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DeBrum takes oath as Mayor
San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott swears in newly elected Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum (right) before a capacity crowd Tuesday at the Manteca City Council chambers. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

The clock on what to do with the remaining two years on Steve DeBrum’s vacant city council seat has officially begun. 

And it looks like that decision will be made when the Manteca council meets next on Dec. 16. 

On Tuesday, once DeBrum took the oath of office to succeed Mayor Willie Weatherford in front of a capacity crowd inside of the Manteca council chambers, the newly seated council – which also included councilmen Mike Morowit and Rich Silverman – agreed to determine at the elected body’s next meeting the best course of action to take.

Two speakers, Marty Harris and Brenda Franklin, told the council that they’d like to see outgoing councilman Vince Hernandez, who finished third in a race for two seats after three terms on the council, be appointed to serve out the remaining two years because of his vast experience and familiarity with current city projects. Franklin represented a consortium of downtown business owners who signed a letter advocating Hernandez. He left before either of the two speakers stepped up to the lectern. 

According to Manteca City Clerk Joann Tilton, the city has $50,000 budgeted for a special election were the council to choose that as an option. Now that DeBrum has been sworn-in they’ll have 60 days to make a decision – putting the preliminary deadline at Jan. 31 – or the matter will automatically carry over to a special election that will be held in June. Because Manteca holds its elections in conjunction with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Office, the cost for the election could surpass the $50,000 mark if no other matters are put forth by other municipalities. 

The cost for the election, if Manteca were to go it alone, would be $7.50 for every resident, putting the total at just over $230,000. 

But Tuesday’s meeting was just as much about saying goodbye as it was ushering in new beginnings. 

Weatherford, after nearly half-a-century serving the Manteca public in one way or another, finally bowed out one last time after deciding not to seek another term as mayor. He had been elected to the post three times. 

The accolades bestowed upon him Tuesday ranged from a copy of what Congressman Jeff Denham had entered into the congressional record about Weatherford’s service – spoken during a Dec. 1 session – to a very moving presentation from Police Chief Nick Obligacion where he gave Weatherford, the man that hired him, a framed pair of the department’s shoulder patches along with his own police chief’s badge for believing in him enough to give him an opportunity. 

Sporting a black leather jacket and short, scruffy facial hair, Weatherford spoke softly but distinctly when he gave his final words from the dais. 

“My heroes growing up were always cowboys. The black-hatted cowboys were always the bad guys and with them you learned when you to run, when to fight and when to stand and negotiate,” Weatherford said. “The white-hatted cowboy was always the good guy that went around preaching a mentality that centered on truthfulness and the idea that a handshake meant something and somebody’s word meant something. 

“I’ve met a lot of politicians in this game – from Presidents to Congressmen, Sacramento to Stockton. And my heroes are still cowboys. Take that however you want to. In a lot of instances today what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. But I hope that if you came to that podium what you saw sitting right up here in this seat is exactly what you got.”

He then he flashed his trademark humor. 

“I’ve preached to you and I’m hammered my gavel at you and I’ve even swore under my breath at you,” Weatherford said. “So with that, Mr. Mayor, I’ll hand this to you and I will leave.”