City Hall, Community

Citrus Heights kicks off city’s 20th birthday with reception, review

Citrus Heights 20th anniversary kickoff
Police department Honor Guard members file out of the council chambers on Thursday after posting flags in the room during a 20th anniversary kick-off celebration. // CH Sentinel

Updated Jan. 14, 10:29 p.m.–
Council chambers in Citrus Heights were packed with a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night for the city’s 20th anniversary kick-off celebration.

The evening began with a half-hour reception at city hall, complete with balloons, cake, and refreshments, followed by formal recognition of the city’s milestone anniversary during the regularly scheduled council meeting the same evening.

Republic Services, the city’s waste and recycling service provider, presented awards and recognition during the meeting for 13 children who participated in an artwork contest and had been selected to have their art published in a 20th anniversary calendar. City staff also presented a brief timeline overview of Citrus Heights’ incorporation effort and various achievements over the past two decades, followed by a five-minute video shown on the chamber’s new large-screen projectors. (See video below)

Various community and business leaders also spoke during the meeting, including city “godfather” Bill Van Duker, who chaired the original Citrus Heights Incorporation Project (CHIP) for several years.

“I want to challenge the city to not stop here 20 years later and look at what we’ve done, but look forward to what we can do because there’s still a lot of things that can happen,” said Van Duker, after praising cityhood as a success that “wildly” exceeded his best dreams. Setting sights on the future, he mentioned work was needed to get local schools “up to par,” and also expressed a desire for a future event center.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, also spoke Thursday night, presenting an Assembly resolution in honor of the city’s anniversary and praising the city’s management as an example for other municipalities to follow.

“The success of the City of Citrus Heights was instrumental in the success in the formation… of the City of Elk Grove [and] the City of Rancho Cordova,” said Cooley, noting the pair of cities had incorporated just a few years after Citrus Heights. He also praised the city’s “pay-as-you-go” philosophy to avoid public debt, calling it a model other city’s have looked to across the state.

Although looked upon now widely as a successful example of cityhood, the fight to break off from county governance and incorporate as a city was a decade-long battle that culminated with a “Measure R” vote for cityhood in 1995. While ending up with 62 percent approval by voters, those involved in the effort weren’t so sure it would pass.

“When we were watching the election results… we didn’t know whether we were going to win or lose,” Van Duker told the audience on Thursday. He described the Citrus Heights cityhood effort as a small, dedicated group that dwindled at times to just a half-dozen people serving with CHIP during prolonged court battles in the 80’s and 90’s.

Read more about the fight for cityhood: 2017 marks 20 years since Citrus Heights became a city

City staff said the Jan. 12 kick-off event was only the start of a planned year-long celebration of the city’s anniversary, with additional plans including a “block party” at Van Maren Park in June and a traveling anniversary booth to be featured at community events in the city this year. 2017 will also feature a different theme for each month to highlight various aspects of the city, such as “top 20” city landmarks and “top 20 things you love about Citrus Heights.”

January’s theme is the top city awards and accomplishments, with fiscal responsibility and forming the city’s own police department named among the top 20 items.