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Medeiros: Rare breed of politician
Serves on both school board & fire board
Manteca Unified School District trustee Manuel Mederios fielded a question during a candidates’ forum in September. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Manuel Medeiros is a unique breed of politician.

Not only because he is someone who is either liked or disliked, with just a sliver of gray area in between.

He is also the only one among elected officials in the Manteca-Lathrop area who is simultaneously serving elected positions in two agencies – the Manteca Unified School District Board of Trustees and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Protection District.

He is currently serving his fifth term as a board of director for the fire district which serves the incorporated city of Lathrop and all the unincorporated areas of Manteca and Lathrop. His term will expire in two years, by which time he will have served the district 20 years. And that will be it, he said.

“Two more years and I’m retiring.”

He was just recently re-elected to his fourth term as a member of the school district’s Board of Trustees. That’s a total of 16 years as a school trustee when his new term ends in four years.

All together, by the time he completed serving both elected positions with the school board and fire district, he will have 36 years of combined services as an elected official for both agencies.

That’s almost half as many years he has been on this earth, and more than half the years he has been in the United States as an immigrant from the island of Faial in Portugal. He was 18 years old when he went to work as an office clerk for the American Air Force in the old country, he said. He was 25 years old when he pulled up stakes in his native land and came to America in 1959 as an unmarried man looking for greener pastures in the Land of Plenty.

Like many hard-working immigrants, the retired dairy farmer is a self-made man. Not long after he arrived in California, he met the former Bernice Freitas who also was of Portuguese stock whose grandparents came to the United States in 1850. Bernice’s family lived in the city of Moraga in the Bay Area when they met. Soon after they tied the knot, they moved to Manteca and started getting involved in farming and operating a dairy. Before they moved to their farm on North Airport Way where they now live, they ran a dairy at the now-vacant property on the east side of North Main Street just before the Highway 99 overcrossing.

It was just a small dairy, Medeiros said about the old farm.

When asked how many milking cows they had at the family dairy, he replied, “Not too many; just enough to keep me busy and out of trouble.”

When Medeiros and his wife retired from dairy farming, they leased the business to their daughter Lisa and her husband John. (They also have a son, Rodney, 46, a computer whiz who now lives in Canada where he owns a business in computers.) Actually, they just rent out the dairy to the young couple. “They bought the cows – they have Jerseys,” Medeiros said.

They are among the brave few in the country today who are trying to make a living running a small dairy, Medeiros pointed out. Thus far, “They are doing all right,” he said, with less than 100 milking cows.

“Today, they don’t want small dairies to be alive anymore. They want to eliminate them with too many laws. With two percent of people living on the farm and the rest living in the city, who do you think politicians are going to listen to?” said Medeiros in his typical no-holds-barred character who is not afraid to say what he thinks however unpopular his opinion may be.

His opinions on a charter school
And he has an opinion on just about any hot-button issue that he isn’t afraid to share with anybody.

•On the application for a new charter school in Manteca that was recently submitted to the school board for approval by the Great Valley Academy in Modesto which wants to expand its campus: “I will vote no because our schools are not failing our students, so why bring a charter school over here? But if they want to go to Stockton or Sacramento where students are failing, that’s OK.”

•On vocational training for students: “Everybody thinks kids have to go to college when they go to school. That’s what everybody tells them, ‘you got to go to college.’ But some of them don’t belong to college. Now, if (Golden Valley Academy) is geared for vocational school, then that’s OK.”

•On Dr. Eldon Rosenow, founder of Great Valley Academy who gave the presentation before the school board of trustees on why they should approve their application for a charter school: “The doctor is too slick. I was not sold (on his presentation). He was a very good politician, better than me,” Medeiros said with a chuckle.

•On the reason Pastor Mike Dillman of The Place of Refuge (formerly Assembly of God) is offering his church’s Manteca Christian School facility to Great Valley Academy after the campus closes its doors at the end of the school year due to dwindling enrollment: “He said he tried to turn his school into a charter school, but then (the enrollment was dwindling) and tried to merge with a different school but it didn’t work out that way. Maybe this was Pastor Dillman’s way of getting money for his church.”

•On his recent re-election to the school board: “I got asked by my friends to run. My friends helped me to run. I got lots of friends, you know. I spent just $410 in the last election, so you figure that out. I didn’t campaign; I didn’t do much campaigning. I’m a very well known man.” As to the candidate he defeated, “Joey seems to be a nice kid,” he said, referring to Lathrop resident Joey Ermitanio who is a treasurer for the Oakland Unified School District.