Exeter swears in former teacher Steve Garver as new council member

Steve Garver is sworn in as the replacement for District D after former mayor Mary Waterman-Philpot stepped down in March

EXETER – The Exeter City Council rounded out their council last night after swearing in Steve Garver to sit in for Mary Waterman-Philpot.

Garver applied for the District D vacancy after the former mayor stepped down in March. The well known teacher and baseball coach at Exeter High School was selected in a unanimous vote by the council.

According to Garver’s application letter, having spent 60 years of his life in town has given him an appreciation for the city. Even in retirement he continues to contribute to the school as an intern supervisor for teachers.

“I believe Exeter is a wonderful city to live in and visit. I’d like others to have the same thoughts. I want to work to help Exeter present the best of itself to others,” Garver stated in his letter. Now that he has actually been selected to serve until at least November 2022, he said it has been a life goal that he wasn’t able to achieve until now.

“Between teaching and coaching, and being a father and a husband, I admired people who have done it, I just couldn’t pull it off,” Garver said. “I was on the Measure P oversight committee and I wanted to start this foray into helping the community is ultimately what it boils down to.”

Steve Garver
Exeter City Councilman

While serving on the city’s Measure P one percent sales tax citizen’s advisory committee, Garver watched and learned how the city—and the city council—functions. When it came to tell the council how he hopes to influence the city, he said he wants more people to buy local before looking for options online our outside of the community.

Garver remembers when Exeter had three different women’s clothing stores and a man’s clothing store “that would give you everything from the day you’re born to the day you die.” He admits that the reality is that commerce like that is not coming back, but he would like parts of it to stick around. To do that Garver draws from a time when he was on a bus leaving Dinuba. As they crossed the city line there was a sign that said, “have you tried to buy in Dinuba?”

“You know, they’re passively creating this thought process in your head,” Garver said. “We should ask, ‘have I tried to buy it in Exeter?’ Because it’s going to benefit Exeter. I don’t think people realize how much tax money is spent here.”

The council’s newest member is acknowledging Exeter’s glimmer of night life that has begun to take root. Gone are the days of the single bar town open till midnight or later; here are the days of a new brewery and tavern that draws a steady clientele. Not to mention marquee eateries like Lafayette Café, Monte’s and VIP Pizza. Garver believes the city should take advantage of Exeter’s “lively” downtown as it grows in acclaim.

“You know that East Street, Pine Street intersection, if you can walk through there, it creates a different vibe. Even in the hot summer you can get behind the shade by Mixter Park if you have outdoor dining, that would be a neat experience,” Garver said. “I think it would draw people to Exeter again, and they will spend their dollars in our town.”

While the economy deserves its share of attention, there are other aspects of city life Exeter’s newest council member is focusing on. After the pandemic shut down almost every aspect of normal life, Garver began to reflect on what priorities he would have for Exeter. All the while walking his dogs on every street. What he discovered was what residents have been clamoring for: better streets and walkways.

“It may be a little more maintenance, you know, raking leaves, blowing and whatever, but the ambiance that you gain in the end and just a plain coolness effect of that would be helpful,” Garver said. Providing something just that simple falls right in line with Garver’s motivation that drove him to apply for city council in the first place.

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