When the Manteca Civic Center was completed 40 years ago, the complex was on the edge of town.
Center Street had to be extended to access the $980,000 first phase of the municipal campus that replaced the first City Hall built in Manteca in 1923 — a two-story brick building that still stands at Sycamore and Manteca Avenues across from Library Park in downtown. It will cost the city roughly the same amount to complete efforts started last year to make the council chambers American Disabilities Act compliant as well as install the latest technology once restrooms are put in place in the coming months.
There were some that thought building the new city hall “in the middle of nowhere” was nuts.
One of those people was not Jack Snyder.
Snyder had been elected in 1972 to the council. He was serving with Mayor Mark Oliver, Vice Mayor William Phillips, and council members H.C. Buchanan and Charles Shaefer when the Civic Center was dedicated on Nov. 8, 1975. Of the five men serving at the time, Snyder turned into a marathoner when it came to holding elected office in Manteca. He served from 1972 to 1990 including eight years as a directly elected mayor — plus from 2002 to 2008. His 24 years in office still stands as a record for Manteca’s council members. The only elected local officials to out serve Snyder was the late George Dadasovich who was Manteca’s elected treasurer for 52 years.
“I can’t take credit for the Civic Center,” Snyder said. “That was a project put into motion by those on the council before me.”
On Thursday, Snyder reflected on issues that faced Manteca 40 years ago — some of them haven’t changed much — and how no one could have predicted where Manteca is at today.
“Growth was one of the big issues and so was the need for more police officers,” Snyder said.
Manteca had 10,000 residents in 1975 compared to 74,000 today. The city, though, had grown 10 percent from the time he was selected in 1972 to 1975 with the addition of 1,000 more residents.
“I had no inkling that Manteca would ever get this big,” Snyder said.
He jokingly added, “If I did I would have bought a lot of land back then.”
Snyder along with Oliver and Phillips were swept into office in the 1972 election. He was approached at the time by Shaefer and others to run for council. They weren’t pleased with the direction the council at the time were taking Manteca.
‘Hop on the
sack with Jack’
“I don’t think I raised any money that year (when I first ran),” Snyder said.
Instead others paid for signs inducing one mounted to a truck driven around town that read, “Hop on the sack with Jack” in reference to the effort to replace three incumbents.
Tom Dutart was among those working on Snyder’s first campaign.
Back in 1975 red hot issues in Manteca included parks and signs.
Downtown merchants were up in arms when Kentucky Fried Chicken that opened where Athens Burgers is today in the 200 block of East Yosemite Avenue erected a pole sign with a rotating chicken bucket in top.
“There were people who believed no animated signs should be allowed downtown,” Snyder recalled.
Snyder locked horns with Dick Jones who was city manager at the time over parks.
The first involved Southside Park. The city had come into possession of two-story barracks-style housing that had been built decades earlier on the property. Jones wanted the city to build apartments. Snyder thought the best use was turning the parcel into a park. Snyder managed to convince his council colleagues to go with the park.
Then several years later Manteca was annexing to the north to include land that is now around where New Haven School is located, Then county d bought property in the area for a park. Snyder saw it as an opportunity for the city to obtain the park site from the county and annex it with nearby land. Jones was against the idea. Snyder, though, prevailed. The result was Northgate Park.
In the 1980s Snyder — working with developer Mike Atherton — helped orchestrate the sale of 53 acres for $1 to the city for what today is Woodward Park.
Snyder during his second go around on the council that started in 2002 was a key council player in getting Woodard Park developed as it is today.
Snyder’s passion for parks was born while he was living in Ohio. He was critical of the way the community he lived in approached recreation programs. He ultimately was convinced to become the parks and recreation director — it was a 100 percent voluntary position — and ended up overseeing the development of park facilities.
need to live in Manteca
One of Snyder’s biggest criticisms of the city today is the fact almost none of the top municipal management team resides in Manteca.
“They only care about Manteca from 9 to 5,” Snyder said.
By living elsewhere, he said they miss out on interacting throughout the week with citizens as they go about their business whether it is shopping, dining out or pursuing leisurely activities.
Snyder recalled while on the council he was often approached by citizens who had concerns when he was at the grocery store.
“That’s OK,” Snyder said of grocery store encounters. “Sometimes that’s the only way most people ever get the chance to tell you what their concerns are with the city.”
His advice for the current council is to make sure developers don’t take advantage of Manteca.
“We’ve been spoiled by local builders like Toni Raymus and Mike Atherton,” said Snyder. “They truly care about Manteca and what they build here.”
Snyder rattled off horror stories over the years as builders not from Manteca or the region built homes in Manteca that had major issues. One included a subdivision where paint was peeling off new homes and another where water was seeping through the concrete floors.