January 31, 2006 > One Minute Past Midnight
One Minute Past Midnight
The election was successful. The majority of the residents had voted to form the new City of Fremont, but there were many things yet to be done. Photo shots and celebrations were nice, but it would take hard work to create a successful city. Much of this work would have to be done by the five elected council members. Who were they and could they do the job?
Gladys Williamson wrote, "V stands not only for victory but for the versatility of Fremont's first city council." Councilmember Winifred Bendel majored in civil engineering and architecture at the University of California. Bruce Michael was a pilot for Pan American Airlines for 12 years and then served in the Army Air Corps. He later chose a 130-acre ranch in Warm Springs for his home. Michael J. Overacker operated a 900-acre family ranch below Mission Peak and served as a school trustee and a leader in ranching organizations. Wally Pond, the only bachelor in the group, operated a drug store and was active in Boy Scouts. John Stevenson, a former dance band piano player, practiced law, developed subdivisions and ran a cattle ranch.
The new council faced a host of problems. They immediately began holding unofficial regular meetings in John Stevenson's living room to solve some of these problems. It was agreed that since they were not experienced in city government, the initial need was for a city attorney to give legal advice. They decided to employ LeRoy Broun who agreed to serve without pay until the city was certified (probably January 24). Following the advice of Richard Carpenter of the League of California Cities, they agreed to pursue a contract with the Louis J. Kroeger firm to supply "interim" government. The council also decided to take the state's insurance coverage for employees.
A question from a state official asking, "What is your post office address?" drew hearty laughter. No one knew what the Post Office Department would do about centralizing addresses.
Kroeger & Associates was engaged on a "caretaker basis" to prepare the groundwork so the city could begin business January 24. Kroeger also advised the council to rent an office in the county building on Fremont Avenue.
The council was unable to select a mayor because John Stevenson led Bruce Michael by only two votes and when the county clerk tallied the absentee ballots, they were tied. Michael stepped aside, and Stevenson was unanimously chosen to be the first mayor of Fremont. Bruce Michael missed this honor by one vote.
The council named Frank Madruga fire chief after he was selected by fire commissioners of the five towns and retained Robert A. Blacow as non-paid city treasurer. They also chose an address of "City of Fremont, P. O. Box 638, Centerville" and accepted the county's offer of free space in the county building at Fremont and Martha Avenues for city headquarters. Jane Hicks, the first paid employee, was installed by Kroeger and Associates as City Clerk. She would help set up accounting, purchasing and administrative procedures for the city. Kroeger also helped negotiate essential services with the county.
The people of Fremont could not wait to celebrate the success of the election. A victory banquet was sponsored by the five town chambers of commerce at the International Kitchen. Some 350 to 400 people attended the dinner. The new city received wishes for success from visiting mayors and government officials. Workers on the Fremont Citizens' Committee were applauded, and a tribute was paid to the 17 council candidates. Mayor-designate John Stevenson received a gavel to use at city meetings from County Supervisor Chester Stanley. Stevenson offered a vision for the new city, "We hope to build a city that will capture the imagination of all and be guided by Divine Providence."
Superior Judge Allen G. Norris addressed the crowd. "Let's forget our provisional feelings," he urged. "Take a broad view of our new city for the common good. Give your new council a chance. Resolve to help them build Fremont into the best possible community."
Mayor-elect John Stevenson commented that "It is fitting that the name of the city is Fremont-that of a pathfinder." But even before Fremont officially became a city, a campaign was started and petitions circulated to change the name to Mission Valley.
The council met with the County Board of Supervisors and arranged procedures that would transfer legal control of Fremont from the county to the city at midnight, January 24. The Board declared the City of Fremont incorporated, and mayor-elect Stevenson drove to Sacramento to file the city's articles with state officials.
Monday night, January 23, the council met at Washington High School cafeteria to be sworn in at midnight by Judge Norris. The first official meeting of the City Council began January 24, 1956 at one minute past midnight, and a great city was born.