Journalism teachers Kristy Jackson and Rigoberto Garcia took eight elementary school students from PUSD Migrant Summer School sites, Monte Vista and Olive Street schools, on a field trip to Porterville City Hall Thursday.
The students took a tour of City Hall, looked at City Manager John Lollis office, which dates back to when City Hall was built in the 1930s, and spoke with Lollis in a relaxed manner before their interview with Mayor Martha Flores.
Lollis asked the students if they’d like to work at City Hall in the various departments, such as planning, park and leisure, the fire department, police department, or in the finance department.
He asked them to tell him what they’d like to do as adults, and one young girl said she wanted to be a nurse. Lollis said the EMTs in the fire department were a similar occupation.
Another student said he wanted to become a doctor. Quite a few of the students wanted to be teachers or soccer players, one wanted to be a firefighter, and another a dentist.
Lollis thanked the students for talking with him and said, “You’ve been great.”
Mayor Martha Flores then introduced herself to the students who sat quietly with their teachers and Sergio Rodriguez, who is in charge of the migrant program, in the City Hall Chamber.
She asked the kids to sit in the mayor’s seat and other seats of the vice-mayor and City Council members. Flores then showed students the gavel and pounded it like she was calling a meeting to order. She asked them how it felt to sit on the other side of the podium, “How does it look sitting on this side?”
Flores told the students she sat in the back row during council meetings for 13 years before she thought about running for mayor. She asked the kids, “Are you intimidated sitting up here? Because we are working for you. You, the public voted us into office.”
She explained to the students that it is sometimes a little tougher on the City Council’s side of the fence, because when the public gets to comment, the council members have to listen, and cannot comment.
Flores handed out a council meeting agenda to the students, and told them when they asked her about her former occupation, that she retired from working for Porterville Unified School District where she worked for 30 years.
She asked if the kids were comfortable, and said she brought the questions they had asked.
Flores told them her name, and handed out her business card, explaining they had her name, and how to contact her, and said, “The card represents access to me. You can call me on my cell phone, and reach me electronically. Or you can leave a message with Mrs. Mendez. You are free to contact me at any time.”
Flores told the students she was born and raised in Porterville and also she raised her son in Porterville. She was not a migrant, her parents were active in the community and they did not have a migrant program when she was here. She also told the students that she is learning everyday and continues to read often, especially having to read the agendas for the City Council and all of the proposals and information packets that are constantly submitted to the mayor and council members.
Flores explained that John Lollis is the boss of all the people working at City Hall and the City Attorney advises and takes care of the legal issues.
When the students asked Flores if she planned on becoming the mayor when she was growing up, she said she never knew until she ran for office that she’d be interested in becoming the mayor. She served on the City Council for two years, and the people voted for her to become mayor when there was a reorganization of the council. That is when she thought she’d like to serve as mayor, and she told the students she won in 3 - 2 votes, and said, “I ran to make a difference. When you run for office you work for everyone.”
Flores has served on many boards, such as Family Crisis Network, Sierra View District Hospital, and represents Tulare County Association of Governments.
She is working on the census committee with local agencies, and said, working as mayor, “It’s a lot of work and it’s worth it.”
“There are many year long projects, like water,” said Flores, “We are working with people to make sure they have water. We are still not out of the drought.”
Other projects are the revitalization of buildings downtown, and bringing new businesses to town, but that all has to do with the availability of water. One of the things she would like to change in Porterville is the homelessness, she said, and mentioned one of the big accomplishments she is looking forward to is the Navigation Center, which will help provide services to the homeless in town.
There are a lot of projects “that are works in progress,” said Flores. And they are all important to bring businesses to Porterville, like the Super Walmart which will be coming in 2020.
Flores has been working since she was 17, she told the students. She began as a secretary, typing on a manual typewriter, she worked at a bank, and a title company, and said she began to use the skills she learned in high school. She worked at Porterville Unified School District for 30 years, and worked with Val Staley. She’s served on multiple boards and worked for non-profits and worked for campaigns. And she’s used all of her training and knowledge to move forward, and now she’s the mayor.
Participating in the trip to see the mayor were journalism students Adeli Vasquez, Maria Farfan, Monica Farfan, Sandy Jimenez, Paola Ibarra, Steven Mendez, Joel Perez Villalobos, Anna Mendoza and Sebastian Andrade.