Twenty-four years ago Gary Singh was struggling to learn English.
He spoke English at school for just six hours a day as the only Indian at the time attending Lathrop School. At home parents Sam and Jesse Singh spoke their native Punjabi.
On Monday the cum laude University of Pacific graduate took the oath of office to serve as a Manteca City Council member after receiving the most votes in the Nov. 8 election.
Perhaps no one was beaming more than his parents who understand that the American Dream is as viable as ever as long as you work to obtain it.
Sam and Jesse Singh are a long way from a village in the North India state of Punjab where they lived in a mud house. They came to America — or more specifically to California — via Germany.
Gary said his father came to California “for the American Dream” and a better life for his family.
Sam started as a farm laborer picking berries. He moved his family from San Jose where he was a cook in a German restaurant to Tracy where he first worked at a Winchell’s doughnut shop in Tracy before opening his own business — Tracy Doughnuts at Grant Line and Tracy Boulevard.
Eventually they moved to Lathrop where they bought their first home for $90,000 where they lived for a number of years before moving to Manteca.
In 1988 Sam Singh bought the Miner Mart Liquor store from Bob Miner next door to what was then Big Boy Market. (It is now the Grocery Outlet.) Because Miner had another store across town at Lincoln Center a few doors down from Hafer’s Furniture, Sam changed the store’s name to Manteca Mart Liquors.
Gary’s work ethic was sharpened helping his father at the liquor store as a young boy.
It was during his teens that Gary became familiar with Mike Morowit who he now serves with on the Manteca City Council. Some 20 years ago Morowit bought the Lincoln Center store from Miner.
As an aside, Morowit — who worked with the Alameda County Probation Department several years before becoming a route salesman selling groceries and candy through Capital Cigar Co. — is a third generation store owner with his father and mother Jack and Elaine Morowit having owned a liquor store in Hayward for 40 years.
Gary said he excelled in math initially because of his limited comprehension of English. But when he reached the sixth grade, his command of the language started clicking and so did his school success. He quickly became a 4.0 grade point average student. When he graduated from Sierra High in 2000 he went directly to the University of the Pacific.
He wasn’t outgoing student in high school nor did he dabble in various activities or student politics.
When he was appointed a few years back to the Manteca Planning Commission he simply wanted to give back to the community that he calls home.
“All I wanted to be was the best possible planning commissioner I could be,” said the 34-year-old Gary who is the youngest elected council member in at least 36 years if not longer for Manteca.
His decision to run was triggered in part by frustration over his desire to want to improve city processes and the business climate to enhance economic prosperity for everyone in Manteca. A planning commission member by the very nature of the position’s responsibilities isn’t a policymaking position. The City Council is.
Gary noted that his grandfather in Punjab served in a position that was the equivalent of a councilman in his village. Gary said his father had hoped to follow his father’s footsteps in similar community service but found his ability to do so in America limited by the language.
Gary chose Joanne Jameson to administer his oath of office as his parents, wife Nav, and their sons Samsher, 9, and Samrath, 6, stood alongside him.
Gary said not only has Jameson been a long-time supporter but she gets high marks from him for being the quintessential Manteca resident who completely embraces their adopted community as well as being a vibrant senior who is active in various service related endeavors and reflects the rich and growing diversity of the Manteca family.
“I will be available to you,” Gary told those who packed the City Council chambers for the swearing in ceremonies Monday afternoon. “I will work to represent you. I am your voice.”
Gary thanked his supporters and family noting “with the blessing of God” that he would serve the people of Manteca and work diligently to “build a better future” for the community.
Gary referenced the ancient Chinese proverb — “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” — to underscore his first day of his four-year term.
Then he added a 21st century touch noting he was wearing a Fitbit to help him keep track of those steps.
Gary also works as a real estate agent. And like Morowit, he first served on the Planning Commission before advancing to the council where he was selected Monday to serve as mayor pro temp for the next year as the highest vote getter under council tradition. The post will shift to Debby Moorhead as the second highest vote getter when December of 2018 rolls around.
Gary along with Morowit are both members of Manteca Rotary.
the record books
& other tidbits from
Debby Moorhead — who finished second in the Nov. 8 election — was sworn in by City Clerk Lisa Blackmon while surrounded by her family including grandson Bradley Moorhead who was appointed last month to the Manteca Youth Advisory Commission.
Moorhead noted she was proud to be the first woman ever in Manteca to secure a third term as a council member.
Moorhead, who prefers to be called “Councilwoman Debby”, is only the fifth woman ever to serve on the City Council in Manteca’s 98 year history.
Trena Kelley had the distinction of note only being the first woman when she was elected in 1980 but she was also the first directly elected mayor. She also was one of the first three council members ever recalled along with Rick Wentworth and Bobby Davis after they terminated the popular police chief at the time, Leonard Taylor.
Other women that have served on the council were Jeanne Dowhouser, Jeannie Keaster, and Denise Giordano.
“I’m here to serve the people,” Moorhead said. “That’s first and foremost.”
Vince Hernandez before stepping down from the council after 14 years of service reflected on the state of Manteca.
He noted since he took office in 2002 Manteca “has become more diverse in its people, its commercial, and its infrastructure.”
Hernandez praised municipal staff for keeping the city moving forward during the throes of the Great Recession.
“We’ve done more with less and we’ve done it well,” Hernandez said of the city adding staff has made it look seamless despite all of the challenges.
Hernandez thanked his supporters and family. He noted when his parents moved to Manteca in the 1950s, his father stepped into a side career that led to him serving for 15 years in law enforcement as a Manteca Police reserve officer. He noted his dad was the only officer at the time that could question suspects that only spoke Spanish.
Hernandez also managed to leave a parting thought with the new council as a result from his job as a psychologist with the Stockton Unified School District. Earlier in the day he met with a mother who was living under a bridge with her four children.
He told the council that they are there to serve the rich and the poor.
“We need to serve everyone,” he added.
plus Manteca Patriots
hosting city clerk
There was a rare sighting at the Manteca City Council swearing in ceremony Monday — an unsuccessful council candidate that wasn’t an incumbent was in attendance.
David Cushman — the 24-year-old that made a respectable showing with 3,442 votes — was on hand for the ceremonies.
Expect to see more of Cushman in the future.
As president of the Manteca Patriots, he will preside of the meeting Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. that will feature City Clerk Lisa Blackmon as the guest speaker,
Blackmon has served as Manteca’s City Clerk since June 6. She will talk about her duties as a city clerk, which include serving as the record-keeper of the City Council, administering city elections, and administering the official records of the City of Manteca. She will also speak on her personal background, and the qualification she brings to the City Clerk’s position.
Prior to serving as Manteca’s city clerk, Blackmon served as Napa’s deputy city clerk for four years. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and her Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Before serving with the City of Napa, Blackmon served in the hospitality industry of Napa.
The meeting will be held in the banquet facilities at Angelano’s Restaurant, located at 1020 N. Main St. in Manteca. Those who attend the meeting are free to order dinner from the restaurant menu, but will be responsible for their own payment. The doors will open at 6:30, and the meeting will begin at 7:30 pm. For more information on the Manteca Patriots, go to www.mantecapatriots.org or Facebook.com/MantecaPatriots.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com