Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I've Decided Not To Run Again

Eight years ago, I stood on the steps of City Hall and announced that I was running for the City Council. Today I am writing to let you know that I have decided to step down and not run for a third term this fall. It’s been a great ride – I love being on the City Council, and I especially love being Mayor. I am very grateful that you have given me the opportunity to serve you.

When I made the decision to run eight years ago, it wasn’t because I wanted to be a career politician, either by “moving up the food chain” to higher office or “being somebody” locally by occupying a seat on the City Council forever. I ran because I wanted to work with the community on some very specific changes that I believed were needed to move Ventura in a positive direction – ensuring long-term prosperity, conserving our open space and improving our downtown and our neighborhoods, maintaining and improving public safety, and most of all opening up City Hall so that our city government could be more transparent and accountable to the people it serves.

After two terms in office – including one stint as mayor and another as deputy mayor –I’m proud of the positive changes we have made. The “growth wars” of the ‘90s and early ‘00s are mostly behind us. We have far more stability in our city’s leadership than we used to. City Hall is, indeed, far more open and transparent than it used to be, and we are engaged in many more partnerships with the community at large.

Most important, we’ve dealt responsibly with a major financial crisis – one that nobody anticipated when I first ran back in 2003. Although we have had to cut services more than I would have liked, we took swift, early action to maintain a balanced budget. That’s why we do not face the deep financial problems currently confronting many of our surrounding cities.

I haven’t accomplished everything I set out to do, but I am proud to have done my share to help move things forward in many positive ways over the past eight years; and anyway no elected office-holder ever accomplishes every goal. It’s important to have experience and stability on the council, and during my time we’ve had both – a big change from the ‘90s and early ‘00s, when there was a lot of turnover. But I never intended to serve more than two terms, and I do sometimes worry that I will get stale in office.

I have to admit that personal considerations play an important role in this decision. I had a rich and fulfilling life before politics – professional, civic, personal -- and I am looking forward to focusing more on all of those activities again. In particular, I believe it is necessary for me to focus far more attention on my personal health, especially the ongoing loss of my eyesight.

As I revealed in a blog more than a year ago, I suffer from a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, a deterioration of the retina that is gradually diminishing my peripheral vision and night vision. There is no way to know how quickly RP will rob anyone of their eyesight; and there is no treatment or cure. Anybody who has spent time with me in the last couple of years knows that this condition is becoming worse and that I am struggling to adjust to it. But the demands on my time as mayor have prevented me from focusing on how to make the transition to living life as a low-vision person. For my own well-being and the well-being of those I love, it is time for me to focus more fully on making this transition successfully.

In many ways, it is hard to leave office at such a difficult time. Over the past few years, we have had to cut our service levels to a point that most of us on the council are not comfortable with. We have been extremely fiscally responsible – moreso than most of our neighbors – but we must begin the effort to restore and reinvent our services, so that we never again have to face the difficult choices we have had to make in the past few years. As the current chair of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, I am working on organizational and service changes for public transit that should benefit the county greatly, and I wish I could see them through. The same is true for libraries. Our libraries have taken a big hit in recent years, and I believe our current library planning process will yield great results. When the real estate market comes back, I believe we will begin to see fabulous new development projects downtown and elsewhere and it would be great to be on the Council when that finally occurs.

But when you’re an incumbent, you can always come up with an excuse to run for office again. It’s much harder to look beyond the office you hold and envision the many other ways you might be able to help your community. In deciding whether to run again, I have thought long and hard about what role I might play once I leave office. Ventura has a long history of community service on the part of retired mayors and councilmembers and I look forward to joining my predecessors in playing that role. Beyond that, I believe that there are now unprecedented opportunities for everyone in the community – former mayor or not – to participate in moving our community forward.

In the old days, a constituency that wanted something – a park, a transportation program, an arts program, a construction project -- simply lobbied the City Council, putting the City on the hook for organizing, planning, funding, and running the whole thing. We as a community can no longer afford to operate this way, and one of the great accomplishments of the last few years has been to partner with others in the community to move things forward. We have, for example, partnered with community nonprofits to keep the downtown senior center open, to plan the future of Grant Park, and to maintain and renew our beloved ArtWalk. The City and the community will be partnering frequently in the future. I hope to work with you in many of these efforts during my five remaining months as mayor -- and in the years ahead after I leave office.

First and foremost is the effort to use our upcoming 150th anniversary in 2016 as a “target” to improve our community. As I suggested in my State of the City address in February, we are now in the process of creating a community-based committee to discuss what our community’s goals over the next five years should be and how we can achieve those goals.

Beyond the 2016 effort, there are many other ongoing issues in our community that I am really interested in and hope to continue working on. These include our business incubator and Ventura’s “new economy”, transportation and public transit, arts and culture, planning and development, and arts, culture and libraries. And I think it’s a safe bet that I will become more active as and advocate for disabled persons – which, in my mind, is really just a way to advocate to eliminate physical barriers to mobility for all people.

As I said above, no office-holder accomplishes everything he or she sets out to do, and any politician can always come up with an excuse to run again. I view my decision to step down not so much as an end to my involvement in Ventura, but simply as a transition into a different role where I can continue to help make our community better. I love Ventura more than ever, and I will continue to do everything I can to pursue the two goals for Ventura that I have always had – enduring prosperity and a high quality of life. Thanks for the opportunity to serve you on the City Council and as Mayor. I look forward to working with you as mayor between now and December – I promise I will put my foot to the floor to get things done – and I look forward to working with you for many more years to come.


  1. Bill,

    We are indebted to you for your service and passion for Ventura.

    Best wishes on your Next Big Thing.

    J. Buccola

  2. Thank you Bill for opening up City Hall and making communication with our City Leaders more easily accessible. For you to not only openly communicate with Citizens, but also for you to begin your day at O'Dark Thirty with some of the citizens of this city, I must thank you again for all of your efforts.

    Congratulations on your decision to spend more time with your loved ones and concentrating on your renewed endeavors.


  3. Maybe you could work on getting the Wright library opened again now that you have some free time to hang with those who used it and not just those who promised a "new economy" by waving their hands in the air magically. If you wanted to "advocate to eliminate physical barriers to mobility for all people" then having a library in their neighborhood is a great thing for them. They don't have to drive downtown. The Wright library closing will be the legacy that is hung around your neck. You should have protected it while you were in charge. You failed us.


  4. Dear,
    Mayor Bill Fulton

    It was a pleasure to have you on our City Council and run as our mayor to improve the city of Ventura and efforts to what is leading our city to be today in good differences from when you had becom a community advocate supporter to us citizens in Ventura . I wish you best and I hope that you overcome your personal health battles as a good person like you who will eventually get a positive payback for all the great things you had done for us venturans last but least also thank you for helping us Ventura ave residents who also appreciate your advocacy for future improvements to make the ave a better and safer place .
    Sincerely Carlos Castaneda

  5. bill,

    I respect your thought that you did not want to be a career politician. I also see what you have done and you are a great example of ethical leadership. The last two years have been hard and as mayor you have taken the brunt of the abuse. Having an aunt and an uncle who suffered from reduced eyesight I understand what you are facing. I have no doubt that you will face it well. I look forward to working with you after you are citizen Fulton.



  6. Bill
    thanks for teaching all of us how to live a perfect life! your so wonderful what will Ventura do without you. We will probably go back to being a bunch of right wing ranchers who don't know how to protect ourselves from ourselves. Are you thinking of running for mayor of the circus next?


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