by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
Joshua “Josh” Mitchell did not plan to become the mayor of Sanger. All he wanted to do was to help his friend, Rodney Nielson, campaign for the Sanger City Council.
Mitchell, a dark-haired, small-business owner, says that Rodney “expressed to me his reasoning for running, which was very motivating.” Mitchell read the Grand Jury investigation of the City of Sanger, “learning of all the terrible things that had happened. I felt terrible for not having got involved sooner.” When the incumbent holding the seat in Mitchell’s district resigned, Josh says, “Rodney asked me to not run his campaign and instead run myself.”
Nielson says he told Mitchell, “If I’m going to do this, you’re going to do this, too.” Mitchell says, “By this time, many people were asking for me to run, and I felt a burning desire to do so.”
Both Mitchell and Nielson campaigned for seats on the City Council, and both were elected in November. Because of rule changes in Sanger’s city charter, Mitchell was sworn in as mayor in December for a two-year term.
Born in 1981 in Fresno, and a Clovis High grad, Mitchell says he “worked in landscaping my whole life.” He currently owns three small businesses, including Western Landscape Development, Inc.
During a mission for his church, he met a young man named Calvart, who, he says, “showed me a picture of his sister, Bethany. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I asked him for permission to write her, he granted it, and, for the next two years, I wrote to her every week.” Josh sometimes wrote two or three letters a week when he found the time. Following his release from his mission, Mitchell says, “I flew to Chandler, Arizona where I saw her for the first time.” A short time afterwards, they were engaged, and the couple married July 16, 2006. Josh claims, “I am the most lucky guy in the world to have her.” Josh and Bethany now have four sons: Brett (4 years old), Luke (3), Tyson (2) and Caleb (born this year).
Once he became mayor of Sanger, Mitchell set about working on his goals for the city. He saw a need for “more good paying local jobs, to lessen our unemployment rate.” He wanted to “give the tools necessary to our public safety, so our city becomes one of the safest cities to belong to, and to make sure we never become satisfied with status quo.”
Downtown revitalization is another focus of Mitchell’s efforts. He says that he wants to “create methods by which more local money can be spent locally—more restaurants, entertainment venues, and general merchandise locations.” His motto: Help People Believe in Sanger Again.
Mitchell admits that his visions of the future face some obstacles to “Getting Sanger Back on the Map.” He says that Sanger has a “tough past to overcome,” with gang problems, a ninth-grade average education level, high unemployment, and restrictive federal and state regulations.
One of the first problems Mitchell and the Sanger City Council tackled was a massive budget deficit. Mitchell’s goal was “No stupid spending.” He wanted to “get rid of the nonsense that existed before, and get used to doing more for less.” To do that, positions were frozen, programs were cut, and priorities were refocused. In addition, Mitchell and the Council asked for and received a 10% cut from several labor unions.
At the end of the process, the City of Sanger had a balanced budget.
Some of the decisions were not easy to make and not everyone agrees with the steps that have been taken. Mitchell’s fellow Council member, Rodney Nielson, says that he agrees with Josh “95%. There’s a few places where we don’t see eye-to-eye,” but Nielson admits that because of “the direction the city was going, it was the right thing.”
Once Mitchell’s term is over, what lies ahead? Will he run for re-election? Will he seek higher office? He says, “Nothing is off the table, but for right now I have a contract with the City of Sanger to get us on the map, and to put people back to work again. I promise to do just that!”
His experiences as mayor of Sanger have helped him “understand how decisions made in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. govern the freedoms we have, and the happiness of life we enjoy.” Mitchell always loved politics but, he says, “even more, I enjoyed being on the sidelines.”
He wanted to help a friend get elected to the Sanger City Council. He ended up as mayor. Joshua Mitchell isn’t on the sidelines any more. He’s in the game.