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Brand, Swearengin tour Sacramento for top-level introductions

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Mayor-elect Lee Brand accompanied Mayor Ashley Swearengin and other top City Hall officials to Sacramento earlier this week to personally deliver a simple message.

Fresno’s progress won’t skip a beat under the new chief executive – so let’s continue to be good partners.

“I’m very optimistic,” Brand told me by phone Wednesday evening about the future of the Fresno-Sacramento link. “I think we’ll have a good non-partisan relationship.”

Brand is a Republican in a non-partisan office. Swearengin is a Republican. California’s state government is dominated by Democrats.

Yet, Brand knew what the Democratic power brokers wanted to hear.

“I told them I will 100% continue Ashley Swearengin’s policies to make Fresno a better community,” Brand said.

Oliver Baines (District 3 council member), Tim Orman (Brand’s mayoral chief of staff) and Danielle Bergstrom (the city’s government affairs manager) joined Brand and Swearengin during the series of meetings with state officials on Monday and Tuesday.

Brand said he was impressed with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Brand said Rendon struck him as a public servant much like himself – someone who gathers all the facts “and quietly gets the job done.”

Brand said the Fresno group also met with Fresno County-based Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula and dropped by the Governor’s Office.

Wherever they went, Brand said, Sacramento officials greeted Swearengin with warmth and respect. He said Fresno’s interests are a sincere priority among lawmakers and administrators in a state with no shortage of special interests.

“It’s all to Ashley’s credit,” Brand said. “She had made tremendous relationships.”

Brand said he testified on Tuesday before the California Strategic Growth Council, which oversees the distribution of cap-and-trade money. A broad spectrum of Fresno leaders has been working long and hard to land a multi-million-dollar cap-and-trade grant to spur Fresno’s inner-city recovery. Brand said he thinks his words were another positive step in that direction.

“I think Fresno is finally going to get its fair share,” Brand said.

Should that happen, of course, wisely spending the money will be a political challenge. But that hurdle is for another day.

More to the point is the continuing and accelerating education of Lee Brand in the arts of governing as a chief executive. His Wednesday began with a 6 a.m. City Hall meeting. His City Hall endeavors ended after 7 p.m. Then it was to home for more phone calls dealing with the people’s business.

Brand is looking forward to a mid-January trip to Washington, D.C. The mission in part: Build a close working relationship with the Donald Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress.

Shouldn’t be too hard. Trump, after all is a Republican. Swearengin crafted a tight bond with the feds, and did so with Democrat Barack Obama in the White House.

It appears that the more Brand sees things from the perspective of a mayor, the more he grasps the magnitude of Swearengin’s accomplishments.

His message to Sacramento’s big shots was like a broken record: “I’m going to carry on her policies.”

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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