LATHROP – To say that Bennie Gatto has given freely of himself to Lathrop would be an understatement.
It was there on display at the Lathrop City Council meeting Monday night in a beautifully framed picture of Lathrop’s first elected governing body – of which Gatto was a part – tilting up the newly incorporated community’s first city limits sign on Lathrop Road.
It was certainly there in the praise and acclaim that he received from local, county and state government officials that honored him for the dedication he has shown to his community of which he has been an active and recognizable member for decades.
By the time Gatto himself actually got a chance to step up to the lectern and thank those in attendance for the kind words and the recognition, he had received proclamations from the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and both the Manteca and Lathrop City Councils.
And each of the California legislators in the region – State Senator Lois Wolk and Assemblymembers Allyson Huber, Bill Berryhill and Cathleen Galgiani – teamed up to pass a resolution that gave high praise for “a lifetime of service.”
“This is a guy who doesn’t ever complain and is such a valuable asset to our community,” Lathrop Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos said. “I think, sir, that if your Mom and Dad were alive today they’d be very proud of you.”
According to Gatto, he can trace his local roots back to the 1880s and is proud to have continued that legacy on for generations. He has six great-grandchildren to his credit that represent the fifth generation of the Gatto family in the Lathrop area.
His service has included spending more than 40 years as a member of the “chain gang” for the East Union High School football team, a stint on the Lathrop City Council from 1989 to 1996 (serving as mayor from 1990-91 and 1995-96), a stint on the planning commission from 1997 through 2010 (he was recently reappointed), and a host of community outreach efforts like the senior “brown bag” and commodity programs.
Since Lathrop High School opened he has been prowling the visitors sidelines as a part of the “Spartan chain gang” and says that he looks forward to being as active in the community going forward as he has been in the past.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here and I feel like I’m part of this city and I want to watch it grow,” Gatto said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing until the Lord calls me and they put me 6 feet under.”