Approximately 30 community members attended the Smart Valley Places Community Meeting, held at Westside Ministries on February 10th, in order to seek more information regarding the Smart Valley Places Community Leadership Institute program that will be held here in Turlock.
Turlock is one of the 14 cities within the 8 counties of San Joaquin Valley participating in the Smart Valley Places partnership, which promotes sustainable growth and aims to create safer, healthier and more economically viable communities. Within Stanislaus County, three communities, West Modesto, South Modesto, and West Turlock, were chosen to participate with local government to help achieve these goals.
The Community Leadership Institute is a free six-session series of half-day trainings designed to foster an effective working relationship between community residents, city planners, and decision makers. The six sessions that the institute will provide include: Local Government and Sustainable Communities, Land Use and Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Housing and Community Development, Local and Regional Transportation, Water/Wastewater Management, and Environmental Equity.
The Director of Westside Ministries, JoLynn DiGrazia opened the meeting with an inspirational account of witnessing the difference the members of a community can make, if given the opportunity. The Program Coordinator of Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children, Sallie Ayala Perez, conducted a brief presentation for the attending community members explaining what the Community Leadership Institute’s goals were and how they could become involved.
Also in attendance were Turlock Mayor John Lazar, Stanislaus County Supervisor of District 2 Vito Chiesa, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden, and Turlock Planning Director Debbie Whitmore. Each of these members of local government encouraged the community members to not only become involved with the Institute, but also to help promote positive changes within their own community.
City Manager Roy Wasden encouraged Turlock community members to have high expectations of their community.
“We, in our expectations, have the ability to affect the things around us,” stated Wasden. “Share the recognition that you control the future and help be a part of that.”
Planning Director Debbie Whitmore also had hopeful words for the community members present, encouraging them that the institute is “about you becoming involved in and participating in the decision making process.”
Whitmore ended the meeting with a quote by Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, which states, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
On Wednesday after the meeting, Perez reported that they currently have a combination of residents, business owners, young adults and college students interested in getting involved in the project through the Community Leadership Institute.
The project is still being put together as Perez explains that details such as meeting times depend on the participants involved. The Community Leadership Institute hopes to begin later in March.
“We don’t have a cap set for participant involvement, nor do we have set dates for when meetings will take place,” said Perez. “We are still recruiting participants, targeting residents and community leaders from the West Turlock community. Anyone interested can contact me.”
For more information regarding Smart Valley Places Community Leadership Institute and how you can get involved, contact Program Coordinator Sallie A. Perez at (209) 541-0101 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.