary to legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.

Above: Iris Levesque was secretary to Jerry Tarkanian. Below: the Let the Kids Skate program. (Images: special for GV Wire)

Dyer surprises his city manager

As the celebration unfolded on the second floor of City Hall, other city staff were busy in their offices working on the budget, including Mayor Jerry Dyer’s City Manager, Georgeanne White.

Much to his chagrin, Dyer demanded that White attend the ceremony. Everyone knew she would be honored as Dyer’s Woman of the Year, except her.

Even her family hid on the third floor when White came out of her office.

“It’s an honor, and it’s really been my life for 20, 21 years. So while I’m never looking for recognition or awards, it’s certainly appreciated and it’s nice to be able to feel valued” , White told the crowd.

Above: Mayor Jerry Dyer surprises his City Manager, Georgeanne White, with the Woman of the Year award. Below: White’s family and friends “hid” on the third floor for the surprise. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Council members joke about recent tensions

The tension was so thin you could cut it with a joke.

After a week of accusations of wasteful spending, ethics violations and general insults, the seven members of the Fresno City Council and the mayor took a break to celebrate.

Miguel Arias, one of the council members in his colleague Garry Bredefeld’s crosshairs, joked that Eat It Up’s catered meal was paid for by the council chairman (true) and each attendant would be charged per sandwich .

Dyer noted that the flowers for his candidate, Georgeanne White, were purchased with his own funds.

Councilmen Garry Bredefeld (left) and Miguel Arias share a moment of levity after a tense week. (GV Wire/David Taub)

The city will form a women’s commission

Fresno City Council Speaker Nelson Esparza announced the formation of a city commission on the status of women and girls. A state grant of $25,000 will help get the group off the ground.

What is the commission’s mission?

“(To look at) external issues like poverty, homelessness, education, really kind of those big-picture issues. But also, I don’t think it stops them from looking more inward and evaluating some sort of organization of our own city,” Esparza said.

Esparza said details of what the commission will look like, the number of members and who will make the appointments will be revealed later. He plans to propose the commission at a council meeting next month.

Women of the Year

Above: Councilor Esmeralda Soria pays tribute to Agnes Rhodes. Below: Councilman Miguel Arias honors the COVID-19 Equity Project. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Women of the Year:

— District 1 (Esmeralda Soria): Agnes Rhodes, educator

– District 2 (Mike Karbassi): Jessica Vaughn, Founder of San Joaquin River Socials

— District 3 (Miguel Arias): COVID-19 Equity Project (over 50 women)

— District 4 (Tyler Maxwell): Iris Levesque, founder of Let the Kids Skate

– District 5 (Luis Chavez): Valerie Davis, Fresno Unified Administrator

— District 6 (Garry Bredefeld): Mindy Casto, Fresno Police Captain

— District 7 (Nelson Esparza): Arlene Medina, Community Services Officer

— Mayor (Jerry Dyer): Georgeanne White, City Manager

Above: District 5 Woman of the Year Valerie Davis (middle) poses with friends. Below: Councilman Nelson Esparza, Lt. Rob Beckwith, District 7 Woman of the Year Arlene Medina and Chief Paco Balderrama. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Fresno Councilman Mike Karbassi (left) honors Jessica Vaughn, District 2 Woman of the Year. (GV Wire/David Taub)

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