Mello wants to see vision realized
Larry Mello doesn't like the word can't.
After 34 years in the military, not getting the job done isn't in his nature.
Mello said Willows needs people on the City Council that can see beyond their immediate decisions to how it will effect the citizens into the future.
"I believe that no one knows a neighborhood better than the person who interacts with it — as I do," Mello said.
Mello, 59, is one of seven candidates running for City Council in Tuesday's election.
He came to Willows nearly 20 years ago as the National Guard recruiter, and said Willows couldn't have been a better place for him to raise a family.
But when Mello logs onto the City of Willows website, he sees two very noticeable things — a banner advertisement for Thunderhill Raceway Park and a vision statement that states "We celebrate our heritage of agriculture and outdoor recreation. Where we foster economic growth and value innovation. Where you find all of this nestled in a safe and charming hometown environment."
"Who are the we in that statement?" Mello said.
While Mello believes the primary duty of the local government is to provide infrastructure, services and safety, he believes officials in a small town have to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Mello's vision is to promote activities that will bring in tax revenue and support local business, and not just the ones on Interstate 5.
He said he wants to build partnerships with community organizations and committees, encourage public dialog and work together to fill downtown storefronts.
"You have to market Willows and make it more attractive to an innovative entrepreneur," Mello said. "The only way we're going to do that is to promote tourism and feed off the Interstate-5 tourist revenue."
What Mello said he would like to see on the city's website is not just Thunderhill Raceway, which he said is a great asset to the Willows, but other businesses as well.
"Where is The Gathering of Better Junque or The Gathering Marketplace?" he said.
Also absent in prominent display are the Mendocino National Forest and the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge, both attractions that draw people to the area.
"The city takes in about $360,000 in tourism dollars a year, namely the (transient occupancy taxes)," Mello said. "In addition, these people stop at Walmart and they buy food and gas. If the city started directing those tourists to the downtown, then maybe the city would be able to pick up a few extra dollars, and the businesses might prosper. We want these people downtown before they get on that freeway and go to Williams or Corning.
Mello hasn't seen a great deal of collaboration between this council and other organizations, including the Greater Willows Improvement League and the Willows Economic Development Committees, and believes the council members have to do their part.
"There is no reason Willows can't be as successful as Gridley," he said. "That city came together with its citizens and made it happen. To better market our local activities and events, we must and will have a professional sign placed near I-5."
Mello also wants to help develop a volunteer pool of qualified citizens to help city departments and keep City Hall open five days a week.
"We need to strive for a fresh approach to city council," Mello said. "We need less politics and to be more neighborly. I want to be the voice of the people."
Mello's mission, he said, is to provide the quality service and leadership needed not just for today but for tomorrow.