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Jack Snyder: You may not like the man but he delivered

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POSTED July 22, 2014 1:05 a.m.

There is no middle ground with Jack Snyder. You either like him or you don’t.

Snyder is the Carl Ripken of Manteca City Council service. Prior to stepping down after his second tour of duty a few years back, he had logged 25 years as a council member including an eight-year stint as mayor.

His history of community service is just over twice that in years dating back to when he moved his family to Manteca in 1962 from Ohio when he helped open the Libbey-Owens-Ford glass plant in Lathrop.

Snyder has a reputation for being blunt and gruff. Diplomacy hasn’t always been his strong suit. That said, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who will work as tirelessly and unselfishly for the good of the community he calls home — Manteca.

Snyder forged the hell better known as the Great Recall Election of 1982 that saw Mayor Trena Kelley, Rick Wentworth and Bobby Davis recalled for taking steps to terminate Police Chief Leonard Taylor. Snyder survived it.

The mere mention of the recall still opens old wounds for some. Some of Snyder’s detractors date back to the recall. Others didn’t like his no excuse stance when he was in charge of quality control at LOF or when he was mayor.

But what they can’t argue with is what Snyder, now 86, has done for Manteca.

While he had his hand in a long list of projects that would fill this page and then some, there are four endeavors that have his handprints all over them — Woodward Park, the 120 Bypass, the Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police, and the Manteca-Lathrop Boys & Girls Club.

Snyder will be the first to tell you none of the four were one-man efforts. But it was Snyder without a doubt whose sheer pit bull like determination, never wavering vision, and willingness to put honest-to-goodness elbow grease into the four projects that turned them into reality.

Snyder working with Mike Atherton and his partners engineered the sweetest Manteca land deal ever – the $1 purchase by the city of 52 acres that today exists as Woodward Park.  The land, worth $4 million the time, was just part of the deal. Atherton et al didn’t want credit for the land against park fees. In fact, when the city set park fees too low as far as they were concerned, they added hundreds to the fees they paid for each home to make sure the park had funds to be developed.

Snyder gets credit for pushing the slowly grinding machine known as city government to deliver on the promise that Woodward Park offered. Today it is not just the most extensively used park in Manteca, but people throughout the region flock to it for everything from youth soccer tournaments to Memorial Day ceremonies.

We take the 120 Bypass — complete with its annoying slowdown in the outside eastbound lane that starts often throughout the day as far back from the Highway 99 merge as Union Road — for granted. 

That traffic all used to funnel through Manteca on Yosemite Avenue. From Friday afternoon to Sunday night traffic would be backed up for miles trying to snake through Manteca. A common complaint for Manteca residents was often waiting 10 minutes or more for a break in the traffic to cross Yosemite Avenue.

The state made it clear the bypass wouldn’t be built for years, if not decades. Most local leaders said you can’t take on the state. Not Snyder. 

Snyder led the charge to launch an orchestrated media blitz in the Bay Area as well as dutifully handing out leaflets to backed up travelers at traffic lights in Manteca during the Friday through Sunday jam. The effort got newspapers and radio stations west of the Altamont Pass editorializing for the need for the 120 Bypass. Snyder & Co. also pressured state leaders in the valley.

They managed to accomplish what everyone thought was impossible — state funding to build the 120 Bypass.

The state, though, did it on the cheap by employing a three-lane design with two lanes that fed back into one and then back to two in each direction. Thirty-four people were killed in 37 months and countless scores injured in brutal head-on collisions where the suicide lanes squeezed back down to one lane in a single direction.

Snyder again rallied the troops. The state said it would be years before the bypass would have freeway status. But Snyder kept the pressure on.  Caltrans finally relented and invested in concrete barriers that were placed down the center line. The carnage slowed down to a trickle.

Former Police Chief Willie Weatherford came to Snyder with a proposal to borrow an idea from a Southern California community and launch a senior citizens volunteer corps to assist police. Snyder, in his usual fashion, didn’t just say he’d help but he took the idea, embraced it and ran with it. Today SHARP is one of the most effective volunteer groups assisting law enforcement in all of California.

The Boys & Girls Club is another example of a vintage Snyder collaboration. There was a need to help kids. Snyder put together a group and then made the rounds of community leaders from home builders to labor unions. When the dust settled, Manteca had a Boys & Girls Club. He then came up, implemented, and for years chaired the club’s signature fundraising project - the annual telethon.

Is Snyder perfect? Far from it.

But when all is said and done, Manteca is a better place because of Jack Snyder’s efforts as well as countless other people.

And in the end what matters is what you do and not what you say.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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