ANC Man of the Year recipient was a powerful force in state politics. FRESNO–Longtime Fresno County Supervisor and a past recipient of the Armenian National Committee Man of the Year award Deran Koligian passed away Tuesday. He was 74.
Koligian spent most of his life in public service. From enlisting in the Army at 18–at which time he fought in the Philippines during World War II–to his tenure in Fresno Country Board of Supervisors–Koligian embodied the honest public servant persona and meticulously served his constituents.
"The odds suggest we shall not soon see the likes of Deran Koligian in public life. The longtime Fresno County supervisor–who died Tuesday at the age of 74–embodied a rare set of skills and virtues. He was a bluntly honest farmer–a man of the soil who so deeply loved his roots he lived his entire life on his family’s original 40-acre homestead. He was also a talented and shrewd politician–in the very best sense: clear about his philosophy and objectives–civil in his behavior and capable of inspired compromise when conditions demanded it," wrote the Fresno Bee in Koligian’s obituary.
After returning from war–he attended Fresno State University–while working and living at his family farm.
Issues confronting local farmers was the impetus for his involvement in public office. After years of service in local school boards–Koligian was elected to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in 1982–becoming the first Armenian-American to be elected to public office in the US.
"Defending Valley agricultural lands against urban encroachment was among Koligian’s most important principles. He almost single-handedly pushed Fresno’s growth away from his district–mostly lying to the west of Freeway 99–and out to the northeast. He was immensely popular among farmers for his defense of agriculture. He wasn’t able to stop westward sprawl completely–no one individual could – but it is only recently that significant residential development has taken place on his turf. Koligian was deeply opposed to the county using bonds to raise money for capital expenditures–arguing that it was fiscally irresponsible. He usually managed to persuade the rest of the board to support that position," wrote the Fresno Bee.
Koligian was also torchbearer of issues of concern to the Armenian-American community. His involvement in various civic offices and his influence in political circles–ensured that Armenian concerns would be heard far outside of the Fresno County lines.
For his service to the county–the community and the Armenian Cause–the San Joaquin Valley chapter of the Armenian National Committee named him Man of the Year and presented a special plaque honoring Koligian.
"Deran Koligian was a powerful voice for the Armenian community. His contribution and commitment will be missed–but will serve as a life lesson for all of us who were fortunate enough to know him," said Apraham Saghdejian a member of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors.