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Mayor Lopez outlines goals in 'State of the City'
Mayor Lopez State of the City
Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez delivered his first-ever "State of the CIty" address at the Ceres Community Center on Thursday afternoon. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Javier Lopez touted successes in bringing new businesses to Ceres in his first-ever “State of the City” address on Thursday afternoon, and outlined some of his goals for Ceres moving out of the pandemic.

About 60 turned out for the 19-minute speech at the Ceres Community Center, including Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, Supervisors Channce Condit and Manny Grewal, Assemblyman Adam Gray, firefighters and police officers and the mayors of Oakdale, Turlock, Hughson and Modesto.

Lopez began with a short history of the incorporation of the city of Ceres starting on Feb. 25, 1918. 

He mentioned the council’s difficulty in replacing Channce Condit after he resigned a council seat in January 2021 and how the appointment was filled by a special election in which James Casey prevailed. The year also included the four councilmembers in disagreement over the budget and a special meeting to pass a short-term budget to pay employees. The year also included the departure of Tom Westbrook as city manager and his replacement of Alex Terrazas.

“He came in and changed so many things in a positive direction for the city,” Mayor Lopez said of Terrazas. “The morale and how we ran the city was different. We had so many great things on our horizon.”

When Vice Mayor Couper Condit resigned, Lopez said the council was in more disagreement yet decided on tapping former Councilman Mike Kline. At all times, Lopez said, the council “worked together on many various complicated issues, on projects, contracts and ultimately, we always put the city first.”

“Council leadership is important to me, and our progress is showing. Finally I can say with confidence we have a good group. We are working as a team.”

The rest of Lopez’s speech read as follows:


From the top-down, our top department head roles are responsible for people. How the city council works with and set expectations with them will result in positive outcomes; expanding morale, impacting decisions resulting in greater progress.

It takes a personal effect when our city manager Alex brings his knowledge and experience to the table, setting higher standards than ever before. Where there may be some fears that come from change, I assure you his heart is in the right place. But his direction will place everyone in a position that will provide you the tools that you need to execute your departmental goals.

This city cannot operate without Diane (Nayarez-Peres) as our city clerk. Not only is she a huge player in composing the agenda, but she also works closely with Alex, the mayor’s office and City Council. Her wealth of knowledge cannot be replaced. Her passion and dedication reflect as she sits on the dais and has been crucial to assisting in running the meetings.

The role that our City Attorney Tom Hallinan plays is important in advising us on a wide range of city business and city actions.

Our Chief of Police Rick Collins has led his department with pride, integrity and continues to this day to exceed expectations – an incredible leader paving the road and leaving an example on how a police department across the nation can take note from.

Our Fire Department Chief Alan Ernst has taken on the task of leading our region. He has kept the lines of communication open as he and his department put out fires. To say the least, he has added to the ever-changing city as we grow our efforts.

Finance Director Leticia Dias has been crucial in keeping this city sound, preparing our budget and our revenue collection. Any time the city seeks to make a decision that will affect our budget, she makes sure we stay with-in our set parameters. You can’t run a city without having a concrete finance director who has taken us this far.

Theresa Roland, our former HR director, rolled out new and exciting programs while keeping our city intact from the inside. Trusted with personal information and taking care of our staff. She was involved in making instrumental changes and was very engaged in the process.

Sam Royal has taken on the task of Interim Public Works Director while still leading the Engineering Department. He has shown his willingness to work with our leaders and complete tasks without hesitation.

Christopher Hoem, our Community Development Director, his filled the gap and came in at just the right time as he guides his department.

Robert Ball, IT Manager, has been making sure our lines of communication are up and running, providing tech support in many fashions within the IT department.

Joey Chavez, our new Parks and Recreation Manager, along with his staff, have been bringing new and exciting programs and events to the city.

It requires team work to run the city’s day to day operations all while we sleep sound. I’m confident that the city is running efficiently, and our citizens can depend on City staff.

Community Development

Down-up approach in building, sustainable communities enhancing community economic and environmental goals. Community members working with our city to improve the lives of our citizens. Including health, education, employment, enterprise development, infrastructure and town planning. On the city end, we have improved our system plan processing for building permits, and we have gone digital.

We added a new front counter terminal for customer support making it more user-friendly. This department has been involved in approving projects such as the Sam Bella Plaza a six-lot commercial subdivision and there are many more to come that are currently in the works.

The approval of 124 single-family units, 46 multiple-family units will make our city a more livable space that provides access to even more families who chose Ceres as their home.

As our city is growing, we are building and building fast. We have large food chains such as In-N-Out, Chipotle, Ono Hawaiian BBQ, Starbucks, Habit Burger, Dutch Bros, Raising Cane’s, Sonic and many more calling Ceres their new destination. 

Our taxpaying citizens will no longer need to travel to surrounding cities as much and we will accumulate more revenue stream along with anyone who takes our city exits.

The Walmart Supercenter, the largest in the Valley, has brought over 350 plus jobs to our community and made their site reflect our city with the design and city logo.

The Gateway Center which will house many of these restaurants and businesses adds to our ever-changing and evolving community. With over 818 building permits, up from 2020 this is a huge game changer. I will also acknowledge the Planning Commission in approving these projects and the Chamber of Commerce which continue to support and build relationships. Our local developers and local business owners who are core to our future deserve recognition as well. George’s Gas and Grill, 7-Eleven and Sonic to name a few. Your next destination should be Ceres.


Our Engineering Department is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure for the City of Ceres –which includes streets, sidewalks, sewage disposal, water supply, storm sewers, water mains and wells.

In 2021, two miles of roadway rehab were accomplished at various locations throughout the city – Central/Service, Central/Don Pedroand Blaker/Hackett and Blaker/Kinser. The total count for pavement preservation is 11.5 miles.

Although some may not support the idea of new roundabouts such as the one on El Camino and Park/Pine, in some places they slow traffic down so school children can walk to and from school safely.

We had many traffic safety improvement projects. By installing new traffic signals on major streets and new stop signs that light up as you approach. In the Westpointe subdivision center, we made improvements on the landscaping.

Now what you see on the surface, versus what happens underground is just as important. The sewage infrastructure has to be maintained as it is. This year we rehabbed and made improvements on one mile of cured-in-place piping throughout the city. Our engineering department has been working on many projects that are not yet complete, some of which may improve our day-to-day lives and draw new business to the city.


In May 2021, after a year shut-down City Hall was reopened to the public. We began the process of implementing a new system that allowed residents to pay by phone and use a mobile method to make payments on your utility bills.

Financial position for 2021-22

This is our current financial position: Our beginning balance was $6.97 million, our projected revenues sit at 25.04 million, along with our projected expenses, $24.55 million. In turn, our projected fund balance is at $7.47 million. That places our reserves at 30.04 percent.


In August, Ceres joined a regional partnership with the City of Modesto for fire services through a contract. This agreement allowed the city of Ceres to realize fiscal savings and increase the level of service to the community by adding a firefighter to the daily staffing and establishing an advanced life support (paramedic) program. Engine 15, the downtown fire engine, will be the paramedic engine and provide advanced life support to the community of Ceres.

Ceres also joined the regional training program with the City of Modesto, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, the City of Turlock, Salida, and Stanislaus Consolidated. In return two joint Fire Academies were conducted that provided excellent training to multiple agencies through the regional training program.

What the Fire Department has accomplished shows their determination to serve the public to the best of their ability. Constant training, education and a proactive agency makes all the difference.

Human Resources

We successfully negotiated all five labor agreements for three-year terms. We timely navigated through the complex process with a successful outcome. This could have not been accomplished without the city council, our human resource staff and the labor groups.

The Human Resources Department was able to recruit 34 new employees. The department was instrumental in improving our health plan providers, promoting a healthy work environment for our employees and successfully Implemented a Cal/Osha COVID Illness and Injury Prevention Plan.

Police Department

In 2021, our officers continued to receive training and our command staff and first line supervisors attended a team building workshop. In an ever-changing environment it’s important we continue these efforts so when our officers hit the streets, they are better equipped and prepared, ready to engage the public, bring criminals to justice, and protect our Ceres residents.

It’s important to recognize significant changes and promotions this past year: two officers were promoted to sergeants. The traffic sergeant position was reinstated after being vacant for over a year.

Aiding the Traffic Unit were two Office of Traffic Safety grants that were secured, one for equipment and the other for strategic traffic enforcement. The Traffic Unit also secured an additional grant to replace existing zero emissions motorcycles.

On other fronts, we expanded the Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Unit by adding another part-time officer and a Social Media Team was created to provide information to the public including reports, programs and education, and to expand the department’s public platform.

In addition to the use of social media, other forms of technology are being implemented to improve productivity. When implemented correctly and with proper training, these innovations allow officers to better serve our community with tools and information.

New technology includes a police report dictation program that will allow officers to dictate their reports and increase efficiency. An electronic citation writing program is another new technology being implemented. This program allows an officer to issue traffic citations via a smart device also resulting in increased efficiency and a reduction in paperwork, while minimizing errors.

The community continues to be at the heart of this department. Annual events such as the “Beards for Kids” toy drive and “Coffee with a Cop” brings everyone together by building new relationships and giving back. There’s no greater feeling.

Public Works

In the Public Works Department, they have had a busy year. After a fire that effected River Bluff (Park) lower terrace, we continued our efforts to re-open. We are ever closer to this achievement. In this environment and abundant ecosystem there are pedestrian biking and hiking trails, with revegetation that adds to the remarkable view. We added a boat launch area to the river and across the street we successfully renamed the Eastgate Park to the Guillermo Ochoa Park.

Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA)

As far back as 1988, this region has been evaluating solutions to address the future water supply needs of the surrounding communities. It is expected that without a supplemental water source, the current groundwater supply alone will not be able to serve us into the future due to declining groundwater levels and increasingly stringent water quality regulations.

In 2005, we joined with Hughson, Turlock, and Modesto to enter into an agreement with the Turlock Irrigation District to develop a Tuolumne River water supply. Fast forward to 2015, we teamed with Turlock to form a Joint Powers called the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority to plan, finance, design, construct and operate a Regional Surface Water Supply Project.

The project benefits include correcting existing supply deficiencies to keep pace with existing and future demands, protecting the groundwater basin from continued overdraft and improving the quality of water delivered to our residents and businesses.

In 2020, the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority awarded a design-build contract to design and construct the project. I am happy to announce the project is progressing very well and as of this date is on schedule and under budget. With about 18 months to go, this project will supply us up to 5 million gallons per day of much needed supply that will supplement our current groundwater supply. This new water source will have an immediate positive impact on our ability to supply the community with a safe and reliable potable drinking water supply.

At an estimated cost of $237 million, the project is being funded through a combination of water utility revenue, state grants and a low-interest loan funded by the State Water Resources Control Board. Our cost is roughly one-third of the total based on the quantity of water delivered. Water utility rates were adjusted in 2018 in anticipation of generating revenue to fund our portion of project’s debt service and ongoing operational and administrative costs. By securing a total of $33.5 million in grant funding and funding $17.5 million with Turlock and Ceres cash reserves, the SRWA was able to limit the amount of borrowed money to $186 million, at a 1.2 percent interest rate that will save more than $100 million over the 30-year life of the loan. The SRWA continues to explore grant opportunities to reduce the borrowed amount even further and is currently awaiting additional grant funding decisions totaling an additional $11.5 million.

The amount of future water rate increases will depend on the final construction cost, operation expense and any cost reductions realized through potential future grant awards.

Our future looks bright with a resilient water supply that will drive economic development, protect our precious groundwater resources, and enhance the environment.


The heart of Ceres Recreation revolves around the community and its recreation programs. Ceres Recreation staff has worked tirelessly year-round to deliver vital programs to the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on just how vital recreation is to our community. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, recreation continued to deliver innovative services such as offering virtual programs to the community and taking on new tasks in 2020 serving as a COVID-19 testing location. In August 2021, Recreation opened its facility for rentals. The council and I were honored to take part in the successful “Trunk or Treat” event that included over 5,000 attendees. The attendees were able to enjoy vendors, arts and crafts and other festivities in person. Another very successful event recently held was Christmas in the Park, which drew upwards of 9,000 people in attendance. We expanded the parade and included new festivities and attractions such as 30+ local vendors. I am honored to be a part of such an outgoing community.

Mayor’s Top Priorities for 2022

As mayor for the City of Ceres my priorities for 2022 are to provide more opportunities to grow our economy and to continue supporting and expanding them.

The City of Ceres is a strong leader in the multi-faceted industry. I believe we can achieve much more growth and expansion in various industries and sectors, by partnering with our well established local and commercial industries such as wine, cannabis cultivation, and supporting other new and exciting businesses, agriculture, and manufacturing. We can do this while welcoming new and innovating businesses to the City of Ceres.

The following are a list of my priorities:


• Roads, bridges and freeway retaining walls;

• Sidewalks for underserved communities and improving existing pathways;

• Clean and affordable water;

• Wastewater treatment;

• Began a feasibility study on rebuilding City Hall;

Public Safety and Crime

• Supporting police and fire;

• Equipment and technology;

• Fire life safety;

• Continued public services and engagement;

• Continued community events;

Technologies and services

• Online accesses and information improvements;

• Launch of the city’s redesigned website;

• Citywide apps;

• Communication improvements and investment;

• Customer service advances;

• IT department upgrades;

• Citywide data network;

Building and Planning

• Supporting current city projects to advance;

• Supporting future projects for the city of Ceres business and economic development;

• Supporting our local business and funding programs such as the RAD card program;

• Continue efforts with Opportunity Stanislaus and the Retail Coach scouting companies to come to Ceres, creating jobs for the future;

• Working with large and small companies to bring more jobs to Ceres housing developments;

• Supporting the ever-changing growth and future housing development.