Council election: Joe Simonson

By The Leader Staff
Candidate Joe Simonson
Candidate Joe Simonson

In an effort to inform the voters of Lemoore, The Leader has asked that the seven candidates running for three spots on the Lemoore City Council, to the best of their ability, answer a series of questions we feel are important and need to be answered – and discussed by Lemoore’s residents. We also asked each candidate to provide background information as well.

The candidates running for the city council are incumbent Eddie Neal, former Lemoore Recreation Director Joe Simonson, longtime Lemoore resident Ray Etchegoin, local educator Holly Blair, Navy Veteran Beverly Halliman, former City of Lemoore Planning Commissioner Dave Brown, and Kings County Administrative Assistant Angela Valenzuela.

Voting actually begins on Oct. 11 when Kings County begins sending out absentee and mail-in ballots. Voters can return the ballots immediately, or bring them to voting precincts on November 8, the day of the election.

Joe Simonson

Joe Simonson, 58, the former City of Lemoore Recreation Department Director, is a native of San Diego who arrived in Kings County with his family and his father, a Navy veteran. Simonson has a brother who retired as a Navy Commander and a son is currently stationed at NAS Lemoore. He has been married for 35 years. He and his wife have three sons, Kyle and Sean (twins) and a son Trevor. Kyle was killed by a drunk driver in 2008. Trevor is an attorney in Fresno.

Simonson currently is employed as a construction estimator, project coordinator for Carvalho Construction in Hanford. Simonson worked for the City of Lemoore for 23 years, starting out as maintenance worker and was promoted through the ranks until eventually becoming Director of Parks and Rec in November, 2007. Simonson has also been involved with Lemoore Rotary, Laton Youth Boosters, Lemoore High School Football Boosters, and LHS Golf Boosters.

Earlier this year Simonson retired and accepted a $100,000 payment from the city after he agreed to give up a claim for “personal injury and distress,” according to a settlement agreement. City Manager Andi Welsh announced his retirement nearly three months after Simonson was placed on paid administrative leave as city officials conducted an investigation into allegations of misconduct. Details of that investigation, conducted by an outside source, have not been revealed.

What or who motivated you to run for a seat on the Lemoore City Council?

I have dedicated 23 years of my life to make this community better than I found it.  My concern is that the current fiscal policies are going to ruin, in a short period of time, this community by exhausting the reserves that it took decades to accumulate.  Current fiscal policies are creating more expenditures without additional revenue.

What in your opinion is the most important issue facing Lemoore today?

Not just one issue, but several listed below in order of urgency:

Misuse of public funds is the top issue.  This has manifested itself in several ways: irresponsible appropriation of funds, diverting money from service/general labor employee positions to administrative payroll (too many chiefs, not enough Indians), and taking money from an impound account (a Prop 218 account) that is reserved for one specific neighborhood through Prop 218 and diverting those funds to another neighborhood with the full blessing of the current sitting council after being advised that what they were doing was misappropriation of funds.

Lack of corporate knowledge brought about by eliminating employees with a working knowledge of the day-to-day operations of municipal government.  A prime example of that is commencing a street project in front of Lemoore’s only high school on the first day of school. 

Returning to use of prevailing wage in contracts because we have eliminated qualified personnel to do these tasks in-house.  Taxpayers will bear the burden of this decision by a minimum of a 25% decrease in savings for each construction/renovation project. 

Allowing the Lemoore Police Department, in conjunction with other agencies, to continue to infringe on Lemoore Recreation opportunities by occupying space within the Lemoore Recreation Department.  The City of Hanford and the County has far more resources to take on these responsibilities than the City of Lemoore.

In your opinion, is Lemoore in a positive place right now, or are there issues that need to be addressed that may or may not have an effect on the future of this city.

Because of the restraint of past City Managers, Lemoore has a reserve that has been healthy enough to weather many storms; but, at the current rate of spending, and with our current inexperienced city manager, we are at risk of putting the City in jeopardy financially.

What is the first thing you would seek to change, or improve upon, if elected?

Minimizing regulation on incoming businesses.  Waving as many fees as possible to attract jobs and sales tax to our community.  See Selma Auto Mall as an example.

How can Lemoore attract industrial and retail development? Identify, if you can, current efforts to attract retail, for example CrisCom and its contract with the city. Is this a good thing?

While I am a big believer in CrisCom’s efforts to recruit business to the City of Lemoore, it is critical that the City of Lemoore work on their West Side Impact and Development Fees to make this come to fruition. 

Do you feel Lemoore is a safe community? Why or why not?

I feel Lemoore is one of the safest communities, not only in the Central Valley but possibly in the state.  I believe the statistics will bear this out. 

What program or programs would you immediately seek to implement if elected?

A citizen’s oversight committee of the fiscal spending of the City of Lemoore.

A policy to increase the empowerment of the Planning Commission and Recreation Commission of the City of Lemoore.  If Council overrides the recommendation of one of these bodies, they should have a legal reason for doing so, otherwise the recommendation stands and should be implemented.

A policy to allow the council to review personnel decisions prior to implementation, specifically if the current structure is altered.  For example:  The creation of new positions such as Assistant to the City Manager or Assistant City Manager.

Recent legislation is forcing all California municipalities to only do business with Union contractors (pay prevailing wage).  The City of Lemoore is playing into their hands with recent personnel decisions that will diminish what the City can produce for the citizens of Lemoore.  Instead we should be hiring skilled tradesmen to circumvent these requirements and the resulting costs.

Any final thoughts that may not have been asked, but that you feel is an important issue, program, or need?

I’ve worked for six City Managers during my tenure with the City.  Each one had different skill sets and visions for the City, though each realized one underlying truth: You must spend less than you bring in, or you put the citizens at risk.  Currently, the citizens are at risk.

During my time with the City of Lemoore, I independently uncovered corruption (embezzlement and theft) from the Finance Director to the Golf Course.  I have the ability to look at budgets, warrant registers and discern the discrepancies, with the fortitude and integrity to bring them to light and hold the guilty parties accountable, regardless of their political connections or how it may affect me personally.

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