Working Hard and Getting Things Done
Citrus Heights Mayor Jeff Slowey says he is serving his final term in office, which ends in 2020. He was first elected to the city council in 2003 and in his third mayoral term. Mayor Slowey has witnessed Citrus Heights’ transition to cityhood and formation of its own police department, as well as key retail and commercial developments. He recently talked with reporter Jacqueline Fox about his time in office and his vision for the city going forward, including development, homelessness, and his hopes for younger members in the composition of the sitting city council in November 2018.
Q: What compelled you to get into local politics?
A: I’ve been in this community since 1988 and I really like Citrus Heights. I like the local aspect of getting things done. There’s not a lot of red tape here. Essentially policy stops with the city council, so it’s gratifying.
Q: What have been your most significant challenges?
A: Balance, I think. Running our local law enforcement, for example, takes some 60 percent of our general fund, so we have to address crime and public safety, but we also are charged with taking care of our streets and neighborhoods. We can put more officers on the street, but we might have more potholes. So, it can be a really tough balancing act.
Q: What projects were you elected wanting to tackle?
A: I wouldn’t say I came in with grand ideas, but the two biggest things were forming our own police department and getting the Dignity Health project in place. One is done, the other will get done probably early 2019.
Q: Why was forming the city’s police department so important?
A: We were contracting with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department when I arrived and the annual payment for that was going up $1 million with no additional services attached. It made no sense. So, we formed a citizens’ committee and we voted for it and got it.
Q: What major development projects are on your radar:
A: The Dignity Healthy project and the coming of Mercy Medical Group is key, because I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to do something with the vacant Sylvan School Site. Mercy has stated to us they are going to need additional offices in close proximity to the new building, and I’ll be working toward that. What I don’t want to see is another strip mall there. That world is changing. We need something that is going to better the city with jobs and a tax base.
Q: Can you discuss your vision for how to address the rising homelessness issue?
A: The sad part about homelessness is that it doesn’t stop at the borders. So even if we come up with a good program, it has to be an ongoing program. It is getting worse. Our Navigator program does provide services to those who want help, but remember: not everyone who is homeless wants help. Big picture is that the county is putting $44 million to address it. We haven’t seen the breakdown yet, but we plan to get our share.
Q: What about other community programs?
A: We are coming up to the winter months and I have to say I deeply appreciate HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Team). They have stepped up and provided a shelter in the cold and rainy season. But the one thing I have been clear on is that we need to help them as much as we can, but I do not want to build a permanent shelter here in town. I’d rather work with the ones that are already out there.
Q: Your police chief says body cameras are too expensive. What’s your view?
A: I’ve supported the idea. But I think there’s a bigger issue out there to resolve and that’s at the state level. There isn’t any protocol for how to maintain the tapes, for one thing. For example: do you keep a body camera tape for three years or five years? Who pays for it? That said, if I thought we had an issue where body cameras would help, I would say OK, let’s do that. I think they are good for the city, but until the other issues are resolved, I’m willing to wait.
Q: What would you like to accomplish in your last term?
A: At the end of 2020 it will have been 17 years for me here and that is plenty. I’m a firm believer in new blood. I’d like to see a few things done, including the development of the Sylvan School site, a successful deployment of a new vision for Sunrise Mall, and completion of the Ted Mitchell housing project. Also, next year we have three incumbents up for re-election. So we have got to get through next year’s election with some cohesiveness and I would say I would love to meet and get some younger people to come forward. I’d love to get to know them now so I can mentor them.
Q: What should potential candidates know about the job before tossing their hat into the ring?
A: The work week is about 20 hours for roughly $600 a month, so if you’re doing it for the money, you’re a fool. Not all of us are retired. We have careers. So I’d say if you’re considering jumping in, discuss it with your partner first, because it’s a tough gig for $600 a month.