A neglected California city reinvents itself with electric cars — and plots a road map for the nation

Huron Mayor Rey León smiles as he drives on the Green Raiteros electric vehicles

Huron Mayor Rey León smiles as he drives on the Green Raiteros electric vehicles

JAN. 10, 2022 4 AM PT

HURON, Calif. — This Central Valley outpost is one of the most fertile places on Earth, attracting thousands of seasonal laborers to harvest lettuce and reaping windfalls for big agribusiness. But for most of Rey León’s life, the city of Huron has been a transportation desert.
When he was a child, it took three hours and 13 stops to ride a bus 53 miles to Fresno to visit a cousin in the hospital. “That experience stuck with me,” he said.

By the time he’d graduated from UC Berkeley and returned to the community to help his aging parents, little had changed. Even after he was elected Huron mayor five years ago, León’s lobbying for reliable bus routes to Fresno, Visalia and Coalinga got nowhere with regional planners, who chafed at the cost.

“It’s always about who do you value and what do you value,” León said. “Farmworker communities have never been valued.”

The mayor took matters into his own hands. And now, as the Biden administration builds its multibillion-dollar blueprint for confronting deep inequities in the transition to green transportation, one of the few places it has to look for inspiration is Huron.

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