By C.J. Barbre

Lindsay was applauded for cutting city staff by 22 positions in order to be able to fund long needed street repairs. Remaining staff has been required to "wear more hats," or assume more responsibility. But some haggard faces have started showing up around city hall. Could the city be running too tight a ship?

In a recent interview Lindsay City Councilmember Esteban Velasquez said he hoped that city workers were not being stretched too thin. That comment did not make it into the story about his candidacy for reelection, but apparently it should have.

As has been noted in the Gazette, the hours and budget for the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce were cut dramatically. Hours were reduced from a minimum five-day, 40-hour week to a four-day, 24-hour work week for paid staff, including the executive director and associate director. The chamber's budget was cut by more than 60 percent. Carolyn Callison, who has been executive director of the chamber since 1997, took medical leave and it turns out she won't be returning to work.

There was no City of Lindsay display at the Tulare County Fair for the first time in memory. A local volunteer who asked to remain anonymous, said they offered to round up other volunteers and put together a display. The Fair gives communities $500 toward construction costs, so why was it a problem?

"We decided not to participate in the Fair this year," said Chairman of the Board of the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce Paul Gottschall. "It was something we were involved in a lot, but we're looking at direct benefits to Lindsay and decided that between costs and time, it wasn't necessary. The board felt the priority wasn't there. It was secondary to our direct marketing the community to the public and business sector."

Gottschall cited the Farmers Market as a great success regarding volume of people and business activity. He said although they cut back in one area they have expanded in other areas.

What about the calendar and a newsletter, helping people be informed of upcoming events? Both have ceased to exist for the time being.

"We just made some changes in the leadership structure. Basically we're reviewing where our strategy is, where we're going to go." Gottschall said they are planning on holding 12 events a year such as the Chili Cook-off this weekend. This of course requires a lot of volunteers, a lot of subcommittees. The board meets 12 times a year, on the third Monday of the month.

Gottschall said the chamber interim office manager, Sharon Dimmitt, will be carrying on all the office functions. Dimmitt said she hoped she would be updating the Lindsay website calendar section last week. Nothing has changed on the website since the Lindsay Technology Specialist position was eliminated when the city downsized more staff in February, a six-month blackout. It was the fastest, simplest way for the press to get information, which it would then relay to the public about upcoming events.

"We're still trying to function and continue down the road here with the Farmers Market and other projects going on," Gottschall said. "We had to tighten our belt and make some changes to keep ourselves afloat."

Gottschall said Virginia Loya was in charge of the Farmers Market when asked why the press had not been notified of the Mexican Independence Day festivities. Loya, who puts in a tremendous amount of time on a purely voluntary basis, said it was just an oversight. She said the event was quite exciting. Indeed, it sounds like it would have made great centerpiece art for the Gazette. She promised to remember next time and said in fact, there will be a mariachi competition on Oct. 8.

Meanwhile Gloria Scott, pre-need counselor with Myers Funeral Chapel has recommended Linda Dawyot as the next Executive Director. Dawyot is a Visalia resident and is employed by Premier Color Graphics as an account executive. She was formerly an account executive for the Lindsay Gazette.

"I watched her with the people she worked with here and was really impressed," Gloria said. "I called Carolyn and she said to tell Linda to go for it." She said Dawyot sent her a resume which Scott took to City Manager Scot Townsend's office. He was out of town at the time. "I'm hoping he's going to submit it to the board," Gloria said.

There was another suggestion that the chamber return to occupy the house next to City Hall that was most recently occupied by the Office of City Planning.

"We had to get rid of some frills and expenses," Gottschall said. "We're now gaining wind and speed and may weather the storm. We're running lean and mean and will accomplish the job."

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