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Alumna fosters mayoral dreams

While students may imagine themselves as a businessperson, athlete or teacher 10 years after high school, alumna Ashley (Newton) Swearengin, ’90, has retained a desire to lead Fresno as mayor. She will run in the Fresno City primaries, June 3.

After working for nonprofit organizations and Fresno State for seven years as the director of Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED), Swearengin believes she is ready to lead Fresno City towards new goals.

Swearengin met her husband, Paul, as a student at Fresno State. He is a radio personality for the local ESPN Radio chapter. They have two children, Sydney, 8, and Samuel, 4.

“Of all the things I’ve experienced, parenting has shaped my life the most,” Swearengin said.

Swearengin cites campus student leadership as a major influence in her life.

“I learned a lot about leadership and how to get things done at Fresno Christian,” Swearengin said. “If we wanted to have a big rally, no one planned it for us. Those experiences taught me about taking initiative, finding a path forward no matter what the obstacles.”

Swearengin also participated in cheer, acting as the captain during her junior and senior years.

“I have dozens of great memories from cheer,” Swearengin said. “Mrs. Mac, (Eunie McEntee, former cheer coach), played all sorts of tricks on us and we on her. We had such a blast. I learned at that age that some adults are actually fun.”

Current cheer coach and alumna Katie Mendenhall, ’93, remembers Swearengin’s commitment to leadership and service as a varsity captain.

“One year at cheer camp, Ashley was nominated for a National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) All American award,” Mendenhall said. “She spent the whole day helping girls from other schools with their routines and technique, helping them to become better. By the time she was supposed to perform, she was exhausted.”

Although Swearengin did not win the award, her lack of self-importance and emphasis on concern for others was apparent even as a senior in high school.

“She was an outstanding student, made nationals in cheer and was a leader on campus,” Principal Gary Schultz said. “She’s highly articulate and was always very conscious of the community. Running for mayor fits right into her ‘M. O.'”

After graduating in ’90, Swearengin pursued a business degree at California State University, Fresno. After college, she worked as the marketing director for three different companies in Fresno. Then, Swearengin left the private sector and went to work in the non-profit world. Her first non profit was the Central Valley Business Incubator where she served as director.

“Working for these businesses gave me a desire to become mayor,” Swearengin said, “and also the belief that God wants to do a major work in our city to reverse decades-old conditions in our community.”

Later Swearengin became the director of the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State.

Swearengin hopes to add jobs and improve the economy, improve safety in neighborhoods, unite and simplify Fresno legislation and act as an advocate for Fresno County in the greater community. She has also worked with community service projects like Leadership Fresno, Class XV Fresno Business Council and the Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development.

“I don’t have much political ambition,” Swearengin said. “Some of my opponents are using this position as a stepping stone to Sacramento. I really want to help with the brokenness in people’s lives in Fresno: gangs, poverty and unemployment. That’s my goal.”

For her contribution to FC and the community, Swearengin will speak at the high school graduation, May 23, in the Peoples Church sanctuary at 7 P.M.

“Fresno Christian provided a rich foundation for me,” Swearengin said. “I will always appreciate it. Speaking at graduation is one way I can help bring honor to the school. I want the seniors to leave on graduation night knowing that God is within their reach.”

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  • J

    Josh HopperApr 21, 2010 at 6:57 am

    This turned out to be one of those great high school experiences that I will never forget. I was 10 minutes late to Spanish class, but it was so worth it!

    High School isn’t just books and homework and classes and tests, but it’s the whole experience of learning outside the classroom. Even if it is learning how to duct tape a man to a wall.

  • L

    Laura CasugaApr 21, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Good thing to know someone fed the poor little wall magnet. But Josh . . . taunting? What would Jesus say?