Lemoore citizens look to husband, wife team to provide local leadership

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Eddie and Myeisha Neal, he a member of the Lemoore City Council, and she recently elected to the Lemoore Elementary School Board, in the Lemoore City Council Chambers.
Eddie and Myeisha Neal, he a member of the Lemoore City Council, and she recently elected to the Lemoore Elementary School Board, in the Lemoore City Council Chambers.

They are the city’s new power couple, Lemoore’s own Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe and Kathy Neves and President Donald Trump and Steve Bannon – but on a much smaller scale.

Lemoore’s Eddie and Myeisha Neal, like most of the people listed, share many of the same attributes: marriage, children, a strong work ethic and an unbridled desire to make their community a better place – through hard work, perseverance, and an undying belief in the welfare of the people of Lemoore.

Myeisha Neal, at the March 14 Lemoore Elementary School Board meeting.
Myeisha Neal, at the March 14 Lemoore Elementary School Board meeting.

They are proud Lemoore residents, and both serve in unique positions of leadership within the community. In December, Eddie was sworn into his second four-year term as a member of the Lemoore City Council, elected in a landslide – Lemoore style – finishing well ahead in a field of five candidates.

Myeisha. 37, also had something to be proud of, because on the same night that hubby Eddie, 48, was elected to his second term, she was elected to her first term as a member of the Lemoore Union Elementary School Board – her first knock on that elective office door.

Eddie’s route to service has indeed a long one, a journey that took him from his days as a talented athlete on the football field, wrestling mats, and track stadiums to traveling much of the country as a professional boxer – with an overall 18-3 record – and then to the oil derricks of the Gulf Coast where he braved the elements – and more – from the precarious decks of a floating oil rig.

In addition to a stellar career as a high school football player, he earned a California State Community College State Championship in wrestling while studying at Fresno City College.

Lemoore citizens look to husband, wife team to provide local leadership

Myeisha’s journey took her from her birthplace in Pasadena to Hanford where she graduated from high school and began an educational sojourn that includes a degree from West Hills College, and then a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Fresno Pacific.

“I wanted to be a lawyer,” said Myeisha. “I’m going to go back to school and get my MBA, and I’m still thinking about a degree in law.”

The talented and friendly couple are raising four children: Azalea, 17, Michael, 12, Joshua, 10, and Christian, just three years old.

The two of them met initially many years ago. “I met Eddie when I was just five years old,” remembered Myeisha. The two met again many years later at a local gospel event. “We were at West Hills College during the Gospel and Gumbo Celebration, and he was there,” she recalled.

As the rest is history – so they say.

Eddie comes from a well-known Lemoore family. His father, Glen Neal, who recently passed away, served for decades as the pastor at Lilly of the Valley Church. Neal’s mother, Darlene, is well known as well, thanks to her leadership of the church choir and her amazing Aretha Franklin-like vocals.

Eddie was a youth minister in his father’s church and continues to spread the word, along with wife Myeisha, both of whom are leaders in their church.

Eddie was one of five children of Glen and Darlene, and returned to Lemoore from a life of boxing and earning top dollar on oil rigs, to help care for his sister Denise, with whom he was close. His sister was suffering from stage four cancer and passed away in 2007.

Lemoore citizens look to husband, wife team to provide local leadership

For several years, he was employed by the City of Lemoore’s Parks and Recreation Department. He initially ran for council in 2010, but fell short. He had more success in 2012, when on only his second attempt, he won a seat on the Lemoore City Council.

Why run? “This is my home,” said Neal. “This is my community, and I wanted to make a difference – to better my community.”

For Myeisha, her recent election to the school board seems almost a natural extension of her life and career. “I’ve always been interested in government, even at West Hills College,” she said. “I was vice president of the Student Government Association. I also earned the President’s Award from the late Don Warkentin,” then president of West Hills College Lemoore.

“When Eddie went into public office, his service motivated me to go higher,” said Myeisha, who decided to run for the Lemoore Elementary School District Trustee Area, in which she lives. She won handily in last year’s election.

“We campaigned as a family and knocked on a lot of doors.”

While it’s still early in her elective career, Myeisha says one of her primary goals as a board member is to bridge what she says is a gap between the district and parents. “I want mainly to be a positive influence in the school district,” and assist the community in understanding the needs of students in regards to programs like Common Core and supplemental services and their effectiveness throughout the district.

She has many areas of interest when it comes to improving the district. She cites the continued safety of students, staff, and personnel and health and healthy food initiatives as concerns. She’s very pleased with the district’s Student Wellness Plan and plans to get even more involved in the district.

She likes and gets along well with district officials and her fellow board members. “Everybody gets along well,” she said. “I like the other board members. There’s a lot of wisdom there and a lot of innovation (in the district). We make a really great team.”

Myeisha no doubt found her love of education while in school by participating in athletics as a member of the track and field and cross country teams. Her grades and her social skills helped her attain a spot on the school’s debate team.

Myeisha is her husband’s top advisor. “We are Team Neal,” she smiled. “We work together well. We do talk about things, but I never have suggested that he vote one way or the other.”

And Councilman Neal has done a lot of voting the past four years, including spearheading the effort to remove the former mayor, Billy Siegel, from his lofty perch as mayor. According to Neal, it was Siegel’s perceived disrespect for fellow councilmembers, and the public, that raised his ire. “He disrespected people, senior citizens, and he never apologized,” remembered Neal.  “I felt he should be held accountable. I felt that our council needs to be held accountable, and if one person looks bad, we all look bad. I called for him to step down.”

Enough councilmembers agreed with Neal and voted to remove him from the mayor’s position, the first Lemoore mayor ever removed from the job.

He is quite pleased with the current makeup of the council. “I feel we have a diverse council, and I think that’s a good thing. We all have good ideas to bring to Lemoore.”

At times, he was on opposite ends of votes, including early in his first term when a Siegel-led coalition shuttered the city’s planning department. Only Councilmember Willard Rodarmel voted with Neal to preserve the department which both of them felt was vital to preserve Lemoore’s growth.

He voted against a move by some councilmembers to create a council liaison with the city manager, a sort of shadow city manager that would sit in on meetings with the manager. Fortunately, Neal had help putting the brakes on that proposal when two other councilmembers joined him in sacking the position.

His calm demeanor and well-intentioned concern for the welfare of the city and its citizens resonated with the public, who easily re-elected him in November by a wide margin, a turnout that told Neal that Lemoore’s residents seemed to like him. “I had a deep sense of satisfaction, that just maybe the folks in Lemoore seem to like me,” he said.

Among many goals, Eddie seeks ways of improving services for kids. He supported the recently established Police Activities League and the expansion of the Cinnamon Recreation Complex – and he’s worked hard the past few years to help establish a Boys’ and Girls’ Club in Lemoore.

Both Eddie and Myeisha enjoy speaking to kids at local schools and community events, and both belong to the Lemoore Kiwanis Club, practically a requirement for local leaders. Joe and Kathy Neves, Lemoore’s other “power couple,” are Kiwanians as well.

Not surprisingly, both Eddie and Myeisha cite coaches as having been positive role models in their lives. For Eddie, it was his football coaches, - Jim Hammond and J.T. Reasoner – who inspired him. “There was a guy who took his time to teach you the art of the (football) game,” said Neal of Hammond, perhaps the most successful coach Lemoore High School ever produced.

As for Reasoner, “He was like a father figure to me,” he said. “He was an aggressive guy, but he was all heart.”

For Myeisha, her mentors included Junior Olympics coaches Willard Epps, a Tulare Fire Department chief and Jim MacDonald, her track and field coach, both of whom seemed to instill in her a desire to learn, and to excel in everything she does.

Somewhere along the line somebody, somewhere, made a real impact on these two future civic leaders, and now they’re giving back – and that’s certainly a positive thing for the City of Lemoore.

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