To incorporate as a charter city, a city must first have 3,500 residents within its boundaries. A proposed charter can then be framed by a board of 15 freeholders, or citizens, either appointed by the City Council or elected by the voters of the City.
Visalia's freeholders were elected in May of 1922 to draft the new charter. The list contains names still recognizable around Visalia: James Burke; N.F. Bradley; J. Sub Johnson; Ben M. Maddox; J.A. Allen; E.J. Feemster; L.C. Hyde; Gilbert B. Furness; Joseph Sherman; Adolph Sweet; J.E. Richardson; Joseph R. Barboni; Charles H.J. Hausch; Norman C. Wolf, and; Ira Chrisman.
Following seven months of work by the freeholders, the new charter was approved by Visalia voters in January 1923 and ratified by the State Legislature on Feb. 26, 1923. In April of that same year, an election was held to select the new City Council, with a vote of 1,326 votes cast for the 15 candidates. The light voter turnout was attributed to rainy weather on election day.
The so-called "citizens committee ticket" swept the field carrying Joseph Barboni, James Burke, Isaac Clark, Gilbert Furness, and W.P. Willimott into office. Barboni, a local banker receiving the most votes, was selected Mayor by the other Council Members.
The Council appointed B.J. Pardee, former Superintendent of Coalinga's City Works Department, as Visalia's first City Manager. They also appointed E.J. Feemster, City Attorney; Ida Markham, City Clerk; J.S. Clack, Police Judge; John F. Clark, Assessor; George Clotfelter, Controller; and Dr. A.W. Preston, Health Officer. City Manager Pardee was delegated the responsibility of making the other appointments: Court Smith, Chief of Police; H.G. Williams, Fire Chief; L.H. Gadsby, City Engineer; and Marion Horracks, City Nurse.
To view the City of Visalia's Charter, click here