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Lathrop strategy is to survive & then thrive
A bird’s eye view of a portion of the guests gathered at the River Mill in French Camp on Tuesday for the State of the City program sponsored by the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
FRENCH CAMP – If a picture paints a thousand words, as the old adage says, then a group shot of the first ever Lathrop Chamber of Commerce State of the City would tell the whole story.

It was a success by the sheer number of attendees alone. The River Mill’s banquet room was filled to capacity with “almost 150” guests in attendance, Chamber president Mary Kennedy-Bracken happily announced during the day’s program.

Key employees at Lathrop City Hall headed by City Manager Cary Keaten attended the event. However, it was Mayor Kristy Sayles who presented the state of the city with Keaten and Economic Development Administrator Steve Carrigan briefly giving additional comments.

In her prepared speech, Sayles outlined in a nutshell what has been happening at City Hall during the economic downturn and why it was necessary to lay off employees, and how it is being done for the future. Reiterating what has been rehashed in the news media about the still ongoing bloodletting in the wake of diminishing revenues, Sayles explained that the loss of 27 municipal positions – with 17 eliminated in May of last year and another 10 that were given pink slips just a week ago which included the Human Resources director to solve the budget shortfall – was part of a five-year survival plan that the city put together to weather the still ongoing economic crisis.

She said she wished they did not have to resort to the reduction of staff, but it was necessary because during Lathrop’s boom time they needed to hire people to handle the mountain of work that needed to be done. As additional cost savings, the city also reduced street sweeping and janitorial services, she said.

To stimulate the local economy even in these difficult economic times, Sayles said that the city is working hard to strengthen ties with existing businesses while at the same time working with new businesses. It’s toward this goal that the city council decided last year to hire an economic development administrator.

The city’s two main goals today, the mayor said, is financial solvency and promoting community values.

“This year, our focus is sustainability and stability,” she said.

Guests Annette “Annie” Gallagher and Pat Brown of Jockey Person to Person gave the chamber’s State of the City program high marks. They also liked what they heard from the Lathrop mayor’s report.

“It was good. The content was good,” Gallagher said of the mayor’s presentation. “It opened everybody’s eyes to what’s happening with the city.”

As for the catered luncheon, “I think they did a good job,” she said.

Among the guests were San Joaquin County Board of Supervisor Leroy Ornellas and representatives of key businesses in the area including J.R. Simplot, Swiss American Sausage, River Islands at Lathrop, Pilkington Glass, Berberian Motors, Watts Commercial Property, and USGA Inc.

The program concluded with the Honorable Judge William Murray administering the oath of office to the new chamber board members.

Music for the event was provided by Lathrop High School student Jorvic Ramos who played the piano during the social hour and the meal. Three other Lathrop High students – Sarah Mora, Jana Sarangel, and Adriana Solis – sang the National Anthem in an impressive three-part harmony at the start of the program.