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Twenty-five years ago in Madera

Courtesy of The Madera County Historical Society

Twenty-five years ago Madera gained some new leaders and lost some.


January TAUBERT RESIGNS FROM IDC POSITION — James Taubert, Executive Director of the Madera County Industrial Development Commission since 1985, has accepted an invitation to fill a newly-created position of vice president of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation. “The change will represent an opportunity to work in a larger market environment,” said Taubert, who arguably is the person most responsible for the dramatic economic turnaround in Madera County. Taubert’s fondest memory of his tenure is the current attitude of confidence in Madera. When Taubert arrived in Madera from Turlock in 1981 to take the position of Director of the Madera District Chamber of Commerce, he found a community that desperately needed a “shot in the arm.”

February COLSTON BEGINS TENURE AS NEW POLICE CHIEF — The City of Madera officially has a new police chief as William Colston arrived for his first day on the job this morning, and like any other first day on the job, he is spending the day meeting people and trying to find out which key fits which door. Colston is familiar with those first days of being a new police chief, this being his third department. Colston says he likes small towns and small police departments. The size allows him to get to know everyone. He contends larger departments can be very political and added, “it is good to understand politics, but chiefs should stay out of it.”

March TRUSTEES SHOOT DOWN RETIREMENT PROPOSAL — A proposed early retirement program for certificated employees designed to save Madera Unified money next school year met with formidable opposition and was defeated by trustees Tuesday. “As long as I have been on the board and voted for Golden Handshakes it has been for one year increments,” said trustee Bill Driggs. “Under no terms would I vote for something, that by doing it once, would set a precedent.” By a 5-2 vote, trustees voted down the District Early Retirement Option (DERO) for fear approving it would set a standard that would cause the district trouble in the future.

April PILOT ESCAPES INJURY AFTER PLANE CRASHES IN VINEYARD — A parachute plane crashed Friday in a grape vineyard northeast of Madera, but the pilot escaped injury. Sandy Newburn, 42, of Fresno brought the plane, owned by Madera Parachute Center, down about 5 p.m. in a field a mile west of the Madera Airport at Avenue 16 and Road 23. Newburn declined comment. A parachutist who wished to remain anonymous said four passengers exited the plane, a Cessna 182, before the crash, and there were no problems at the time of the jump. According to the co-owner of the plane, the problem concerned pilot error with regard to fuel consumption. The company’s parachute planes do not carry full loads of fuel so as to make them lighter for jumping.

May BISHOP MADERA REPLACED — The Most Rev. Joseph J. Madera is being replaced as bishop of the Roman Catholic Church’s Fresno Diocese. Taking his place as interim bishop as of July 1 will be Bishop Norman McFarland. In the past, McFarland has been dispatched to help financially troubled dioceses. “I’m here to keep the machinery going,” McFarland, 69, said Tuesday. Madera, 63, was appointed bishop 11 years ago in an announcement that was a surprise because he was serving as a parish priest in Fowler. His new appointment will be as minister to U.S. military personnel and their dependents.

June NO PRAYER AT MUSD GRADUATION — Sam Bruce, pastor of the Fourth Street Church of God has one less ministerial duty to perform as a result of action taken by Madera Unified school trustees Tuesday night. The invitation to give the invocation and benediction at Madera High’s graduation ceremonies has been withdrawn. The board voted to take the advice of the district’s attorney and disallow an invocation and benediction at graduation ceremonies. School superintendent Tom Riley said, “As a public servant, it is my duty to see the law is upheld, regardless of my personal beliefs.” In response, Rev. Bruce said, “Morality and ethics can not be legislated, but this legislation is eroding the fabric of society.”

July FOOD 4 LESS DOORS SWING OPEN FOR BUSINESS — For days, curious Madera residents have been tapping on the door of the 40,000 square foot Food 4 Less in northwest Madera, hoping to get an early peek at the discount food store’s wares. Joe Gong, owner of the discount grocery was bustling about this morning making the final preparations before the 10 a.m. opening time. Gong has been in the grocery business for 20 years and operates four other markets in the Visalia area. In joining the stunning string of new businesses, Food 4 Less becomes the major anchor tenant in the Hallmark Town Center. More than a dozen retail businesses have chosen to locate in the Hallmark Town Center.

August SECOND PRISON FOR MADERA APROVED BY STATE — The California Department of Corrections has officially selected a 650-acre site across from the current Central California Women’s Facility to be the location of an identical 2,000-bed women’s prison. The planned second women’s prison would be located north of Avenue 24 and west of Road 22. Area almond growers have raised objections to construction of the prison at its planned site because of the potential restrictions on the use of pesticides so close to the prison. They claim aerial crop dusting would also be hindered because there are state restrictions on flying directly over a prison facility.

September BARSOTTI LEADS FSU ROUT IN OPENER — It was just another typical opening night for Mark Barsotti. All the senior quarterback did was pass for 224 yards and three touchdowns while completing 75 percent of his passes, rush for another 42 yards and two touchdowns, and most importantly, he led the Bulldogs to a 55-7 thrashing of Northern Illinois. Barsotti how has a perfect 4-0 in season openers with Fresno State and improved his overall won-loss mark to 30-5-1 as the Bulldogs quarterback. “We had great execution by Barsotti. He really got into the groove,” said Bulldog coach Jim Sweeney. “He was zipping the ball up the middle; he looked so fluid.”

October BRUCE TO LEAVE FOURTH STREET CHURCH OF GOD — Pastor Sam Bruce of the Fourth Street Church of God has announced that he will bid farewell to his Madera congregation to accept the presidency of Wesley College in Mississippi. Bruce came to Madera 21 years ago. His wife Sandie and daughters Janette Boch and Janelle Bond and their husbands will join him in the move. “I have performed 350 weddings and 600 funerals here,” Rev. Bruce said. “The decision to move did not come easy.” Rev. Bruce will be replaced temporarily by youth pastor Steve Williams and Buzz Boberg.

November NEWCOMERS SWEEP MUSD RACE — Madera Unified School District will have three first-time trustees following Tuesday’s election, which saw the defeat of a 16-year veteran of the board. Alfred “Buz” Boberg, Betty Finley, and Robert Garibay were elected from a field of candidates, which included four-term trustee T.R. “Gus” Gustaveson, a fifth place finisher. Superintendent Tom Riley said he doesn’t see a problem with having all new members. The results will leave B.J. Robinson as the lone trustee with more than one term on the MUSD board. Incumbent Bill Driggs chose not to seek reelection, and Benny Barsotti withdrew from the race after filing closed.

December THE ‘MAGIC’ IS GONE; MADERA PLAYERS SHOCKED — Magic Johnson’s confession of having contracted the HIV virus sent shock waves through members of the Madera High School basketball team who have grown to idolize the superstar. Coach Brian Tessler said the players were silent as they watched the press conference where Johnson announced his retirement from the sport. Johnson vowed to be an ardent spokesman for the disease, but Tessler doubts his admission will have a long-term effect on teenagers. Tessler added that he thought the announcement would have a tremendous impact on the NBA.

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