By Reggie Ellis

Exeter's small town charm has made it one of the best places to live in the Valley. And thanks to a recent online poll, it's now officially one of the Top 100 Places to Live in the United States.

Relocate-America.com, an online database of 6,000 cities and towns, compiles the Top 100 list each year for people who are relocating and looking for a great place to live. This is the 10th year the Relocate America has compiled the list, which ranks cities based on feedback from the people who live there and statistics, including education, economy, crime, parks, recreation and housing. During the calendar year, the website accepts nominations for cities and towns throughout the country which are then judged and ranked by their editorial team. While the information sent to the website was taken from the Exeter Chamber of Commerce's website, it was not the chamber that submitted it.

&#8220We didn't even know about it,” said Chamber Director Sandy Blankenship. &#8220We didn't apply for it, but it is quite an honor.”

Blankenship said there are a lot of reasons why Exeter is a great place to live, but the one she hears from visitors the most is how clean and friendly the city is as a whole.

&#8220The most common compliment is that everyone says ‘hello' and ‘good morning' while they smile at them, complete strangers walking down the street,” she said. &#8220There is a real sense of pride in our community and there are a lot of people who work hard together to make it a unique place to live.”

Mayor Ted Macaulay and his family moved to Exeter 1992 to get away from the traffic and congestion of Southern California.

&#8220I commuted for 13 and a half years and I just didn't want to commute anymore,” said Macaulay, who is also an insurance agent at NSE Insurance in Exeter. &#8220I think we often take for granted just how great this city is and the people who work hard to make it that way. This is not a compliment of any one group but a compliment for the entire city.”

Unlike some small communities, Macaulay said Exeter is not an exclusive club.

&#8220Everyone here knows everyone but it's not an exclusive group,” he Macaulay, who is a member of the Exeter Lions Club and Exeter Health and Wellness Foundation. &#8220We make an effort to include everyone who wants to be part of the community. You can have the most beautiful looking city, but without great people you can never really be a great city.”

Macaulay said there is a club, service organization or group in Exeter for everyone. In fact, there is even a club for new people who move to town. The Exeter Friendship Connection, formerly the Exeter Newcomers Club, was formed three years ago by a group of women who had recently moved to town and learn more about their new home. The club now has 27 members and meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at local restaurants to socialize, discuss upcoming events and listen to informative guest speakers. The group also delivers welcome packets to new residents and surveys them on where they came from and why they moved to Exeter.

&#8220The most common reason is the appeal of a small, quaint town as most of them are coming from larger cities,” said Mary Lou Moberly, president of the Exeter Friendship Connection. &#8220Other reasons include the view and proximity to the Sierra Nevadas, the murals, affordable living, a nice downtown, community activities, a slower pace of life and family.”

Moberly was a newcomer herself four years ago despite owning a home just outside of Exeter for the last 17 years. Her husband built a home outside the city 30 years ago as a retirement home while the couple continued to work and live in Orange County.

&#8220We used to come up here on the weekends just to relax, get grounded and prepare ourselves to face another week of work in the city,” Moberly said. &#8220Four years ago we moved her permanently, but we really don't have any neighbors. That's why this club has been wonderful for me.”

&#8220We are all very happy, so happy here in Exeter,” Moberly said. &#8220It is a great place to live.”

If you are new to town or have lived here for many years but haven't found a niche in the community, call Mary Lou Moberly of the Exeter Friendship Connection at 564-2002.

Stacking Up Exeter

Relocate America's website has been ranking the Top 100 Places to Live for the last 10 years. Here are the criteria they consider and how Exeter measures up.

Education: Recent Academic Performance Index (API) scores illustrate Exeter's continual improvement in meeting state academic standards as every school met its growth target for 2006. The public school system consists of: Exeter Union High School (9-12), Wilson Middle School (6-8), Rocky Hill Elementary (3-5), Lincoln Elementary (K-2) and Kaweah High School (a continuation high school). The 1999-2000 enrollment was: grades K-8, 1,936 and grades 9-12, 1101 students.

Economy: Exeter is located in the heart of the country's most fertile agricultural valley and has been dubbed the &#8220Citrus Capitol of the World.” Unlike many agricultural cities, Exeter also has a thriving downtown of small, independently owned shops and restaurants, with a few fastfood and coffee franchises for convenience. The local economy is also bolstered by tourism dollars generated by its 21 historic murals and proximity to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In 2000, Exeter was named &#8220One of America's Prettiest Painted Places.”

Crime: Overall, crime in Exeter dropped by 20% from 2005 to 2006. There were only 96 violent crimes all of last year and the number of burglaries, thefts and auto thefts continued to drop.

Parks: Exeter has six parks throughout the city and adds additional parks every time a major development is approved. Over the next 20 years, Exeter is already scheduled to build another four, 3-acre parks in a 320-acre block of land on the city's southwest side. City Park (Chestnut and E streets) is the site of most of Exeter's major outdoor events including Fall Festival, Fourth of July, car shows, Movies in the Park, etc.

Recreation: The Sequoia Cycling Classic's Time Trial is held in Exeter each year as well as the Kings-Tulare county East-West All-Star high school baseball game hosted by the Exeter Lions Club. There are adult, softball and basketball leagues and for the kids there is Teeball, Little League, Exeter Eels swim team, Pop Warner football, AYSO soccer, summer sports camps, Exeter Club Volleyball, etc. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are a vast region of snowcapped Sierra Nevada peaks dotted with lakes and covered with pine, cedar and redwood forests. This beautiful wilderness area offers Exeter's residents and visitors a bounty of opportunities for adventure and recreation. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are known for the General Sherman Tree, the worlds largest living thing, Mt. Whitney, at 14,494 feet, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, and Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the continental U.S.

Housing: The median home price in Exeter was $200,000 in 2005, whereas the median home price in California was two-and-half time that, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office. According to Department of Finance, there were 49 building permits in Exeter for new residences and 433 since 2000. Over the next 20 years, Exeter is planning to build 1,300 on 320 acres on the southwest side of the city.

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