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New city manager sees good things in Manteca, stresses there is much potential to do even better
Toby Wells

Toby Wells makes it clear. The City of Manteca is not a business. It is a service provider.

That doesn’t, however, mean it should eschew best business practices when it comes to financial integrity and such.

“(Businesses) are in business to make profits; with the public the ‘profits’ are selling Manteca as a place where people want to be,” Wells said Thursday during a Manteca Rotary club meeting at Mt. Mike’s.

Wells is Manteca’s city manager who has been on the job for just over a month.

He is no stranger to either Manteca, private business, or the Northern San Joaquin Valley where agriculture is mixing with cities that are the fastest growing in California fueled by the Bay Area tech machine.

Wells’ private sector resume includes a stint with one of the nation’s most profitable publicly traded home builders — Pulte Homes — as well as serving as executive director of the 1,407-home Del Webb Woodbridge age restricted community in north Manteca.

Wells was born and raised in Hilmar where he played football for the Yellowjackets. After Modesto Junior College and Fresno State he embarked on a public service career that spans the public works spectrum from developing flood zone protection in Fresno, designing the backbone road infrastructure that allowed the transformation of downtown Livermore to city manager jobs in Turlock and Ceres.


Believes many are

‘too hard’ on Manteca

Wells harbors no preconceived perceptions of what solutions will work best for Manteca but he also is not ignorant of the area.

In fact, he thinks many in Manteca may be a little bit too hard on the community as a whole in they desire to make the city their call home become a more livable place.

Wells noted Pulte Homes in order to succeed has to be attuned to what home buyers want not just in terms of the physical house they are purchasing but in the community it is located.

It is why Pulte selects where it will build based on a community’s school systems, hospitals and health care services, and amenities among other things.

“Manteca always hit on those marks,” Wells said of Pulte Homes’ assessments. “That speaks a lot for the community. We’re building because people want to be here.”

Wells then went through a list of things that have set Manteca apart in the region — landing Great Wolf and Bass Pro, developing Big League Dreams, and building the state’s first diverging diamond interchange that reduces accident potential, increases traffic flow efficiency, and costs less to construct

He noted some believe city government at times is not agile enough with various initiatives hence the desire by some for it to act more like a business. Wells said it doesn’t work that way due to a host of regulatory measures put in place to make sure everything from due diligence and environmental concerns can be addressed as best as possible. That’s designed to make sure there is a deliberate game plan in place that can be followed through with the time and money needed to execute it.

“I get that we live in a microwave world where we want everything in 30 seconds,” Wells said.

But in the overall scheme of things, Wells believes cities should operate like aircraft carriers.

Given they are what allows for advancement of proverbial forces, decisions to alter their course needs to be deliberate and with purpose to assure objectives can be reached.

Wells notes that it takes a while for the aircraft carrier to turn around but when it has and is on course it carries a big punch.

The first priority at City Hall under Wells’ watch has been “the healing process” that he believes is going well to help set the stage for even more cohesive undertakings on the public’s behalf.


Hired at end of

city hall upheaval

Wells was hired as city manager at the tail end of a tumultuous period where the city went through three city managers — interim and permanent — and saw 100 percent of its senior management team depart by being forced out, opting to take a position elsewhere to escape the upheaval, or retiring.

An inkling to his approach to issues can be gleaned is how he believes a thorough community discussion is needed when it comes to the future of Main Street through downtown.

Wells noted roads have one of two purposes — they either take you through an area or they take you to a destination.

“Is Main Street there to get traffic through or to take you to a destination?” Wells asked.

Wells when he worked for the City of Livermore was part of a municipal team that worked diligently to design and garner public buy-in that shifted a heavily trafficked street around downtown. That is what helped set the stage for the transformation of Livermore’s downtown.

Wells worked on Turlock’s downtown during his first stint with that city as well as Ceres’ downtown redo during his time as city manager.

His experience in public works in Turlock and even his short stint as city manager in that city mirrors a number of Manteca municipal endeavors and concerns.

It included developing a recreational sports complex, getting an interchange upgrade in place that was the critical linchpin to establish a power center at Monte Vista Avenue and Highway 99, as well as laying the ground work for an industrial park on the city’s west side where Amazon is now building a large distribution center.

His time as city manager in Turlock included getting a sales tax increase in place as well as developing a joint surface water treatment plant with Ceres.

Wells noted that Ceres was working on moving a diverging diamond interchange at Mitchell Road and Highway 99 when he was Ceres’ city manager. The interchange project is still moving forward although Manteca, that started the process to build one after Ceres did, beat Ceres to the punch to build the first one in California that opened in November of 2021 at Union Roads and the 120 Bypass.

Wells noted Manteca has done a lot of things well. That list includes putting in place one of California’s first food waste to fuel processing facility at the wastewater treatment plan that’s designed to power the city’s solid waste collection trucks.

He sees such endeavors as just the beginning.

“(Manteca) has so much potential to be even better,” Wells said.

Wells resides in Turlock with his family.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email