MCFARLAND, Calif. (KERO) — The city of McFarland, a community with just over 14,000 people, is in need of a new mayor this election season. Those who live in McFarland are saying that with the issues the city is facing, now is the time for someone to take action.
One of the candidates running for mayor of McFarland is current City Council member Saul Ayon, who is running against Robert Gonzalez.
McFarland is facing an increase in violence and a lack of law enforcement staffing, and residents are saying it’s important to have a leader that can move the city forward.
Jim White has lived in McFarland for more than 40 years, and says the violence in his community is nothing new.
“We at one time were down to three policemen in the city,” said White. “We have an enrollment population here of about 16,000, and we had 3 policemen for a 24-hour period. Didn’t make any sense. That’s when we had more shootings.”
Ayon has served on the McFarland City Council for the past two years and served with the sheriff’s office for 40 before that. He says he knows with the recent violence, there is still more work to be done, and he has some solutions in mind.
“Having the experience in law enforcement, I know for a fact that what I initiated a couple months ago was to bring in cameras for our city, because for the exit and entry points, to just deter and solve a lot of these crimes,” said Ayon.
Ayon also points to public safety issues he has already been able to address in his position on the city council.
“We hired a qualified police chief. Now with our staffing, we are up to 14,” said Ayon. “We have 24/7 coverage, and we are being proactive on the streets.”
Another ongoing issue facing McFarland is whether to public library should become a police station. White, looking back on the city’s history, says the library is not the same.
“The library today is not like it used to be,” said White. “You don’t go in there and learn to do a decimal system. You go in there to have your parents come pick you up. It’s a daycare.”
Ayon says whether the library will stay a library is about what’s fiscally appropriate for McFarland.
“Yes and no,” Ayon responded when asked if the McFarland Library has a future as a library. “If the county is willing to continue operating Monday through Friday, it’s the best of both worlds. It’s basically trying to have both for our residents.”
White says he is ready for the future of the city with those who put McFarland first.
“We’re just a little community. Our city limits are real small, but now we’ve got an extra 2,200 acres that we can annex and grow, so I look forward to our new mayor and new city council to take us in that direction,” said White.
Ayon says he just wants what’s best for the city and to move McFarland forward.
“I’ve invested a lot in my council, our councils, seeing a lot of the work that we’ve done, and so have the residents,” said Ayon. “And it’s not about I. It’s about we, and a lot of people always try to, like, weave in, and I’m like ‘Hey we’re a team.’ It takes three of us to get things done, but as a cohesive unit, our better days are ahead of us.”
23ABC reached out to the other candidate in the Area 1 race, Robert Gonzalez. He told us he would consider speaking to us, but at this time he has not gotten back to us about scheduling an interview.
Early voting has already started in Kern County. Election Day is November 8th.