Visalia and Exeter councils appoint new members ahead of November 3

City councils in Exeter and Visalia call an end to their open district races after candidate nomination period ends

TULARE COUNTY – While the November election is dead ahead some local races have already been decided.

Last week both Visalia and Exeter appointed members in lieu after the candidacy deadline passed on Aug. 13. In Visalia, councilman Phil Cox comfortably reclaimed his seat absent a challenger, giving him four more years on the dais. However, 8-year veteran of the Visalia planning commission Brett Taylor will have his first go on the council after being appointed to replace longtime councilman and mayor Bob Link who decided not to run for his sixth term. Taylor will not officially be sworn-in as a councilmember until after the November election has been certified.

Respectfully Taylor asked Link in November 2019 if he was going to run in 2020.

“I let him know that, if he wasn’t going to run, I would be throwing my name into the hat,” Taylor said.

Taylor said that his involvement in community service began from watching his parents. He noted that his mother would take him to Sister Ursula’s Kitchen, now the Bethlehem Center, and serve food to the less fortunate. Since then he has dedicated his time toward service.

“I have spent many years volunteering in different local organizations. I’ve been an active member of committees, commissions, non-profit boards, a football coach at Redwood High School and various task forces.  I love being involved and serving my community has become part of who I am,” Taylor said.

Like anyone walking into an elected position in 2020, the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 is at the top of the agenda. Among taking care of regular city business like first responders and the homeless crisis, Taylor said that COVID-19 will have a massive impact on the city’s budget.

“With the decrease of tax revenue due to COVID-19, the city of Visalia will be faced with some very difficult decisions coming up.  I will use my expertise to make sure that Visalia’s future will always remain bright,” Taylor said.

Exeter was finally able to round out their council last week after appointing Justin Mills to District E. The seat was left open by former city councilman Jeremy Petty who stepped down in early June to move to Clovis. David Hails who represents District A was appointed lieu as the only qualified candidate by the election office’s deadline. Barbara Sally, the wife of former councilman Dale Sally Jr., was also the only qualified candidate for her seat representing District B.

While Hails and Sally have spent a fair amount of time on the council, this will be Mills first taste of public life. The Exeter City Council voted 3-0 to at their Aug. 18 meeting to appoint Mills, but not before letting him explain why he would be right for the job.

Mills noted that he has been an Exeterite since his family moved here in seventh grade. He graduated from Exeter High School and “bleeds blue and gold.” He served his country in the Army and now works as a software engineer for the County of Tulare. He said to the council and expressed in his candidacy letter that his experience in the service has given him the ability to make difficult calls.

“[A] skill I gained while serving is the ability to make tough decisions during stressful situations,” Mills states in his letter of interest that he submitted to the city council. “I also learned the dangers of analysis paralysis, where the fear of making a bad decision keeps one form making a decision at all.”

Councilman Frankie Alves who served in the U.S. Navy said that there are tough calls to make for the city at the moment. In particular when it comes to the budget and sales tax measure. He said that increased sales tax revenue will be a turning point to help alter the way the city has operated and offer more projects that have been deferred.

“On the flip side if it doesn’t pass, you’ll be in a pivotal role to play damage control with the rest of us on figuring out how to steer the city in the right direction to stay afloat. I just wanted to give you the heads up of two different things that are in our near future,” Alves said.

Mayor Mary Waterman-Philpot echoed Alves point and said that deferred projects had been left undone for too long.

“Too many things got kicked down the road … And growing hurts, and fixing everything hurts. There’s a lot of pain with it financially and the inconvenience but Exeter is on a really good track and I appreciate you stepping forward and wanting to help us see part of the solution and part of making Exeter even better,” Waterman-Philpot said.

Mills said in his comments to the council that he would not be a councilmember governed by his ego and is more than willing to reach the right solution even it it’s someone else’s idea.

“I think it’s important to listen to all ideas and try to come up with one that is the best. I never walk into a room assuming I have the best answer…nine times out of 10 it’s usually a combination of everyone’s ideas where you can come up with the best course of action,” Mills said.

Farmersville’s election was also decided as the qualified list of candidates came out. Mayor Greg Gomez is reassuming his seat both as mayor and councilman. Vice mayor, Rosa Vasquez decided not to run for another term giving way to Danny Valdovinos.

Decided races

The following races have been decided as the number of qualified candidates matches the number of open seats for a particular board. Provided that the current board members vote in favor of appointing the candidates:

Tulare County Board of Education
Area 5: Joe Enea
Area 6: Chris Reed

College of the Sequoias
Ward 3 Ray Macareno
Ward 4 Lori Cardoza

Lindsay Unified School Board
Area 3: Robert Hurtado
Area 4: Perla Soria

Porterville Unified School Board
Area 2: Tomas Velasquez

Exeter Unified School Board
Area 1: Dewayne Faulkner
Area 3: Mark Hellwig
Area 7: Gene Lytle

Tulare Joint Union High Board
Area 1: Cathy Mederos
Area 4: Tyler Ribeiro

Strathmore Union Elem. School Board
Area 1: Kevin Holtermann
Area 3: Adele Sanchez

Three Rivers Union Elem. School Board
Leeor Brown
David Karplus

Tulare City Elementary School Board
Area 3: Melissa Janes

Woodlake Unified School Board
Area C: Anthony Perez
Area E: Joseph Hallmeyer
Area G: Kent Owen

Exeter City Council
District A: David Hails
District B: Barbara Sally
District E: Justin Mills

Farmersville City Council
Greg Gomez
Danny Valdovinos

Lindsay City Council
Ramiro Serna
Ramona Daudillo
Hipolito Cerros

Porterville City Council
District 4: Monte Reyes

Competitive races

The following are open races where the number of candidates exceeds the number of available seats. These races will be posted on the Nov. 3 general election ballot this year

21st Calif. Congressional District
TJ Cox (i)
David Valadao

22nd Calif. Congressional District
Devin Nunes (i)
Phil Arballo

23rd Calif. Congressional District
Kevin McCarthy (i)
Kim Mangone

26th Calif. Assembly District
Devin Mathis (i)
Drew Phelps

Area 2 Tulare County Board of Education
Deborah Holguin (i)
Ruben Macareno

Area 3 Tulare County Board of Education
Tom Link (i)
Miguel Gutierrez

Area 1 Cutler-Orosi Unified School Board
Marisol Rubalcaba (i)
Sarah Herrera (i)
Margie Salazar

Area 4 Cutler-Orosi Unified School Board
Tony Werner
Joni Jordan

Farmersville Unified School Board
John Vasquez (i)
Alice Lopez (i)
Manuel Amezcua

Area 5 Visalia Unified School Board
Niessen Foster (i)
Megan Soleno

Area 6 Visalia Unified School Board
Lucia Vazquez (i)
Christopher Pope

Area 7 Visalia Unified School Board
Nora Allstedt
Randy Evans
Jacquie Gaebe
Colijia Feliz
James Reynolds

Area 1 Porterville Unified School Board
Juan Figueroa Jr. (i)
Sonia Lozano

Area 6 Porterville Unified School Board
Donna Frazier Berry (i)
Les Pinter
Anthony Martin

Area F Woodlake Unified School Board
Edmond Pena (i)
Dean Taylor
Veronica Gonzalez

District 1 Tulare Co. Board of Supervisors
Kuyler Crocker (i)
Larry Micari

District 3 Porterville City Council
Martha Flores (i)
Michael Smith

District 5 Porterville City Council
Jerry Hall
Josh Sulier
Kellie Carrillo

Area 1 Tulare City Council
Jose Sigala (i)
Clara Bernardo

Area 3 Tulare City Council
Carlton Jones (i)
Stever Harrell

Area 5 Tulare City Council
Greg Nunley (i)
Courtney Oliver
Grady Dodson
Mario Flores
Patrick Isherwood

Woodlake City Council (full term)
Jose Martinez (i)
Rudy Mendoza (i)
Maria Esther Varela

Woodlake City Council (short term)
Emmanuel Llamas (i)
William “Memo” Valero (i)
Florencio Guerra Jr.
Jack Persall

This is not a comprehensive list of decided and undecided races. To learn more about races and candidates in your district visit

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