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Crowder rejoins Hughson council
Tie votes plagued the Hughson City Council's decision Monday night to appoint a new member. Those ties gave way to compromise to finally tap former mayor Thomas "Thom" Crowder, 45, to the council.

A council vacancy was created when then councilman Ramon Bawanan was elected to become mayor on Nov. 4. To fill his unexpired term of two years, the council sought applications from interested citizens, which were due at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Two other applicants were considered and interviewed at Monday's special City Council meeting: Henry G. Hesling and Miguel Oseguera. Hesling ran in the Nov. 4 election but lost to firefighter Doug Humphreys and rancher Ben J. Manley. Oseguera works at the local pharmacy.

Each councilman was given a chance to nominate one of the three. Bawanan chose Hesling because he ran in the last election but came in place with 980 votes. Councilmen Humphreys and Jerry Ledermann both chose Oseguera while Manley nominated Crowder. In the first round of voting, members tied 2-2 on all four nominations.

In the second round of voting, Crowder's name came up first and Bawanan switched to him, giving him the three votes he needed for appointment.

Crowder, owner of Hughson Ambulance Company, gave the longest answers put to him during his council interview. He reviewed his long history with Hughson city government. Crowder first served on the City Council from 1992 to 1994, and then served as mayor of Hughson from 1994 to 2000. He stepped off the council but was elected as mayor again for a two-year term in 2004.

"I can hit the ground running," said Crowder, who stated that he shares the council's vision to grow business, industrial and residential opportunities. Crowder said Hughson needs to fill a niche and become a destination location, possibly turning Hughson Avenue - the city's main street - into a boutique and antique center. He also wants to see business facades cleaned up and decorative lights permanently placed in tree lining the street. Crowder suggested a country produce store in the middle of town to draw on Hughson's historic link with the agricultural community.

Oseguera, a Hughson resident since 1994, said he offered listening skills as a councilman. He said he wanted to preserve Hughson's small-town atmosphere while seeing it grow and prosper. The volunteer firefighter suggested he could represent the Hispanic community in Hughson. Oseguera said his chief priority would have been to initiate a leaf and limb pick-up program.

When asked for his assessment of city government, Crowder offered criticism, saying the council relies too heavily on staff for direction when members should be out collecting opinions of residents. Crowder also expressed a desire to see residents more involved in their government.

"You have to go out and be an active participant in the community and find out if that's what their desires and wants are," Crowder told the council, "because what happens is once we set the ball in motion, a lot of these folks aren't aware ... and all of a sudden they're up in arms because we apparently didn't give them enough information."

The issues facing Hughson when he was mayor are the same issues facing the city today, according Crowder. The wastewater treatment plant will need to be upgraded and a new domestic water supply needs to be put in place. The city is involved with the Turlock Irrigation District regional surface water project. Crowder also wants to see the crime rate lowered in Hughson. Chief among his concerns, however, is to protect the city's revenue streams in order to protect the level of services.

Hesling, who recently served seven months on the council, cited similar concerns. He spoke about his extensive background in public service, which started as a small town police chief in Pennsylvania at age 23.

The special meeting began with a controversy as Humphreys and Manley expressed concerns that Hesling's application was irregular. Hesling e-mailed the city clerk at 3:22 p.m. Friday to throw his hat in the ring. But to make the application legitimate, city clerk Mary Heminger ran the application to Hesling's house for his signature. She claims she brought it back before 5 p.m. but some on the council weren't so sure.

"I'm not happy with the way it turned out," said Manley.

Humphreys, who brought up the issue, said: "It doesn't sit well with me ... Accepting an e-mail is a little bit of a stretch to me." He said the manner in which the application was processed was outside the bounds of procedure.

While Mayor Bawanan suggested that the process should be clearly outlined in future processes, he saw no problem with considering Hesling's application.

"Was anybody harmed in this?" asked Bawanan. "Nobody was harmed. Nobody was prevented from applying who wanted to apply."

Councilman Jerry Ledermann also saw no problems, saying, "I could care less."

City Attorney John Stovall said the application process was not a matter of legality but "more a point of order."