Booker T. Lewis, pastor at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in southwest Fresno, was named the new city of Fresno’s liaison for the southwest Fresno community, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Credit: John Walker / The Fresno Bee

Booker T. Lewis, senior pastor of the Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in southwest Fresno, is the city of Fresno’s new liaison for the southwest Fresno community.

Notice of the appointment, which was contained in a news release from the mayor’s office Monday, cited Lewis’ “extensive experience in community engagement, advocacy, intervention and mediation.”

His responsibilities include supporting the southwest Fresno community and “unifying people who differ in race, religion, culture, denomination, economics, politics and other areas.” Lewis began his new job Monday.

‘We now have some ears and eyes (in the mayor’s office)‘

Lewis was a spokesman for the Concerned Citizens of Southwest Fresno, a group opposed to increased location of industry in the southwest Fresno area. The group is opposed to Mayor Jerry Dyer’s recent zoning proposal that would impact 92.5 acres of disputed land in southwest Fresno, where community residents have been fighting a proposal by developers to keep the sites as industrial development.

If approved, the amendment sought by the city would lift all restrictions on the land use and give the city authority to determine what it considers to be the appropriate use/zoning for the land.

“When they hired me, they understood my position on it. That’s not going to change,” Lewis said. “We’re going to do everything we can to protect our Southwest Fresno Specific Plan.”

On how he would maintain both the trust of the mayor as well as the southwest Fresno community, Lewis said, “They have assured me that they’re going to allow me to continue to be an advocate for our community, and to continue the work I’ve been doing as far as convening people, and trying to convince our city to do what we believe is right for our community.”

According to Lewis, ”I’ve been assured that I don’t have to always agree with (Dyer).”

Robert Mitchell, vice-chair of the Golden Westside Planning Committee, applauded Lewis’ appointment. “We now have some ears and eyes (in the mayor’s office).”

“Now, we have a person who has all of the same concerns that we as citizens have had for years working in the field, on the issues and is knowledgeable completely of what is occurring within the community as it relates to those issues that we’ve addressed and are still addressing,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he has full confidence in Lewis’ ability to continue to work in the community’s interest. “He’s not going to leave the church; he is not going to leave our community, and he has no ambition to become something other than a voice for our community within the administration.”

‘A man of high integrity and character’

“Pastor Lewis has been a man of high integrity and character, and I’m looking forward to understanding his role and responsibilities and what projects he would actually be involved in,” said Miguel Arias, representative of the southwest area on the Fresno City Council.

“We will need clarity from the administration or legal counsel on any potential conflicts that we have to be cognizant of.”

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Dr. Dympna Ugwu-Oju is the senior editor for Fresnoland.