Jack Snyder — a devoted family man whose live defined community service — passed away Tuesday at age 94.
Snyder served 24 years on the City Council — the longest in Manteca’s 103-year municipal history. He is also the only “comeback” council member as Snyder got appointed to a council vacancy 12 years after leaving office and then won re-election.
Snyder’s five biggest accomplishments among more than four decades of high profile community involvement was getting the initial Highway 120 Bypass built, brokering a deal that secured the 52 acres of what is now Woodward Park for $1, establishing the Boys & Girls Club, securing Northgate Park for the city despite fierce opposition from city management at the time, and accepting a challenge from then police chief and longtime friend Willie Weatherford to establish a citizens volunteer corps that became known as Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP).
His council service spanned two of the darkest moments in modern Manteca history.
Snyder survived the 1984 recall election that saw council members Bobby Davis and Rick Wentworth and Mayor Trena Kelly lose their seats in the backlash from the firing of popular police chief Leonard Taylor.
Shortly thereafter the city — struggling to keep up with growth — saw its overall general fund reserve drop to $1,000 forcing city leaders to keep a new fire station closed for over a year and to replace aging patrol units with used CHP vehicles with 92,000 miles on them when Manteca took delivery. Manteca went to the cusp of bankruptcy but clawed its way back.
More than a decade after losing re-election, the City Council in 2002 tapped Snyder to appoint to the council to replace Steve DeBrum who was elected mayor.
Arguably Snyder’s most high profile achievement that also showcased his uncanny sense of out-of-the-box thinking to get around seemingly insurmountable roadblocks as well as his skill at organizing volunteers was the 120 Bypass.
Up until the mid-1970s, Highway 120 ran through downtown Manteca and followed the route of Yosemite Avenue that passed Airport Way and continued westward toward the San Joaquin River.
This was back in the era when the Northern San Joaquin Valley hadn’t yet become an extension of Bay Area housing and home to 80,000 commuters crossing the Altamont Pass.
However, traffic was an even bigger nightmare. That’s because of Bay Area people traveling to and from the Sierra and the foothills for weekend excisions had turned Highway 120 through Manteca into a rolling parking lot heading east late Friday afternoons and evenings and then head west late Sunday afternoons.
It wasn’t unusual for traffic to back up 5 miles at a time trying to clear what were then two sets of traffic signals in Manteca. While Manteca had only 13,000 residents — 64,000 less than today — it was reported by police and city officials that motorists at intersections without traffic signals would have to wait sometimes an average of five minutes to cross Yosemite Avenue during peak travel times on the weekend.
Building a 120 Bypass of Manteca was not even listed in the 20-year statewide highway project plan. When area representatives in Sacramento told the council the region lacked the political muscle at the Capitol to get a bypass project built any sooner due to the clout of the Los Angeles and San Francisco urban areas, Snyder decided the best move was to get the San Francisco Bay Area on Manteca’s side.
It started with a small army of volunteers who spent Fridays and Sundays walking up to stalled cars filled with Bay Area residents frustrated with the traffic delays and handing them flyers. Essentially the flyers urged them to contact their representatives to get funding for the Bypass to end their wait times trying to get through Manteca.
Snyder and his volunteers blitzed Bay Area newspapers and radio stations to make their case and get support.
In the end political operatives were stunned that Manteca was able to line up coastal urban support for what they had dismissed as a local highway project.
When the city was presented with an opportunity to buy land the county had purchased for a park before the county offered it to developers to build homes in north Manteca, municipal management led by then City Manager Richard Jones was adamantly opposed.
Jones’ argument was the city could ill afford to maintain a park. Snyder’s counter argument was the city could ill-afford not to have a community park for children, young adults, and families. Jones had the majority of the council lined up against the idea but Snyder prevailed by rallying the community. The end result was Northgate Community Park.
Woodward Park came about not because a hired consultant told the city they needed it or staff advocated it.
It was the direct result of Snyder seeing a major community deficiency. The effort enlisted the behind-the-scenes effort of former public works director and then private sector engineer Ron Cheek along with developers led by Mike Atherton.
The city lacked funds to buy the 52 acres. The city however got ownership of what was then 52 acres of almonds for $1 even before a single tract home was built south of the 120 Bypass. And the developers that made the deal possible declined arrangements other developers would make to get park fee credit for land they “donate” for parks. Instead they agreed to pay the full park development fee in place when the eventually sought permits to build homes.
Snyder saw a need to address the issue of latchkey children, kids in single family homes, and juvenile delinquency issues that arose when youth were left unsupervised after school.
He gathered community leaders across the board in the 1970s and got support to start a Boys & Club. Within that group were people most would assume would be polar opposites — developer Antone Raymus who wrote a check for $120,000 and union coordinator Don Stewart whose members were in the building trades to supply the labor to construct the clubhouse on Alameda Street.
Snyder then not only served in the board for decades but he launched and ran the club’s annual telethon for 15 years that became — and still is — the main fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club.
At the start of the 1990s, Weatherford approached Snyder with the idea of starting the SHARP unit. It quickly became successful with at times having as many as 70 to 90 members who helped free up patrol officers from routine duties such as delivering paperwork to the courts, washing vehicles, providing traffic control at accidents and crime scenes, combatting graffiti, removing illegal signs, retrieving pilfered shopping carts, and more.
They also have become extra eyes driving through neighborhoods and have helped with everything from filing paper to manning public information booths on crime prevention at community events.
Snyder’s resume looks as though it refers to a battalion of volunteers instead of just one man.
He’s been the district chairman for the 49er Boy Scout Council, East Union Athletics Boosters President, held every local and county position in the American Legion, served as president of the United Lutheran Church Council, chairman of the East Union Cemetery Board, President of the Manteca Historical Society, a founder of the Manteca Hall of Fame, Community Prayer Breakfast chairman, assisting minister at the United Lutheran church, Doctors Hospital of Manteca advisory board, and countless groups he served as a board member.
He did all that while placing a strong emphasis on family.
That includes four children with his late wife Rosie — Scott Snyder, Steve Snyder, Sue Fink, and Sherry Frisk — his wife Barbara’s two daughters — Debbie Bowen and Lisa Crowley — 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Snyder was born in Ohio on Nov. 25, 1926.
He moved his family to Manteca on June 4, 1962 after accepting a job to help Libbey Owens Ford open their Lathrop auto glass plant.
Funeral services are pending through P.L. Fry & Son.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com