By JASON CAMPBELL
Bennie Gatto will once again get a turn on the Lathrop Manteca Fire District Board of Directors.
Last month the board tapped the lifelong Lathrop resident and former director to serve out the remaining portion of the term that was vacated when former French Camp McKinley Battalion Chief John Gish unexpectedly resigned over the summer.
The unexpired term will run through November of 2020.
Gatto, who is currently also serving as the Chairman of the Lathrop Planning Commission, was Lathrop’s first mayor and has been active in serving the community for decades – taking a role in everything from local commissions to helping head up the annual Mayor’s Art Show and Sale with his wife Joyce, a longtime supporter of the arts in the community.
As an incumbent in 2016 Gatto received only 13.54 percent of the votes – just over 300 votes shy of the third-place candidate Jeremy Coe who is still currently serving on the board. Gish, who was the leading vote getter in the election with more than 2,000 more than incumbent Gloryanna Rhodes, the second-place finisher, informed the board earlier this year that he would be stepping away from his post because he was moving out of the area.
Gatto applied and was interviewed by the board before he was appointed to the position after the board voted in August not to hold a special election because of the cost involved for the relatively short-term position.
Had the board not decided to appoint the position or had they waited beyond the 60-day window to make a decision, the position would been up to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to fill.
Because Gish’s term was more than halfway complete, Gatto will serve out the remainder and the position will be up for a full, four-year term in 2020 – meaning that if he wishes for another term will have to run at-large against members of the community. Both Rhodes, who also serves on the planning commission, and Coe will also be up for reelection next year – representing two-thirds of the overall board.
Also serving on the Board of Directors are Tosh Ishihara, who is also on the planning commission with Gatto, and former Lathrop councilman Mark Elliott.