Terry Sayre becomes Tulare’s first female mayor in 25 years

After Diane Mathis served only as an interim mayor for five months in 1998, Terry Sayre feels like a pioneer as she switches gears from vice mayor to mayor

TULARE – After four years of advocating for individuals experiencing homelessness, Terry Sayre will now sit at the center of the dias as Tulare’s first female mayor in over two decades with a new priority of unifying the city.

There has not been a female to don the title of mayor for the last 25 years until Sayre was nominated as the Tulare City Council reorganized their dias on Jan. 17. The honor of first female mayor went to Diane Mathis when she took over for Claude Retherford after he had passed away. She held the position from June to November of 1998 and chose not to run for reelection. Now the tables have turned, the 2022 election allowed both Sayre and Dennis Mederos to run unopposed and thus return to council for their second term. 

Sayre said the opportunity to be a female mayor makes her feel like a pioneer and it really shows the community that city government is inclusive. When she first ran for council, Sayre said she felt it could be an issue that she was 74-years-old, a woman and not of the ethnic majority of the community. However that was not the case at all as she begins her second term.

“If you have a passion and you want to do something, do it,” Sayre said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter your gender, and it doesn’t matter your ethnicity. If that’s [in] your heart, follow your heart.”

Sayre said her mission for the next four years is to work heavily on uniting the city of Tulare. She said she wants to discover ways to educate people that the municipal government does not have control over what the private sector does. By working together, Sayre wants to find ways to bring more of the private sector into the west side of Tulare in terms of restaurants and recreational facilities.

“The railroad tracks are just a transportation system, it’s not an indication of which side of Tulare is better than the other side,” Sayre said. “My goal as the mayor…is to unite the city as one city, and just have people feel like they’re treated equally.”

One main way she plans to unite the city is by continuing building up downtown Tulare. As the city continues to help aid businesses in downtown through the downtown redevelopment project, Sayre wants to bring attention to some of the other places like the Inyo corridor, the old library, the women’s clubhouse and Zumwalt park. 

“Those things are on the west side, so why can’t we come together and make those places where the whole city can congregate and can come together,” Sayre said.

In the last four years, Terry’s main focus was on bringing a permanent homeless shelter to Tulare. The council has worked hard to get to where they are with the homeless shelter. Now that the temporary encampment and the permanent shelter have come to fruition, she said she can now move her focus onto other areas in need in the community. As the shelter moves along in the planning process, Tulare city manager Marc Mondell said the timing is appropriate that Sayre should be taking over the dais as mayor. 

“I think [Sayre] does a great job of reminding everyone of the importance of civility and treating each other well, given she’s people focused,” Mondell said. “She has a soft heart for the challenges that folks face and making sure [city staff and the council] don’t forget that we’re not just a business, but we’re here also to serve the people.”

Sayre said she has always had a “servant heart.” She spent over 30 years working in the education system and has moved into the business of life coaching. When she first decided to run for council, Sayre said she ran on the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is still a motto she carries with her throughout her time on the council and she said takes each opportunity to learn something new and do the best she can when she can. 

“If you just look at everything as an opportunity to learn something, and you leave it up to God, you can’t go wrong,” Sayre said. “My mantra is do what you can, when you can, the best you can.”

Vice mayor Patrick Isherwood

Mondell said it will be a smooth transition from previous mayor Mederos to Sayre. He said Mederos was a “statesman” and a “diplomat” who was a stabilizing force for the city. The two worked well together and for the citizens’ benefit, Mondell said there is “really good continuity between the two.”

Patrick Isherwood was nominated for vice mayor and will now serve the next two years next to Sayre. According to the city of Tulare’s website, Isherwood is the director of asset management with Self-Help Enterprises. Mondell said he is very detail oriented, analytical and represents all citizens. The combination of all individuals on Tulare’s council brings well rounded decisions to residents according to Mondel.

“They all have a little bit different perspective and I think it’s very good for our community, that you have people who have a little bit different focus,” Mondell said. “We’re able to work with management on issues and make sure that we’re always addressing all the aspects of the issue.

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