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Harris seeking re-election to City Council
John Harris

John Harris is running for a fifth term as a Manteca City councilman.

“When you’re in in a storm you want some experience at the helm,” said the 69-year-old retired probation officer.

Harris is one of three people who have indicated they intend to seek election to the two open council seats in the Nov. 2 balloting. The other two are incumbent Vince Hernandez and Richard Behling. The filing period that runs through Aug. 6 opens Monday.

Harris has served on the Manteca council through two rocky economic periods - the closure of Spreckels Sugar in 1997 that had been a key to Manteca’s economic health for 75 years and the current Great Recession.

Harris was part of the council that harnessed redevelopment agency muscle to avoid the shuttered sugar plant from becoming a cancerous blight and to counter the loss of 220 sugar processing jobs with a 362-acre multiuse use development that has so far generated nearly 2,000 jobs.

As for the current economic downturn, Harris noted the City of Manteca - thanks in a large part to municipal workers - has weathered the drop off in revenue much better than surrounding cities.

“I’m totally amazed when you look around the city and see how good of shape things are in from the roads to the parks despite the tight budget,” Harris said. “It is a tribute to the dedication of city employees.”

He points to a number of major economic accomplishments in the past four years - the opening of Bass Pro Shops, Costco, landing J&M Equipment to replace the closed Sexton Chevrolet as well as the retention and subsequent expansion of BR Funsten.

More importantly he believes Manteca has effectively positioned itself to take advantage of the recovery when it starts. That includes the Center Point business park with more than 4 million square feet specifically designed for intermodal access for distribution centers, the Union Crossing retail project just west of The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley with 450,000 square feet, as well as the 1,080-acre Austin Road Business Park.

Harris is also looking forward to this scheduled ground breaking the fall of the transit station complete with 100 parking spaces in downtown Manteca that is being developed with Measure K funds.

“I’ve never forgotten the Vision 2020 Committee (comprised of 24 citizens) that said having a transit station was a critical component for downtown,” Harris said.

Transit issues have been Harris’ bailiwick on the council. He has been a member of the San Joaquin Rail Commission that oversees the Altamont Commuter Express service since 1997, served 12 years on the San Joaquin Council of Governments that is responsible for oversight of Measure M sales tax transit project and is currently on the regional advisory committee for the California High Speed Rail project.

Harris’ involvement with city services after started after he graduated from Manteca High in 1958.

He spent five summers as one of the city’s summer laborers going into people’s back yards, hoisting the old metal garbage cans, and carrying them to the garbage truck. He also worked in the parks and on street maintenance. That’s back when Ray Okerson oversaw a seven-man full-time crew that handled all of the city’s maintenance needs.

Before retiring, Harris spent 32 years with the San Joaquin County Probation Department dealing with youth offenders.

He also served for 12 years on the Manteca Unified School District board. He has been on the Valley Community Counseling board since its inception more than three decades ago, is a founding member of the Give Every Child a Chance board, and was a founding member of the Manteca Boys & Girls Club board.