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Merced County Times

’Tis the season to welcome new leadership

As shoppers make their last push to buy Christmas gifts, and groups and businesses hold their holiday parties and socials, local government officials are preparing to usher in new leaders, and say goodbye to others, with some notable ceremonies. 

On Monday, Dec. 17, the City of Merced is planning a Transition Reception at City Hall starting at 4:30 p.m. to welcome back re-elected Mayor Mike Murphy and Councilman Kevin Blake, along with two new Council members Delray Shelton and Fernando Echevarria. The four are expected to be sworn in at the regular council meeting that night which starts at 6 p.m.

It will also be time to say goodbye to Council members Josh Pedrozo and Michael Belluomini, who were both finishing up their terms.

The next day, Dec. 18, interestingly, the Merced County Board of Supervisors will hold their regularly scheduled meeting at 10 a.m. inside the Superior Court room on the second floor of the historic Merced County Courthouse Museum. It’s expected to be a time to meet the newest member of the board — Scott Silveira, who will be representing the West Side of the county, or District 5. 

It will also be a time to say farewell to Supervisor Jerry O’Banion — a leader who has represented the West Side — Dos Palos, Los Banos, Midway, Santa Nella, South Dos Palos and Volta — for an incredible seven terms, or nearly 30 years on the board. 

The meeting was moved to the historic location due to a construction project going on inside the Board Chambers at the County Administration building. Some of the enhancements will improve ADA accessibility.

The landmark Courthouse became a museum in 1983, and hasn’t seen regular county meetings since the 1950s. 

It will be incredibly interesting to see all the current officials take seats among the antique furnishings where long ago prosecutors and defense lawyers sat down with clients in front of the majestic dais from where the Superior Court judge presided over the proceedings. It’s not clear how many people will be allowed to sit in the old bench-style seating of the public area in the room. The old courthouse is owned by the county. It has an elevator and is considered ADA compliant. 

Amazingly, the courthouse holds the original Board of Supervisors meeting room — the “Victorian Room” — just across the hall from the courtroom. The relatively small room provides an example of how county government has grown since the 1800s, and currently houses artifacts from daily life in the 1870s to the 1920s.

The county is also welcoming in Kimberly Helms Lewis — the newly elected District Attorney. Her swearing-in ceremony, however, is expected to be held in the first days of January.

Meanwhile, four firefighters will be sworn in for service at the Merced City Fire Department. Mickey Brunelli, Daniel Gragg, David Reher and Alexander Steindel have successfully graduated from the Fire Academy. The public is invited on Friday, Dec. 21, inside the Council Chambers at City Hall.

In Atwater this week, the City Council welcomed in a new mayor, Paul Creighton, and re-elected City Council member Brian Raymond, and a new member Danny Ambriz. They also honored outgoing Mayor Jim Price and Councilmember Jim Vineyard for their service. 

Said Mayor Creighton, “I’m very optimistic and positive that with the new teams and the new direction we’re going to to see things change for the positive. We’re working with development because people want to come back to Atwater to build and call this place their home. We’ve sold record numbers of homes and our sub-developments have been sold out.”

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