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Youngest council member is 1 of 2 1st generation elected city leaders

Gary Singh in many ways is the quintessential “new” Manteca resident.

At 36, he’s just 1½ years beyond the median age of a Manteca resident. Gary and his wife Navpreet have two children — Samshear, 11, and Samrath, 8, that attend Woodward Elementary School.  Their family of four reflects the typical household size in Manteca. They are also homeowners as are 58 percent of their neighbors. He’s social media and tech savvy, a natural for a Millennial in a community that is an hour away from the cradle of technology in the Silicon Valley.

He also reflects a growing trend of the “new” Manteca as he is college educated having earned degrees at the University of the Pacific.

He’s also reflects the “old school” values Manteca has been built on. His work ethic emulates that of his father Sam who immigrated to the United States with his wife Jessie when Singh was 4 years old. Singh manages his father’s store — Manteca Mart Liquors — while working as a real estate agent with a broker’s license at Roland Real Estate Group plus managing 40 properties that are a mixture of what his family and clients own. He juggles his work with commitments to serve the community through Sikhs for Manteca, Sikhs for Humanity, and Manteca Rotary among other organizations.

Singh tries to follow standards set by his parents, especially his mother, when it comes to nurturing his children.

Blending the new with the old to move Manteca forward has been Singh’s goal since he became the youngest serving council member two years ago.

He also brings a perspective that is no longer unique to the Manteca City Council as a first generation American. Jose Nuño with his election on Nov. 6 now means two-fifths of Manteca’s council consists of first generation Americans. Singh came to the United States when he was 4 and Nuño when he was 5.

Singh has been at the forefront to push the city into a more high profile presence on social media and harnessing emerging technologies to help streamline government and increase communication with what he refers to “as our 81,000 bosses (city residents)” as well as transparency. At the same time he is not shrinking from “old school” constituent interactions whether it is in person or on the phone.

To understand what drives Gary you need to look at the example his father set.

After Gary was born in India, the family moved to Germany where his father worked in a doughnut shop before migrating to San Jose where he was a chef in a German restaurant. From there he entered into a partnership to own a Winchell’s franchise in Tracy before buying Manteca Liquor located next to Fisherman’s Warehouse on East Yosemite Avenue. After that he purchased Manteca Mart Liquors.

“My father did all of that because he wanted a better life for his family,” Singh noted.

Singh said he grew up in his father’s business. He started filling shelves as a third grader relying on upside down milk crates to reach the top shelves.

Given his father worked 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. to support his family, Singh said the only way he could spend time with him was to drop by after school and help at the store,

It’s something he did while he was living at home and commuting to UOP in Stockton where he secured majors in bio-chemistry and business with an emphasis on human resources and real estate.

“If you came in the store, I was the kid reading a textbook behind the counter who waited on customers,” Singh said.

Singh said his parents wanted him to become an engineer or doctor. His love of the sciences drew him to biochemistry and has allowed him to converse easily with Public Works Director Mark Houghton when discussing the processes involved at the city’s single biggest investment — the wastewater treatment plant.

But ultimately he wanted to follow the example set by his father.

Singh called him “the best possible” teacher when it comes to business and the work ethic needed to succeed. He noted it is a complement to his mother’s nurturing and guidance.

Singh graduated from Sierra High in 2000 making him the first alum of that school to serve on the City Council.

Singh opted for a modern “arranged marriage”.

Unlike traditional arranged marriages, the couple has a say in whether to go through with it. After they meet they essentially date for a period to get to know each other and then decide whether to tie the knot.

“I wanted to do that so we would have ties to India with good reasons to go back (to visit),” Singh said.

Navpreet is from Patiala in southeastern Punjab in northwest India. With a population approaching 450,000, Singh said it has the hustle and bustle feel of San Jose.

“Nav was surprised how Manteca was a quiet little town in comparison,” Singh said.

Singh said his appointment to the planning commission by former Mayor Willie Weatherford opened a new door for him. It inspired him to want to do more to help shape the community as it toward 120,000 residents in the next 20 years.

 Singh, who was elected to the council in 2016, has a sister Karin who works as an accountant.

Family time — including playing video games with his kids who he says are rapidly catching up to his skill level — is how Singh relaxes.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email