A swearing-in ceremony was held Thursday evening in a celebratory mood to install Mayor Chris Vierra, Councilmembers Bret Durossette and Mike Kline and City Treasurer Harry Herbert for another four years in office.
All four men were re-elected in the Nov. 3 election and sworn into office by City Clerk Lori Frontella.
Mayor Vierra was unopposed for re-election and received 2,441 votes, or 97.25 percent. A total of 271 voters declined to vote in the unchallenged race while 69 write-in names were recorded.
Vierra said the priority of the next four years will be to pursue economic development.
"Probably the biggest thing that we're going to undertake is the General Plan update," said Mayor Vierra. "We're going to start reaching out to a lot of the stakeholders and have meetings with the service clubs so that we can continue to say what we want Ceres to look like moving forward."
Vierra wants Ceres to develop shovel ready parcels for new industry like Turlock has done with its west industrial specific plan that has attracted Blue Diamond Almonds plant.
"If you take a look at what (industrial) land we have available, we don't have a lot available for development," said Vierra. "I mean, there's some over in the Miller Industrial area but beyond that we don't have a lot. So we'll look to see where we want to grow and how we can strategically put that in there."
The mayor said with the new Service/Mitchell/Highway 99 interchange being planned with its diverging diamond design, the city is interested in possibly rezoning land west of the freeway to accommodate freeway commercial.
Vierra said he remains hopeful that the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center will be freed of legal entanglements in 2016 and see the light of day. The project is planned to be anchored by a Walmart Supercenter and retailers like Applebee's have expressed interest in locating there. Vierra said other property owners in the Southern Gateway where Mitchell Road meets the freeway are beginning to show interest in starting development.
"It's kind of a domino effect. Anybody can develop now ... but they're all waiting to see the outcome of the lawsuit and once that goes then I think we're going to see a lot of development."
The Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center is in the last phases of a legal challenge mounted by a group calling themselves Citizens for Ceres. City officials believe the city will be cleared to have the project built in 2016 and remain doubtful that the group can succeed in taking the matter to the state Supreme Court. A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge has ruled the project was legally approved, despite an additional challenge to an appellate court.
Also on Thursday the city certified the results of the Nov. 3 municipal election. Durossette was the leading council vote getter in the Nov. 3 election, pulling 1,807 votes, or 38.99 percent, followed by Kline who amassed 1,713 votes, or 36.97 percent. Those commanding leads left two challengers out in the cold. Don Cool received 714 votes, or 15.41 percent. Melvin "Gene" Yeakley received 375 votes, or 8.09 percent.
Durossette was first appointed to the City Council in 2008 after the death of Councilman Rob Phipps. Besides serving on the City Council as vice mayor, he is a Ceres High School teacher and coach and serves this year as president of the Ceres Lions Club.
Kline was elected to the Ceres City Council in 2011.
This was the second uncontested mayoral contest for Vierra. No one opposed him in 2011. Vierra was appointed as mayor in January 2011 after Anthony Cannella resigned his seat to become a state senator.
Vierra said this will be his last term in office. He did not rule out a run for Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors but noted his home is within District 4, now occupied by Dick Monteith, which includes the heart of Modesto where he is not known.
Ceres voters also passed Measure D by a margin of 1,846 to 867 votes. The measure creates City Council districts in Ceres. Voters also approved Measure E, an increase in the hotel tax, by a margin of 1,571 to 1,146 votes. Measure E doubles the Transient and Occupancy Tax from five percent to 10 percent.
Three members of the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees were appointed after nobody came forward to challenge them. Incumbent Jim Kinard ran unopposed for Trustee Area 1, incumbent Faye Lane ran unopposed for Trustee Area 4 and Teresa Guerrero ran unopposed for Trustee Area 7. All three will serve four more years on the School Board.