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Clarence Arrasmith - City Manager

Fillmore Methodist c 1912.jpg

We say Fillmore was founded in 1887 when the railroad came through, but it was not an actual town until 1914 when it was incorporated. Incorporation was not an assured event. There was strong opposition, mainly on the basis that creating a city would put another layer of taxes on the locals. On the other side was the argument that taxes currently being paid weren’t coming back to the local residents but were being spent elsewhere in the county. Streets were not paved, and the only paved sidewalks were those put in by the adjacent business owner. In August of 1914 the election was held with the vote split 208 for incorporation and 193 against. Fillmore became the newest city in Ventura County.
In the same election George Tighe, the first station master and a store owner, was elected mayor and Clarence Arrasmith was elected city clerk. Miss Florence Lewis who worked at the Fillmore State Bank was elected Treasurer. (Women gained the vote in California in 1911.) Besides Tighe on the “board of trustees”, forerunner to the city council, were Bowman Merritt, druggist; E. O. Goodenough, merchant; E. A. Pyle, “financier”; and S. H. Mosher, hardware merchant. At the first trustee meeting two additional officials were appointed – John Galvin as city attorney and Jack Casner, city marshal, both would receive the salary of $25 per month.

Two of the new city officials would serve Fillmore into the second half of the twentieth century – Clarence Arrasmith and John Galvin.

Clarence Arrasmith was born in Newport, Indiana, in 1873. While in Indiana he owned two newspapers. After his marriage to Mary Grosjean in 1903 he moved to Illinois. He came to Fillmore in 1911 and served as assistant post-master to Richard Stephens.

In 1918, the town moved to the “City Manager” form of government that we still have. Arrasmith was hired as the first city manager for Fillmore. He would hold the position until his death in 1954.

Clarence Arrasmith was particularly known for his ability to communicate complex issues to the general public. Beginning in 1936, he wrote a weekly column in the Fillmore Herald called, “Over the Back Fence.” Through this column he would explain to the citizens of Fillmore why their water bill was what it was, why certain streets couldn’t be paved at the present time and what new ordinances meant.

1927 Street Lighting Dedication, M. Gaylord, Superintendent of the Southern Pacific Co., Alice Keiffer, daughter of the local agent of Southern California Edison Co., Clarence Arrasmith, City Manager, William H. Price, Mayor

Clarence Arrasmith - City Manager

The City’s Annual Reports during Clarence Arrasmith’s time as City Manager were actually fun to read. His final report for 1954 was “written” by one “Josiah Tuttle”, late of Vermont, and illustrated by Lawrence Hinckley. It was subtitled “Being a Fair-to-Middlin’ Report about City Doings at Fillmore, California, for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1954. Printed and Published by the City of Fillmore, California (but not Guaranteed).” Under the heading “Street Improvements”, “Josiah” wrote:

“Street improvements were on the program this year – but somehow or another they mostly got sidetracked – but there is a good chance that some of them will be done up in the paper sack this coming year – provided the proposed sewer project doesn’t get too much in the way”.
No bureaucratic jargon here.

Like the rest of the United States, the Great Depression had an impact on Fillmore. To lift people’s spirits, Arrasmith organized weekly evening “Happy Hours”. These were programs which included singing, instrumental music, readings and skits. One in early April 1932 was considered by the local paper to have been a “smashing success.” The program opened with the Community Orchestra (Arrasmith led and played the cello) playing “The Bridal Rose”. This was followed by Eddie Perkins, Jr., “one of the city’s most talented youngsters” doing some snappy novelty dances, accompanied by his mother on the piano. A community sing-along was then led by Eddie Perkins, Sr. Mary Galvin, accompanied by her sister Katherine, sang several songs. This was then followed by Fergus Fairbanks giving a short, but interesting resumé on George Washington. More singing, and the program was closed with the Star-Spangled Banner. One of the highlights of the evening was the Fillmore Fire Department presenting an “interesting and novel number called ‘Paying a Bet’.”

On the night of July 20, 1954, Clarence Arrasmith felt unwell. A doctor was summoned (this was still in the days of house calls), but Arrasmith died of a heart attack that night. At the time of his death, he was believed to have been the longest serving city manager in the State. His many musical instruments were donated to the Fillmore High School Music Department. He was survived by his wife Mary, daughter Mildred and son, Donald.

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