A Winters Tale: Meetings of the minds

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Last week, as the world continued to teeter on the brink of chaos, several important meetings were held here in town.

Though they went largely unnoticed, the very future of Winters itself was the urgent matter at hand.

On Friday, members of the City Council scheduled their interviews with the finalists for the job of City Manager.  

Dozens had applied for the job, in contrast to the last time such an interview process was held two decades ago, when only one applicant showed up.

John Donlevy was the singular finalist, and we can thank him for much of what modern day Winters has become.

This time, applicants turned in resumes from across the country, and from four other nations around the globe.

Sadly, I must report the candidate from Ghana did not make the cut. Nor did the applicant from Belgium

I keep wondering how they even got the news about the job opening.

I know Mr. Donlevy had a huge email list, but I never imagined his Friday Updates to be widely circulated in Sub-Saharan Africa, or reprinted in the Brussels Times.

While the interview sessions have been kept quiet, it’s known that the Council has been winnowing the list of finalists based upon two main criteria.

In addition to general knowledge of a City Manager’s function, Members have placed a premium on each candidate’s ability to communicate well with the community.

Plus, they would very much like a new Manager who has a proven ability to apply for state and federal grants. 

As I have written before, my number one qualifier would have been the skill to locate new businesses willing to invest in Winters.  

But being a good people person is a nice bonus.

And knowing where to find free money can be helpful, too, though small towns like Winters are always last on the list when the big funds are being doled out.   

Concurrently, and also not well publicized, a handful of community members were chosen by the Council to meet with the finalists in a separate meeting.  Among those on the panel:  Chris Turkovich, Chris Calvert, and Paul Myer.

The winner therefore will have already met in advance with some of the town’s key players.

Turkovich, who represents downtown businesses, was the leading voice in another equally crucial series of meetings this past week, the outcome of which may determine just how many of our downtown restaurants will be still around once the new City Manager arrives.

Along with Emarie VanGalio, Corrine Martinez, and Carla Wroten, Turkovich met remotely with Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, in hopes that a way might be found not to lump Winters in with the rest of the county when it comes to COVID restrictions.

Saylor was said to have offered little other than sympathy for Winters’ plight, even though west of the 505 the virus numbers have been nearly non-existent.

Later in the week, an in-person meeting was held at the Winters Hotel, with Turkovich et al, plus Mayor Pro Tem Bill Biasi.

Fearing that the government might reverse itself now that restaurants can open at 25 percent capacity (barely enough to keep them afloat), Turkovich and others presented their best creative ideas for averting such a financial and cultural disaster.

Seizing upon the strategy airlines now used to keep customers flying, Turkovich outlined a plan for installing efficient air filtration and exchange systems, cleaning the air so regularly as to keep virus particles at bay, and the buildings open.

Expensive, yes, but far less so than losing a business entirely due to the draconian whims of the government’s “health experts,” they fear.

Finally, another important meeting was held last week, one in which I was a participant.

Bob Polkinghorn, Peter Hunter and I, founding members of Keep Winters Winters, met with Mayor Wade Cowan and Councilman Pierre Neu.

We wanted to coordinate our joint effort, and final push, toward convincing the voters of Winters to say “yes” to Measure A on Nov. 3.

Mailers and signs are beginning to appear in town, reminding people that even in these days of constant worry, approving an initiative in which the City and the community share responsibility for our town’s future growth is paramount.

So, as we saw last week, what happens in Winters in the near and distant future is being decided right now.

These matters are competing with a virus, fires, unbreathable air and uncertainty about our national election.

Though we are all under a great deal of stress, we must summon our strength and pay attention.

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