Who we watched in 2003

Debra and Colleen Cannon
This mother-and-daughter team continued its presence as dominating downtown divas in 2003, adding an interest in yet another store to their portfolio of fun, accessible shops. The Cannons have a hand in Trucker, which opened late last year, and continue the popular Lulu’s Fashion Lounge and its classy younger sister, Gigi, a shoe and accessory parlor.

Rick Rees
Newly elected Chico Unified School District Trustee Rees didn’t make as much noise on the board as we expected last year, choosing instead to think out his questions and approach controversy with caution. That’s not a bad thing, though, and we suggest that citizens keep their eye on the able leader through 2004.

Chico’s top cop
One year ago the Chico police chief job was still open. The man who eventually got the job, Bruce Hagerty, started work in March, and within two weeks war protesters were clogging the intersection of Third Street and Broadway. Showing commendable restraint and patience, the Chico cops eventually arrested the protesters after trying to reason with them. Hagerty took over a department that had floundered at times under its previous chief. Though communications between the press and the CPD under Hagerty have been inconsistent, they have improved over the prior administration.

Maureen Kirk
When Chico City Councilmember Maureen Kirk was named mayor, it had more meaning than normal because Kirk was seen as a true swing vote in deciding the fate of controversial issues. For the past quarter-century, two principal groups have vied for control of the council: a loose coalition of so-called “progressives” organized around environmental and social-justice issues and allied with the Democratic and Green parties, and a “conservative” group organized around business and development interests and allied with the Republican Party. Kirk was not in bed with either camp, and in her year as mayor she was the deciding vote in virtually every politically tinged issue that came before the council—either casting her vote with one side or the other or forcing a compromise. The lefties, we bet, will say she is with the conservatives, while the conservatives will say she’s a leftie. And that’s not bad.

Scott Gruendl
After a couple of failed runs for the Chico City Council, former Planning Commissioner Scott Gruendl was finally elected in the fall of 2001. In his first full year of service, Gruendl proved to be a quick study, quietly listening and absorbing at meetings for the first few months of his term and then picking up the pace—and at times the passion—as he became a more seasoned councilmember. At different times Gruendl has graced the meetings with much-needed logic, well-placed emotion and tension-breaking humor. We look forward to watching him on his second term.

The best laid plans of the Right Now Foundation and its leader DNA for turning the old Senator Theatre into a community arts center were laid to rest indefinitely in May, as the group was given its walking papers. Unable to make rents or negotiate a deal for purchase of the building, DNA and company were forced to see the strides they made in remodeling the facility become history. Still active putting together his weekly outdoor Downtown Music Revolution concert series and appearing in local theater productions, the constantly active impresario has nonetheless been keeping a lower profile as of late, but chances are that won’t last for long.

Perry Reniff
We suggested readers watch newly elected Sheriff Perry Reniff to see how well he coped with an understaffed, underfunded and at that time politically divided department. But Reniff moved so fast to make changes at BCSO that all we ended up watching was his dust.

Within months of his swearing in, Reniff had smoothed over much of the acrimony left from a hard-fought election, worked out a deal with local police chiefs to raise jail booking fees, filled dozens of vacant positions at the jail and begun cleaning up the office’s outdated evidence storage facility. Of the accomplishments he is most proud of, Reniff cited full staffing at the dispatch center for the first time in several years, a new life skills training class for jail inmates and a $250,000 federal grant the office helped secure that will help pay for a variety of services to drug-endangered children.

When county Supervisor Mary Anne Houx was asked informally about Reniff’s performance, she replied, “It’s nice to have someone in charge over there [at BCSO] that actually knows what they’re doing for a change.”

Maureen Pierce
Despite losing her office space to an arson fire last April, Maureen Pierce, executive director of Chico Boys & Girls Club, has been charging ahead with plans to turn the club into a modern fun factory for Chico kids.

The old clubhouse has been demolished and a beautiful new one built in its place, creating enough space for twice as many kids to participate in after-school programs. This spring, construction will begin on the next phase of the project, which will close off a portion of Wall Street to create a pedestrian plaza, teen center and gymnasium. The project, Pierce said, will anchor the southern end of downtown and create a place where kids can feel that they’re part of the community.

“It’s going to be just a beautiful plaza,” Pierce said. “We really feel like we’re very much a part of what’s happening to the new downtown.”

Stephanie Starmer
Starmer is the director of STAGE, the new performing arts academy at Chico High School that just completed its first semester with a rousing Showcase presentation of student talent in acting, singing and dancing. With 70 student members, the academy, or school-within-a-school, is now gearing up for a performance of Schoolhouse Rock Jr. in May, Starmer said. At auditions this week, the kids showed a “measurable increase in confidence” gained in their first semester.

Despite having to be at school by 7:15 a.m. twice a week, students remain enthusiastic, Starmer added. The only problem is that there are far more girls than boys. She hopes that improves next year. (Get a clue, dudes: It’s a great place to meet bright, fun, talented girls.)