Thinking Green in San Joaquin

This past weekend I was sorting boxes in my garage and stumbled across the binder I received when I joined the Valley Vision board back in 2004, representing the tech giant Intel in Folsom.  Susan Frazier was the CEO, Karen Baker (now California’s volunteer director) was chief operating officer, and Garrett Brandenburger ran the office.  Valley Vision’s budget had just passed the $550,000 mark, and the Sacramento Blueprint for Transportation and Land Use, the bold partnership between SACOG and community partners like Valley Vision, would be approved later that year.

Fast forward to today and Valley Vision has 24 staff and consultants, a budget that has grown by 450% since 2004, and we’re working in partnership with local leaders now in 16-counties to improve people’s lives across Northern California.  Our growth has been humbling, but never more so than because the of the great need today for bottoms-up, servant-style leadership that unites people and groups in common purpose.  This work has never been more relevant, nor important.

This growth has caused us to open our first-ever satellite office in downtown Stockton’s premier co-working space, called the “Huddle.”  What brought us?  An invitation by the Great Valley Center and PG&E last summer to help communities in the San Joaquin Valley develop the talent and strategies needed to increase renewable energy and green jobs, while reducing pollution and carbon waste.  It’s called Green Communities, and the work is taking us to cities and neighborhoods in San Joaquin, Merced, and Stanislaus counties.  The work aligned closely with the knowledge and abilities we had built up with our business and energy partners in the Green Capital Alliance, and was a natural outgrowth.  Today Jeremy Terhune administers the Green Communities project, overseeing 10 college student-interns from Fresno to Stockton in regional PG&E offices, giving them real-work experiences in the energy field.

I recently spent the day in Stockton with Jeremy.  We met with Doug Wilhoit, the CEO of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, and a fifth-generation “Stocktonian.”  He spoke about the revitalization of their downtown now years’ underway and the investments being made supporting businesses, small and large.  We toured Puentes-Boggs Tract Community Farm, a five-acre urban farm launched by Jeremy six years ago that is helping community members grow healthy food and teach kids about where their food comes from.  In the afternoon urban developer David Garcia of 10Space Development took us on a tour of the 12-story Medico Dental Tower that is being transformed into a mixed-use retail and multi-family-housing catalyst for their downtown.  The day rounded out by visiting with the President of the University of the Pacific and Valley Vision Board member, Dr. Pamela Eibeck.

We say that Valley Vision’s purpose is creating the most livable communities in the nation.  Good paying jobs, access to healthcare, quality education, nutritious food, and the Internet for services and opportunity are all part of that. Today we’re branching out to places like the San Joaquin Valley that have so much promise, and finding opportunities to help our friends in neighboring communities.  It’s a long way from where Valley Vision started several decades ago, and in many ways we’re just getting started.  We hope you’ll join us.


Bill Mueller is Chief Executive of Valley Vision.

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