In December, just a year into his first term, 1st District councilmember Fred Jung was chosen by a 3-2 majority of his fellow councilmembers as the Mayor of Fullerton. (see correction at end of article)
Observer: Congratulations on being voted mayor of Fullerton. That was a controversial vote, and it isn’t always.
Jung: And it shouldn’t be. It should be based on the trust of other councilmembers, their faith and belief in their colleague, the same way elections are determined by the voters who have faith and a belief in the candidate, and if you haven’t generated that, I don’t know that the title of Mayor should be awarded to You.
Observer: The City is deficient in personnel. I believe we have one permanent City department head currently. Are you concerned about this?
Jung: It’s not lost on me that we need employees. What I prefer as a citizen and as an elected official is that not only are those employees treated well, but that they also perform.
Observer: With the diminished levels of staffing and permanent department heads, are you trying to run the City directly?
Jung: It’s not a mayor-run city. I wouldn’t be in favor of it becoming one at this time. The City Manager, by the direction of the Council, runs the City.
Observer: Why did you recently vote to make a 2.5% budget cut when the City was just handed millions of dollars from the federal government in the form of the The American Rescue Plan Act?
Jung: That American Rescue Plan Act money is only going to be here for the next two years. What happens in year three? Year four? If we’re not mindful of the budget right now, in year four projections are concerning. We’ll deplete most of our reserves by year four. I think a 2.5% [budget] cut is prudent, and it doesn’t have to mean job cuts.
Observer: Is there anything you wouldn’t cut?
Jung: I’m not in favor of making any more staffing reductions than we already have. Now, leaving positions vacant, that’s one thing, but cutting staff is something I would not be in favor of at this time.
Observer: What are your three top priorities for the coming year?
Jung: First, sustainable development to generate revenue. Second is to make sure that we hire a city manager, one that will be here for a while and be invested in the City. Priority number three, and this is extraordinarily important to me, I’ve got to get this City to run more efficiently, every portion of it. I asked for a needs assessment study to be done to improve efficiency, and I think that’s going to go a long way in determining for us what our current demands are from a facility standpoint.
Observer: When you say sustainable development, what do you mean by that?
Jung: We shouldn’t develop just for the sake of development. Is parking going to be sufficient? Is it in an area where there’s mass transit that’s accessible, where people can ride bikes and walk to things they need? Residents that live there have to shop for groceries. So, when you’re thinking about these developments you have to consider all of these things. Is it germane to the area? Does it make sense for the neighborhood? Does it make sense for our City and its infrastructure, for our public safety and the other needs that development will require?
Observer: There are a lot of people who would say we should be moving away from a carbon-based economy. Is there anything you can do as mayor or a councilperson of a city to move towards something like that?
Jung: At this level it’s challenging. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Climate change is the most looming threat to all our lives. We are at a frantic pace to try to mitigate this somehow and get cleaner, but the notion that we are going to eliminate all fossil fuels, I think is not pragmatic at this time. Therefore, the efforts that I think we can do that are really important to me is we have to get the funding from the federal government and from our state, brought here with grants, to inform the public about electric vehicles, to encourage the public to move to sustainability, just simple things that we can do to inch the needle our way.
Observer: What do you think can be done for people on the lower end of the workforce?
Jung: I think we have to think long and hard, as a city, about who we’re going to be. Are we going to be accessible to all or are we going to be accessible to the few? I think there’s a level of quality of life we have to have. I think we owe that to future generations. I’ve got five children—they all will have to find housing. We also need to provide more senior housing. There’s a level of mental and physical benefit seniors receive through regular social interaction.
Observer: How do you dialogue with members of the community?
Jung: I answer every phone call, every email, and every text. I take every meeting. I would expect folks who have an opinion to share their opinion with me and allow me to express my own.
Mayor Fred Jung can be reached at (714) 738-6311 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction:The original article incorrectly said Jung was the first Korean-American mayor. In the 1990’s, the Fullerton City Council elected Julie Sa as Mayor. She was the first Korean American Mayor of the city. At that time, President Bill Clinton recognized the achievement of her election by sending her a personal message.
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