As mayor of Folsom, Jeff Starsky says it’s his job to keep people thinking positive and keep consumer confidence high. As far as his city is concerned, he seems to be doing a good job. Consider the following economic indicators: Compared to the average unemployment rate of 11 percent in Sacramento County, Folsom’s unemployment rate is 5.5 percent; Folsom has the highest bond rating of any city in the county, property values have dropped the least compared to other municipalities in the region and, according to a recent FBI report, Folsom is the safest city in the county.
Starsky is quick to attribute the credit for these ratings and accolades. “Local business makes all of this possible,” he says. “If you have a vibrant business community, there’s more that you can do for your citizenry in terms of parks, libraries and police.”
But Starsky and the rest of the council are far from resting on their laurels.
“We want to make Folsom recession proof,” he says. “To achieve that we have to do everything we can to support the businesses that are already here, big and small. And, we have to continue to attract new businesses and ensure diversification in our industry mix.”
One priority is supporting and attracting retail. Folsom, working in conjunction with a federally sponsored community development grant program and Wells Fargo, has developed a pool of funds earmarked for small businesses.
“The retail sector is having a tough time getting lending,” he says. “Traditional bank lenders won’t look at anything under $50,000. Through this pool of funds, small retailers can qualify for grants in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.”
Besides helping the little guy, Starsky also likes to let the big guys — such as Intel Corp., Micron Technology Inc. and California ISO — know how important they are to the city. He makes a point of lunching with management on a regular basis.
Finally, Starsky wants to make it as easy as possible for business to thrive in his city. “Government is so good at getting in the way,” he says. “My thinking is ‘Let’s get out of the way.’ Of course we have to protect our citizens, but let’s not over regulate these guys to death.”
• Occupation: Starsky, 49, is an attorney specializing in corporate law and litigation in the business sector. He’s been a member of the Folsom City Council for 10 years and is currently serving his second term as mayor. Prior to the council, he served on the Folsom Planning Commission for three years.
• Personal: Starsky, his wife, Pam, and daughter, Jessica, live in Folsom. They love the outdoors and enjoy skiing, hiking, biking and traveling. “Being in Folsom we have access to great hiking and biking trails,” he says, “and of course we’re less than an hour from incredible skiing.”
• Public service: “Once you get your career built, I believe you have an obligation to give back to the community,” he says. “I think serving on the City Council is the best way I can accomplish that. I’ve lived here for 26 years and love it. I want to make sure it’s still great 25 years from now.”
• Lunch: At Visconti’s Ristorante on East Bidwell Street in Folsom, Starsky selects the cannelloni for lunch; a homemade crepe with meat, cheese and spinach.
California’s ongoing economic slump has been historically challenging to local governments, even in relatively affluent areas like Folsom, which has one of the highest per capita incomes in the Capital Region. We sat down recently with Folsom City Manager Kerry Miller to discuss the city’s current fiscal condition and plans it has to thrive as the economy improves.
The icy retail climate along the Highway 50 corridor east of Sacramento is slowly beginning to thaw, but an overabundance of standing inventory remains.