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About the so-called incompetency that’s governed Manteca for the past 30 years
This 2010 photo shows then Mayor Willie Weatherford waving at a passerby on Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.

We get lectured a lot about Manteca’s city hall history.

You know the drill.

Lack of political will.

No vision.

A dearth of follow through.

Financial incompetence.

If you’ve never heard the spiel and are still chained to Comcast, tune into Channel 97 the first and third Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Better yet, stop downloading conspiracy theory podcasts on your device at those appointed hours.

Instead get a whiff of our democratic republican form of government via the city’s website streaming of council  meetings.

It can be messy.

It can be boring.

It can be mind-numbing.

But it is also how we got what Manteca has today.

Paved streets that aren’t all in perfect condition as opposed to primitive roads.

Renegade homeless that aren’t acting like marauders.

Criminals that haven’t turned the streets into a lawless post apocalypse hell worthy of a Netflix series.

Fires allegedly starting with a little old lady’s cow kicking over a lantern that don’t reduce the entire city to ashes overnight.

 Water flowing from the tap that won’t give you diarrhea or a host of other diseases.

Sewers that whisks human waste away and treats it so it doesn’t become a breeding ground for stench or death.

Rats that aren’t bold and scurrying in the tens of thousands from residential garbage heap to residential garbage heap.

Yes, Manteca may not be paradise by whatever yardstick you measure such a concept.

But clearly it isn’t the hell it could be if we didn’t have the wonderfully dysfunctional frustrating thing called government.

Given government is created by people with  various perspectives, values, and commitment levels to the concept of community what we have could qualify as a minor miracle.

Local government in America is not run by kings, fiat, dictatorships or Facebook opinion polls.

Direction and policy are provided by people we elect. 

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s queue up one of the persons that played a role in shaping the Manteca we have today — Willie Weatherford.

Weatherford — who served on the Manteca City Council for 18 years including 12 years as mayor — is having a park dedicated in his honor next Friday, June 24, at 11 a.m.  at 2405 Dilip Drive.

It’s in a new Raymus Homes neighborhood off of South Main Street in the Griffin Park development.

Weatherford is also a retired Manteca Police chief.

On the council he had his hand in a lot of decisions — the Costco deal, the BMX park, affordable housing for low-income seniors, and much more.

He also restored civility to council meetings which, given where they were at, was no easy task.

But his signature accomplishment without a doubt is the Big League Dreams sports complex.

And how it came to be shatters the illusion being pedaled that Manteca should be known as the City of Ineptness Led by Weasels Lacking Spines.

Weatherford, like our current mayor, was alarmed that Manteca was growing faster than its amenities — specifically recreational facilities.

The reasons? They’ll sound familiar.

Insufficient funding.

Artificially low growth fees for parks.

Lack of vision.

Anemic follow through.

And no political will.

Then a fellow council member who routinely voted the opposite of Weatherford — Denise Giordano — returned from a League of California Cities gathering excited about a public-private concept to build recreational facilities.

It reduced city exposure to risky debt.

It avoided ongoing operational and maintenance debt.

And it provided top tier municipal recreation facilities.

Staff at the time, to put it bluntly, thought it was a stupid idea.

The council, though, all bought into exploring the idea as a way to develop baseball fields at Woodward Park.

But then there was pushback from residents near Woodward Park.

They viewed the 52-acre park as a neighborhood park and not a community park as it was designed.

Soon Giordano and then Mayor Carlon Perry were adamantly against the idea of pursuing a project with Big League Dreams.

The council majority thought the idea should be seriously vetted.

That’s when the games began.

For more than three years the BLD project literally dominated every City Council meeting even if it wasn’t on the agenda.

Public comment periods rarely lasted for less than 90 minutes.

A BLD agenda item led to a record that still stands today — a city council meeting that lasted 8 hours and 30 minutes before adjourning at 3:30 a.m.

Opponents even accused Weatherford and others backing the concept of wanting to bring lawless drunken pedophiles into their neighborhood that would molest their children.

That was what they viewed softball players who would have access to a BLD concessions that served beer.

They targeted Weatherford and others at the ballot box vowing to defeat them.

A funny thing happened.

Weatherford who had been calmly and consistently explaining the concept and led the charge to make all of the numbers an open book, got elected mayor. He even won the majority of the votes cast south of the 120 Bypass in neighborhoods near Woodward Park.

The buzzsaw only revved up.

At one point a council member shared a conversation where then City Manager Bob Adams asked Weatherford given the immense pressure and the fact BLD opponents had made him the lightning rod for their anger whether he still wanted to pursue the project.

His answer? It was yes  because it was “the right thing to do” for Manteca.

The BLD project was moved to unneeded land next to the wastewater treatment plant.

Six softball fields, an indoor soccer arena and two concession stands got built. Northgate Park was freed up for youth sports.

The city didn’t have to pay to maintain the facility.

More than $200,000 a year has flowed into the city’s general fund from lease payments.

And BLD didn’t turn into a magnet for drunken pedophiles posing as softball players.

Years later, an incident came up indirectly tied to BLD came up that reflected Weatherford’s character and commitment to making Manteca a better place.

Perry’s intense non-stop rhetoric directed at  Weatherford over BLD left many with the impression that Weatherford would have a tough time being cordial to — let alone ever teaming up with — the man who was perceived as his nemesis in Manteca politics.

Yet Weatherford sat down with Perry for a cup of coffee at the Waffle Café to hear a pitch from Perry who, was the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post at the time.

Perry wanted Weatherford’s help as mayor to secure a home for the VFW.

What happened next speaks volumes about Weatherford’s character and his commitment to the community.

The council all agreed to work toward such an endeavor. Staff , however, cited all sorts of issues, pitfalls, and the fact they had projects stacked up. And they also said the city had no money.

In a modern-era record time of 14 months for a major city project because Weatherford convinced his council colleagues not to accept being told it was not do-able, the idea went from a concept in a coffee shop to a dedication of a VFW facility built from the ground up on Moffat Boulevard.

Not bad for an inept member of the 30 years of city hall failure we keep hearing about.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at