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Porterville at a Glimpse ~ 1990-1999

by Fabian Uresti, Community Development

Welcome_to_Porterville_Sign_thThe 90’s seem like they just happened yesterday and, well, that’s because, to me, they did! Quick…think of the 90’s and what pops into your head? If you said Desert Shield/Storm, Rodney King and the L.A. riots, the Major League baseball strike, O.J. on the run, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, and Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ divorce, you would be correct! Granted, a somewhat “negative” outlook, but correct.

On a positive note, you could have also mentioned the reunification of East and West Germany, the end of the Soviet Union, Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Pressley, the television show Friends began, Windows 95 was released, Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” was captured, Hong Kong became part of China again, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup, the Olympic men’s basketball “Dream Team” prevailed, and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. finally won the Daytona 500.

These were national (and one or two international) news events, but what you probably want to know is, “What happened right here in our great city?” Should I talk about the freeze of 1991 or 1994 and how it economically destroyed farmers and the people who relied on agricultural work to support their families? For such a catastrophic freeze to happen twice in one decade was devastating to our community. It is to Porterville’s credit that our community pulled together and continued forward.

But - enough of the calamities of this decade; the City of Porterville had some great things that happened in the 90’s. One of the best things that happened to our City in this decade was that Wal-Mart chose Porterville as the site to build their new west coast Distribution Center. Wal-Mart announced in 1990 that Porterville was the location selected and that the Distribution Center would bring 600 new jobs to Porterville. In 1991, construction was completed on the 1.2 million square foot facility in just 11 months. In 1992, the City received the coveted CALED Award of Excellence Grand Prize for bringing Wal-Mart to our community. In 1997, Wal-Mart was selected as Large Employer of the Year by the Tulare County Mayors Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities. Wal-Mart continues to be one of the largest employers in Porterville which contributes immensely to our local economy.


Wal-Mart Distribution Center is also a wonderful example of community partnerships and has a history of generosity to the community, such as donations to the Children’s Miracle Network, United Way, local schools, community causes, and to the needy during the holiday season. The Wal-Mart employees participate in a variety of community service works each year.

President Bill Clinton with Mayor Judi Gibbons

All_American_city_badgeThe National Civic League recognized Porterville as an All America City in 1994 along with nine other cities chosen in a national competition. The competition started with nearly 200 cities applying for All-America status - this was a tough contest! Eventually Porterville, along with 29 other cities, was named a finalist. During the two-day convention and final competition, a 115-member delegation traveled to Oakland to deliver a 10-minute oral presentation about Porterville and answer jurors’ questions. In the application process, the City was asked to highlight three projects that demonstrated citizen-based solutions that solved problems facing the City. The three projects that the City highlighted to show our civic spirit were:

  • The county-wide Freeze Relief which helped feed families devastated by the freeze.
  • The Porterville Gleaning Seniors new facility to store food for distribution to the needy.
  • The citizen-launched and driven Delinquency Diversion Program, which was formed to mentor youths and prevent young people from becoming delinquents.

There was absolute elation among the delegates when Porterville was announced as a winner. A delegation from Porterville traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the All America City award from President Bill Clinton and brought it home to a jubilant community. In the words of Judi Gibbons, who was Mayor at that time, “Porterville has always been a self-reliant community of great pride, and it is wonderful to be named an All-America City.” Porterville had demonstrated innovation and civic engagement - showing that no challenge was too big for Porterville and its citizens to overcome!

City Hall
Fire Station 2
The Porterville Chamber of Commerce breaks ground on their new building on Main Street in 1999.

The City of Porterville needed to expand their facilities to match a growing population. In 1990 there was an ambitious and much-needed expansion of City Hall. The north portion of the building was constructed at that time. This expansion allowed many City departments to move out of their dark, cramped quarters in the basement. The new facility also provided better access to services by our citizens.

Another much-needed project that was built in the 90’s was Fire Station#2 on Newcomb Street. Construction on this facility began in 1992 and was finished in 1993. Fire Station #2 enabled the Porterville Fire Department to be able to respond more rapidly to calls for service. This contributed to the safety and welfare of our community.

Y2K_imagesThe Year 2000 problem (aka, simply Y2K) was a problem for both digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits. In computer programs, the practice of representing the year with two digits becomes problematic with logical error(s) arising upon "rollover" from x99 to x00. This has caused some date-related processing to operate incorrectly for dates and times on and after January 1, 2000 and subsequently the potential failure of government/military systems, banking, power control systems, etc.  Without corrective action, long-working systems would break down when the "...97, 98, 99, 00..." ascending numbering assumption suddenly became invalid. Towards the end of the 1990's, the reality of the Y2K issue began to "sink in" and companies and organizations worldwide checked, fixed, and upgraded their computer systems.

Early in 1999 the City began its efforts to correct and upgrade all computer systems to resolve this problem.  All locally-developed programs and vendor-supplied applications were identified and remedial or upgrade efforts were initiated.  All computer systems were inventoried and vendors contacted for operating system patches or upgrades to resolve the issue. When January 1, 2000, arrived, it was, in fact, just another day; there were no noticeable outages or failures of any of the City's computer systems.

1990’s Timeline:


  • Wal-Mart announces Porterville chosen for Distribution Center
  • German Reunification
  • Iraq invades Kuwait
  • Nelson Mandela released from prison
  • Home Alone
  • Pretty Woman
  • Ghost
  • Rhythm Nation – Janet Jackson


  • Freeze is devastating to local citrus industry
  • Construction completed on Wal-Mart Distribution Center
  • Iraq attacked by UN forces
  • Soviet Union ends
  • Jeffery Dahlmer arrested
  • Rodney King
  • World Wide Web available
  • Terminator 2
  • Mariah Carey – Mariah Carey


  • L.A. Riots
  • John Gotti convicted
  • Johnny Carson leaves the Tonight Show
  • Aladdin
  • Ropin’ the Wind – Garth Brooks


  • Porterville Fire Dept. Station #2 Completed
  • NAFTA ratified
  • Combat roles for women in the U.S. Military
  • Jurassic Park
  • The Bodyguard Soundtrack – Whitney Houston


  • Freeze is devastating to local citrus industry.
  • Major League Baseball Players strike
  • Michael Jackson weds Lisa Marie Pressley (Elvis’s daughter)
  • Friends show begins
  • O.J. on the run
  • Forrest Gump
  • The Sign – Ace of Base


  • Oklahoma City Bombing
  • Windows 95 released
  • Dallas Cowboys Win Super Bowl
  • President Clinton confirms Area 51 exists
  • Cracked Rear View Mirror – Hootie and the Blowfish
  • Toy Story


  • Unabomber arrested in Montana
  • California legalizes cannabis for medical purposes
  • Princess Diana and Prince Charles Divorce
  • NASA uncovers possible ancient life on Martian rock
  • Nintendo 64 released
  • Independence Day
  • Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette


  • Hong Kong becomes independent from British rule
  • Scientist cloned Dolly the Sheep
  • Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars
  • Pokeman first introduced
  • Titanic
  • Spice – Spice Girls


  • Clinton Lewinsky Affair
  • John Glenn returns to space (77 makes him the oldest)
  • First Harry Potter book released
  • Dale Earnhardt wins Daytona 500
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Titanic Soundtrack – Celine Dion


  • Groundbreaking for new Porterville Chamber of Commerce Office
  • U.S. Women’s Team wins World Cup
  • George W. Bush announces candidacy
  • Y2K scare
  • Yankees win World Series
  • Dream Team
  • Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
  • Millennium – Backstreet Boys

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