(Left) Mayor Rick Cook thanks past Mayor Ralph Fernandez for his year of service to the city.

Ends term: Outgoing Mayor Ralph Fernandez lauded for leadership

December 06, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

Mayor Ralph Fernandez was retired from his year of City Council leadership with thanks and lauded by panel members for his efforts in standing tough for Santa Paula.

Fernandez, first elected to the council in 2006 and who served a previous 1-year term for the largely ceremonial mayoral position, turned the gavel over to Vice Mayor Rick Cook at the December 2 council meeting. 

“I would like to thank the council for working with me this year,” a period of time that Fernandez said seemed to “Have gone very fast.”

His priority was always the betterment of the city, a joint effort with other council members that Fernandez said works as a team, albeit not always one in total agreement.

But even such differences, he noted, “Are good for the community.... “ 

Fernandez said his wife Cathy was “very supportive,” of his responsibilities as mayor and often took care of the couple’s four daughters while he was attending to official business and functions.

“I thank my kids for being troopers, for recognizing,” his obligation to duty and for often being “very excited” at their father being an elected official, attending council meetings and having other councilmembers as well as city staff know them by name.

“I couldn’t have done it without you guys,” and Fernandez singled out City Manager Jaime Fontes for praise.

“Jaime, thank you for what you have done for me over the years, it’s never completely smooth but I think Jaime worked well to make things as smooth,” as possible. 

Fernandez also thanked city staff and said, “I appreciate all you do,” especially as the recipients of the “hard phone calls” from the public passed along by council members.

Most of all Fernandez thanked the public: “They’re the ones that put us all here, we represent the citizens of this community and represent the city as best as we can. We can only represent you if we know your needs and desires.” 

Fernandez said he suspects that sometimes the public “gets complacent” and he urged citizens to stay engaged and always let council members know their concerns.

City Clerk Judy Rice and Deputy City Clerk Lucy Blanco were also thanked and recognized by Fernandez.

“You were a great statesman for us,” and an advocate said Councilman Bob Gonzales who noted Fernandez’s involvement in ensuring Steckel Park Aviary remained open and that Santa Paula and Fillmore remained autonomous in upcoming transportation services.

“I admire your tenacity,” said Gonzales.

Also laudable was Fernandez’s consistent homework for council meetings: Gonzales said Fernandez, “Always knew the agenda inside and out,” and was prepared to conduct the meetings.

“You said something about us not always getting along; it’s fair for us to voice,” differing thoughts and opinions as noted Gonzales, “We are the community,” and are brought together to represent all.  

Fernandez, he added, also “Represented us very well outside the city and I thank you for that.... “ 

Councilman Jim Tovias agreed noting, “We’re up here running the meetings and getting others involved. As Councilman Gonzales said we don’t want a five vote on everything, you want opinions,” before moving on, “because we have a lot of responsibility to make sure the town moves on.

“Being a mayor takes a lot of time,” that Tovias said includes attending “a lot of functions.... it’s mind-boggling that Mayor Fernandez was able to accomplish,” so much with all his other responsibilities both personal and professional.

And that includes municipal: Tovias said that Fernandez’s “Taking care of city and the needs of city is commendable.”

Whether as mayor or councilman, Fernandez “Has a passion for what you do,” said Councilman Martin Hernandez who noted, “It’s a pleasure working with you.... and I always enjoyed seeing you at functions with wife and children sometimes at your side,” a demonstration of Fernandez’s skill at balancing the needs of family and community. 

Fontes said Fernandez provided, “Some outstanding leadership during the transit issues, you really stood your ground when it came time to take a stand,” on issues.

Numerous times when Fernandez would visit Fontes at his office he was accompanied by his children and Fontes vowed to continue to keep the candy jar filled for them.  

“I just hope,” newly selected Mayor Rick Cook told Fernandez during the presentation of the plaque and gavel marking the end of Fernandez’s term, “that I can fill your shoes, fill the void you’re leaving.... “

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