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Working With Jere Melo

When I heard Jere Melo was shot, I was in shock. Then angry. Then sad. When news came that, yes, Jere did not survive, that he could not have survived the close-range shots from an automatic firearm, it was even more devastating.

With an eyewitness and plenty of evidence, local law enforcement has a known suspect, and I assume the murderer will be tracked down.

But right now I want to write about Jere Melo, a colleague I knew and worked with in the city council office for the last 13 years, and someone I knew as a friend.

Jere was one of the hardest working guys I know, and he was smart about how he used his time. People saw him do work in city meetings, they saw him give verbal (and written) reports of his work between meetings, and they saw him volunteer his time for many, many community projects. The construction of Timberwolf Stadium and improvements for the Fort Bragg Volunteer Fire Department may have been the two most visible projects where Jere was a real champion.

That said, I was constantly impressed with the work I saw Jere do in the city council office, because that’s where I saw how he was so effective at moving forward community projects, or resolving problems that needed attention.

Right off the bat, Jere always seemed to know who to call, and he’d always do something practical with the call. His phone calls were always geared to lead to a next step, to a finish line.

He was also generous in helping others, sharing his connections, so ideas in the community could move forward.

“Let me call so-and-so.” Or, “Let me help you get in touch with so-and-so,” as he must have said dozens of times.

In recent years, I saw Jere put his years of contacts, organizational skills and tireless work into literally dozens of projects. In this note, though, I want to describe just two of them, because they could be overlooked, but should be remembered.

One was his work on behalf of cities and counties to persuade the California Coastal Commission staff to work cooperatively with local governments. Fort Bragg wasn’t the only local government that faced eleventh-hour objections from Coastal Commission staff, it turned out. Jere’s work, much of it done over the phone and with the League of California Cities, resulted in promises for reforms by members of the California Coastal Commission.

The second was his effort to bring back to Fort Bragg the jobs that come with a small saw mill. Jere saw that trees would continue to be cut in Mendocino Coast forests, but as long as all the lumber mills were somewhere else, a good number of jobs would be lost from the Coast. In the last three years Jere probably made a couple hundred phone calls and organized more than two dozen meetings to bring investors to look at starting a small saw mill here on the Coast.

In this brief note, in this moment that is still raw, I’m only recounting a small portion of who Jere was, or a small portion of the work he did for this community. But I hope that by showing what Jere did in the council office I’m providing some insight into why he was so well respected by people who worked with him for years.

I am going to miss working with him. This is a sad time in Fort Bragg.

--Dan Gjerde

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