Just four years after three Hughson City Council members were recalled after being found in violation of the Brown Act, the town's municipal code and the Fair Political Practices regulations, the town of Hughson appears to be on the up and up.
"To be honest, we don't talk about it much. We are a very forward-looking council and community," said Mayor Matt Beekman, who served on the council during the town's tumultuous years.
The positive growth the town has experienced was perhaps most perceptible this holiday season as Hughson residents and elected officials collaborated on several events to help those in need and continue to rebuild a sense of community in the town: More than 125 volunteers worked to provide Thanksgiving dinner to those in need at the Hughson Senior Center; the Hughson Chamber of Commerce worked with local sponsors to pull off the first annual Christmas Festival including a parade and tree lighting ceremony; the City partnered with the Citizens for Healthy Community and the Hughson Fire Protection District for "Operation Santa Clause" which allowed officials to recognize nine residents who went out of their way to boost the morale of the town by decorating their homes; and the Hughson Family Resource Center worked with St. Anthony's Catholic Church to produce Christmas baskets, complete with toys and clothing, for more than 450 local families.
While Beekman said that Hughson's success this holiday is indicative of strong community, he noted that there has been an overall change in the dynamic of the town, particularly between the way the City of Hughson and its residents interface.
"During that point of turmoil, and prior to that, there was a culture where the city was responsible just for the city," explained Beekman. "But, in a small community we need to work together. I think looking at things with a broader perspective community wide has contributed to our success."
Beekman also said that the city's evident growth extends far beyond the holiday season, noting that the town's turnout for the National Night Out event has doubled each year over the past three years.
In 2014 the City of Hughson also participated in two joint ventures. The City worked with the Hughson Unified School District to jointly fund a sports field and partnered with the Hughson Volunteer Fire Department, a separate entity that does not fall under the City's purview because its boundaries exceed the town's limits, to fund a command vehicle.
These ventures are "an outgrowth" of the collaboration of the town's Two Plus Two Committees said Beekman. These committees allow two individuals from the City and two individuals from the school district and the fire department to meet quarterly, in turn keeping all entities abreast of each other's developments.
"Collaboration is the key word," said Beekman, noting that the City's consistently balanced budget, 33 percent reserves, and increased property values have also contributed to the elevated sense of community in the town. "There's definitely a synergy in the town right now and that's showcasing the strength of our community."