Gary Singh — when he takes office as mayor next month — will be the first directly elected Manteca who is a naturalized citizen.
Singh has an insurmountable lead with almost half of the votes counted that were cast in the Nov. 8 election in the race to become the city’s 10th directly elected mayor.
Singh’s family moved to the area from India when he was 5 years old.
He’ll replace Ben Cantu — a fifth generation American born in Fresno who moved with his family to Manteca when he was 3 years of age.
They are two of only three mayors in the past 50 years that were raised in Manteca. The other was the late Bill Perry.
Carlon Perry — no relation to Bill Perry — was raised in Lathrop and graduated from Manteca High as did Cantu and Bill Perry.
The fact Bill Perry is the only mayor in the past half century to actually have been born in Manteca speaks volumes about the community dynamics.
Manteca since the early 1960s has seen its growth fueled by people moving here from other areas.
The first big inflow was from the Midwest to fill specialized jobs at the now shuttered Libbey Owens Ford glass plant in Lathrop. The migration brought Buck Buchanan and Jack Snyder, among other community leaders, to Manteca to buy homes.
Snyder went on to be the second directly elected mayor. Buchanan also served a mayor but was appointed to that position by his fellow council members before the direct election of mayors started in 1980.
Three of the directly elected mayors came from families with ties to California’s biggest industry — agriculture.
Willie Weatherford’s parents were farmers that came to California during the Dust Bowl.
Steve DeBrum was raised on a working dairy in Hanford and ended up marrying the Hanford High FFA sweetheart who he eventually moved with to Manteca to raise their family.
Cantu’s father owned a firm that trucked agricultural products.
Cantu, just like his predecessor and successor, started working at an early age. He drove trucks when he was 14. Singh started working in his father’s store when was still in elementary school.
The late Trena Kelley, who was Manteca’s first elected mayor and the first woman to serve in that position, was also a transplant as was the late Frank Warren.
Warren was the first merchant to be elected mayor.
The composition of the current council is also telling.
Despite East Union High being 56 years old, Charlie Halford is the first graduate ever to get elected to the council. He was also raised in Lathrop.
Jose Nuno is a first generation American
Dave Breitenbucher is among only two council members since 1990 who were born and raised in Manteca.
Since the 1980s, the vast majority of council members have been those that moved here as adults either due to taking a job in the area or else trying to secure affordable housing while holding down jobs in the Bay Area.
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