Elk Grove’s first City Hall

Elk Grove’s first City Hall was established in a vacant convenience store building on Elk Grove Boulevard.

The city of Elk Grove is now 20 years old.  It was at the strike of midnight on July 1, 2000 that Elk Grove officially became a city.

That afternoon, Elk Grove’s first City Council met at the Robert Trigg Education Center for its first official meeting, which included the swearing-in ceremonies of Mayor Jim Cooper and Council Members Dan Briggs, Mike Leary, Sophia Scherman, and Rick Soares.

Also taking the oath of office during that meeting were City Manager David Jinkens, City Treasurer Gene Albaugh, and City Attorney Tony Manzanetti.

The event, which attracted a standing-room-only crowd, also included presentations, speeches by dignitaries, and the enacting of ordinances necessary to run a municipality.

That historic day in Elk Grove history was made possible through a lengthy effort to establish Elk Grove as a city. It had its beginnings as a stage stop in 1850.

Fifty years ago, the Sacramento County Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) conducted a study on the feasibility of the possible incorporation of Elk Grove. They later directed the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce’s staff to survey Elk Grove residents on whether they preferred the status quo – their municipal services through the county – or other alternatives such as becoming a new city or being annexed into the city of Sacramento.

That survey revealed that the citizens preferred the status quo by a vote of 142-42.

But times undoubtedly changed as supporters of incorporation gradually increased.

An incorporation effort was abandoned before being placed on the ballot in 1976. Cityhood was later rejected by 54% of voters in Elk Grove’s first incorporation vote in November 1987. A vote on the same issue failed seven years later.

The 2000 vote had a different outcome, however, as voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of cityhood on March 7, 2000, through the approval of Measure J.

Aiding in that support was the projection of much greater sales tax revenue through the county-approved Elk Grove Auto Mall and other new businesses.

The approval of Measure J created a 51-square-mile city out of the communities of Elk Grove, Laguna and Sheldon. At that time, those areas had a combined total of about 54,000 residents, compared to about 174,000 residents today.

The city expanded to include the 3.3-square-mile Laguna West area in 2003.

Among the supporters of the 2000 incorporation was Alvin Bartholomew, who cast his vote on Measure J and died the following day. Hal Bartholomew was the chair of that movement.

Scherman, who later served as the city’s first and only female mayor, recalled the supporters of the incorporation movement.

“They never stopped, because they truly believed in it – and I was one of them – but for different reasons (such as) police protection, no new taxes, that type of stuff,” she said. “There was a purpose for incorporation, which would provide better service and (amenities such as the) civic center, which we were not getting before, because we were unincorporated.”

Scherman fondly remembered participating in the selection of the city’s first Planning Commission. As a council member, she appointed current City Council Member Pat Hume to the commission.

Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly told the Citizen that Elk Grove established much of its identity and direction within its first 20 years of cityhood. He also mentioned that Elk Grove has grown into a municipality that has maintained its small-town feel, and a portion of its agricultural heritage.

Ly added that he personally witnessed a lot of that growth.

“The community I saw when I moved here to Elk Grove was very different than the city of Elk Grove today,” he said. “It’s really a diverse community that’s really consistent with some of the things that we do here in Elk Grove.

“I’m really proud of it. I think two decades is really a significant point for us to pause, celebrate and reflect on our heritage and realize as we move further we have to do our part in remembering the past so we can move forward toward the future.”

City Manager Jason Behrmann also stressed the importance of remembering the past, noting that it is important to recognize the people who worked for the city’s incorporation and others associated with early cityhood.

“(The anniversary) deserves really a nod to those that came before from the early days, those that even were involved in the incorporation process, getting the signatures and taking it to the ballot, and early city staff and early elected officials here in the city, a lot of whom are still living in town,” he said.

“A lot of work and a lot of dreaming and visioning efforts have gone into helping us to where we are now. Now we’re doing the same thing. We’re looking out, what (does) the next 10, 15, 20 years hold?”

Behrmann said that in the meantime, the city staff continues to listen to residents and focus on high priority issues such as transportation, public safety and economic development.

Summarizing Elk Grove’s time as a city, Behrmann mentioned that Elk Grove is “better off having incorporated” and “taken control over its destiny.”

“Before (Elk Grove) was a city, it was really a focus on Elk Grove really just being a bedroom community and mostly houses,” he said. “I think over the last 20 years, it’s been much more focused on economic prosperity and economic development, bringing in businesses and jobs, and other kinds of things to support the household. It goes back to quality of life.

“The goal has been and continues to be to create opportunities here, so people don’t have to spend that much time on the road or sitting in traffic. Work is left to be done, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.”