Debby Moorhead can list a number of projects over the past 12 years that she has had a hand in including several such as the just completed Atherton Drive missing link that she led the charge on.
But that is not what she is most proud of during her run as a Manteca City Council member that ends next month.
“I am proud of the fact I listened to people who came to the council with problems or concerns,” Moorhead said.
That led her a number of times to go against staff recommendations and convince her colleagues to sometimes join her as well.
One instance was a liquor license request that the police department recommended the city reject based on the fact there were too many already in a particular census tract.
Moorhead said Joe DeAngelis, a citizen who was a regular commenter on issues at council meetings, stepped up to the podium and said, “This is America, this man should be allowed to open a business and see if he can make a go of it.”
Moorhead and the majority of the council went against the staff recommendation.
“Today the man has a successful business,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead noted because of her focus on individuals up against bureaucratic rules she can recall every “no” vote she cast in her 12 years.
Among them was one that put her and John Harris on the losing end of a 3-2 vote that ended up forcing homeowners in the Union Ranch neighborhood to pay assessments to maintain a park that was not yet built.
“I said no to collecting money,” Moorhead said. “The city ultimately was forced to repay the $600 the homeowners were forced to pay to maintain a park that they couldn’t use (because it wasn’t completed).”
Another example was joining then Mayor Steve DeBrum by going against a state mandate that required cities to raise speed limits on streets where radar surveys showed the 85th percentile of traffic was traveling 5 mph or more faster than the posted speed limit.
“These were streets that a lot of children crossed,” Moorhead said. “I’m never going to go against the safety of children.”
But the biggest “no” vote she consistently cast often by herself that she was eventually able to turn the tide on and prevail has saved Manteca taxpayers $175,000 to date.
The vote was against Manteca supporting the San Joaquin Partnership that was formed to bring jobs to local communities.
“Not funding the Partnership was the right thing to do,” Moorhead said. “They never put any effort in to promoting Manteca (to potential employers). They did not create a single job in Manteca.”
By the time Moorhead in her first term started questioning the wisdom of Manteca taxpayers helping fund the Partnership, Manteca taxpayers had already funded more than $400,000 of the organizations’ effort that primarily benefited Stockton, Tracy, Lathrop, and Lodi. And before she managed to convince the council majority to agree to cut off funds, the city was out another $140,000.
Moorhead since the 2018 election has been the council member with the most seniority. Her defeat in the Nov. 3 election by former police chief Charlie Halford makes Gary Singh — who was reelected — as the longest serving member of the new council with four years.
Her first meeting on the council was when Great Wolf made their initial pitch for an indoor waterpark resort in Manteca. The $180 million project — the largest private sector investment in Manteca history – has been completed since July. Pandemic restriction has postponed the opening of the 500-room resort.
In the past 12 years, Moorhead had been a part of councils that have:
*Produced four consecutive balanced budgets where expenses in any given year did not exceed income after coming back from the financial hits of the Great Recession. The string of balanced budgets was broken by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
*Police staffing was restored to an expanded beyond staffing levels in 2010 when budget cuts eliminated 12 officer positions.
*Put California’s first diverging diamond interchange in place at Union Road and the 120 Bypass.
*Overseen the start-up of the state’s second food waste to fuel operation at the wastewater treatment plant that is generating compressed liquefied gas to power solid waste collection trucks.
*Manteca opened its fourth fire station on Lathrop Road and its fifth fire station at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.
Moorhead’s defeat means the City Council will be without a woman. She was the fifth woman ever elected to the council and the only one to serve three terms.
“In the year 2020, women should be supporting women to serve on councils,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead and her husband moved to Manteca in 1981 from San Jose buying a home north of the golf course for $102,000.
“We wanted to move to a small community that we could raise our son,” Moorhead said. “The homes in San Jose were rundown and expensive.”
Moorhead was a beautician before becoming a full-time mother. After her son got older, she became a certified nursing assistance working in several local convalescent hospitals before earning administrative credentials. She eventually worked her way up to becoming administrator of Leisure Manor on Union Road. After that she served 10 years as executive director of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.
That experience gave her a better understanding of what small business was up against.
She also had her share of frustrating dealing with the city when she went to get a permit to have a contractor install a patio at her home in 2002. It took six years before the city signed off on the work as meeting city standards. Similar frustrating stories from other people and a desire to see the community be the best it can be were among the reasons she decided to run for the council in 2008.
“I wouldn’t change anything in the last 12 years,” Moorhead said. “Serving the people of Manteca has been the greatest honor of my life.”
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com