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Mayors goal is job, jobs, jobs
Weatherford points to 2 employment centers, water park
Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford, left, is congratulated on his re-election Tuesday night by former mayor and friend Jack Snyder. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Mayor Willie Weatherford said there’s one word that he hopes defines civic endeavors over the next four years - jobs.

Three projects are in various stages of planning that ultimately could add over 14,000 permanent jobs to Manteca with the strong prospect that more than 1,000 employment opportunities could be in place within four years.

They are:

•The 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park expected to go before the council later this month for final approval. It has the potential to create up to 13,000 jobs with the distribution center portion moving forward first. A secondary developer is expected to move part of that to market within two to four years.

•The 188-acre Center Point Business Park for major distribution that was approved Tuesday could create up to 600 permanent jobs. The first tenants are expected to be in place in two years or so.

•The proposed water park-resort adjacent to the Big League Dreams complex on municipal land that is now in the negotiation process.

“Manteca has been working to be in a position to take advantage of returning job growth,” Weatherford noted.
He added that other cities in the region are pulling back from economic development due to budget issues they are struggling to resolve.

Weatherford was re-elected Tuesday to his third four-year term. He garnered 5,152 votes or 42.92 percent of all ballots counted with perhaps 1,000 outstanding absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. Ben Cantu was next with 2,582 votes (21.55%), then Carlon Perry with 2,232 votes (18.63%), and Debby Moorhead with 2,003 votes (16.72%)

Council incumbents Vince Hernandez with 4,932 votes (28.15%) and John Harris with 4,832 votes (27.58%) were returned to office. Challenger Richard Behling received 4,062 votes (23.19%) while Samuel Anderson received 3,647 votes (20.82%).

Of the three projects the one that has attracted the most attention even though it isn’t the farthest along is the water park.

Harris - in going door-to-door during the campaign - said that was the top thing that people brought up.

“They wanted to know when we are going to get a water park back in Manteca,” Harris said last week.

Details of the negotiations are still under wraps but the city is trying to determine if there is a feasible public-partnership using municipal land.

Harris added that people still associate Manteca more with the waterslides than Big League Dreams and Bass Pro Sports even though the two entities are luring more than 2 million people a year to the community.

Weatherford said jobs must be the community’s No. 1 focus due to its 14.5 percent unemployment rate plus the opportunity it now has to capture the lion’s share of new distribution and other industrial-type expansion when it comes.

The mayor also expects the city’s financial position to improve enough after the first of the year to look at the feasibility of starting to rehire some of the 12 police officers that were laid off due to revenue shortfall.