Fulfilling a promise made during budget season, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer hired longtime LGBTQ+ rights activist Robin McGehee to his Office of Community Affairs.
McGehee will be the liaison between Dyer’s office and the gay community. She came to the forefront of the Fresno gay rights fight nearly 15 years ago as the public face for marriage equality. She has held several leadership positions in gay rights groups.
“Today’s announcement is another step forward in Mayor Dyer’s vision of a true One Fresno,” McGehee said in a statement released by the city. “My goal is to work with the Mayor to uplift the City of Fresno in becoming a more inclusive place for all citizens, including our members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.”
She currently teaches at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia. McGehee is a Fresno State graduate.
Position Discussed During Budget Time
Advocates pushed for adding a representative for the LGBTQ+ community to the mayor’s office, especially during budget negotiations last June.
Annalisa Perea, the first openly gay member of the city council, was among those supporting the move. She set aside money for the hiring.
Dyer supported the move as well.
“During my time as the mayor of this city, I’ve heard the heart of this community and how they’ve felt alienated and excluded,” Dyer said in a news release. “By bringing Robin into our administration and placing her in this vital role, she’ll be a direct link between her community and City Hall, ensuring that they are represented and served in city government.”
Adding the LGBT+ liaison cut the hours for the other four representatives. Instead of working 40 hours, they will all work 32 hours, with some benefits.
McGehee joins the office that represents other ethnic groups. Others include Pastor Booker T. Lewis (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and Harjinder Saini (Indian). Liaisons for the Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino communities are currently vacant, but the city is actively hiring.
McGehee officially starts in the position on Thursday.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 9.1% of the state’s residents identify as LGBTQ+. The most recent Census estimates Fresno’s Black population at 13.6%; Asian Indian at 3%; API at 14.4.%; and Latino at 50%.
Speaker McCarthy Is ‘A Disgrace for Us’: McGehee
McGehee spoke to the Fresno Stonewall Democrats during a July meeting, discussing the liaison position and other political issues.
She applauded Clovis Mayor Lynne Ashbeck for standing up for the LGBT+ community during meetings this summer when the issue of age-appropriate books at the library was discussed.
She also talked about Speaker of the House and Valley congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.
“I think the fact that Kevin McCarthy has the platform that he does is a disgrace for us as an organizing community because we have such power in this community. If we can just organize ourselves to remove someone who could be so damaging to our community,” McGehee said.
McGehee said the farming community — with its own agenda in mind — supports McCarthy.
“Sometimes that takes having to have hard conversations about some of the subsidies that farmers get. Although we love our agriculture and we believe that they need what they need and what they should be getting what they get, that doesn’t mean that damning and putting people like our community as the punching bag is OK,” McGehee said.
McGehee also criticized Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld and his perceived anti-LGBT+ reputation. He is running for Fresno County supervisor in 2024.
“That means that he is only going to get worse,” McGehee said.
She advocated for applying pressure on Bredefeld and his supporters and organizing against them.