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5 hopefuls share motivation
Council candidate Jeff Zellner talks with forum attendees. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

When it comes to running for the Manteca City Council, there are three things that are universal amongst the candidates – fiscal responsibility, a plan for the homeless in the community and a the creation of jobs.
And on Tuesday five of the six candidates that are hoping to spend the next four years on the dais at City Hall made their case to Manteca’s business community and the residents at large as to why they’d be the best fit for the job.
Their platforms, for all of that they share in common, were as diverse as the people themselves.
David Cushman, who is only 23-years-old, made it a point to illustrate his position on pushing for affordable housing in the community and tied it back to his experience – the struggle of finding an affordable place to live despite the fact that both he and his new wife work full-time.
While Cushman is no stranger to politics, this is the first time that he’s ever run for public office and while he’s a novice compared to some vying for a seat that have spent years serving Manteca, he was polished in his remarks.
“I want to represent a different group in Manteca – maybe those that are starting a family and want to spend the rest of their lives right here in Manteca, “Cushman said. “People, when learning my age, have either told me that it’s great there are young people who are getting involved in politics, or that I’m too young to understand what’s actually going on.
“But 39 percent of Manteca is under the age of 24, and I believe that they need a voice. I want to be the voice of those who are left out and disenfranchised, and that’s why I’m running for Manteca City Council.”
Tuesday’s Meet the Candidates Forum, which was hosted at The Emory Hall by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce and emceed by Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion, gave the five council candidates (incumbent Debby Moorhead was not in attendance) the chance to introduce themselves and speak briefly about what it is that they would push for if elected by the voters.
For Jeff Zellner, who is currently serving as a Manteca Planning Commissioner, the decision to run for council came out of his concern for public safety in Manteca that stemmed from finding a pair of bullet holes in his daughter’s bedroom after a pair of stray bullets in a gang driveby targeting the house next door hit far too close to home – literally.
“One of the things that I would like to look into is maybe pass an ordinance that makes it impossible for landlords to rent properties to documented gang members,” said Zellner – who mentioned his long list of public service commitments that include being the Past President of the Chamber, the current Secretary in the Manteca Noon Rotary and the President of HOPE Ministries. “Through the police department and our landlord we were able to get those people out, but it would be great to have something on the books that prevents that from happening again to somebody else.”
Sierra High School and University of the Pacific graduate Gary Singh – who is also on the planning commission – said that if elected he would embrace technology and streamline bureaucratic processes to make things simpler for the city to move forward.
“I want to look at public safety and qualify of life issues – the homeless and the traffic and what it takes to become ‘The Family City,’” Singh said. “I highly value the idea of bring business into our city, and I understand growth and how we have to have complete, small, walkable communities – mixtures of residential and commercial with neighborhood amenities.”
Ben Cantu, who served for decades as a planner for the City of Manteca – in addition to growing up in the community and graduating from Manteca High School – said that his level of expertise in understanding where Manteca came from will help in moving it into the future.
“There need to be a number of changes taking place at city hall that reflects the level of public services that we have in this community,” Cantu said. “I now where this community is going and I want to play a hand in that.”
The final candidate in attendance, Eric Hayes, has been on the Manteca Planning Commission since 2000 and said that while he thinks highly of his fellow commissioners that are running this cycle, he thought that his previous knowledge of the city’s planning framework and his unique perspective as a longtime commuter would be a benefit to the council.
“We have to know how we got here in order to truly know where we are going and I think that I have a lot of that knowledge that will help us move into the future,” Hayes said. “I think that being a commuter puts me in a unique position because I know what they go through and how that affects them – the impact that a commuter has on a family, and how you aren’t able to do a lot of the things during the week that others can because by the time you get home everything is closed.
“I think knowing that helps represent those people and what they’re able to contribute as residents.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.