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Coming home to Manteca 19 years ago
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I was trying to make up my mind between job offers in Manteca, Merced, and Las Vegas some 19 years ago.

The Manteca Bulletin had offered me a job as managing editor and the Las Vegas Sun as a six-days-a-week columnist. The Merced Sun Star wanted me to come back for a final interview as a copy editor.

To most 34-year-old guys who made their living as newspaper journalists, working as a columnist for the legendary Hank Greenspun in a wild town – politically that is – like Las Vegas would have been a dream come true. I’d spent much of my 15 years at the Roseville Press-Tribune as a burr in the side of state politicians and their chiefs of staffs who lived in the Placer County suburbs where the Press-Tribune was the top circulating “local” daily. It was always interesting to either have someone quoting a column in a legislative hearing to rile the likes of the head of the State Franchise Tax Board or to have a politician who really disagreed with a column to have staff fire off a terse note and then personally sign it such as Willie Brown did. I managed to get two letters - out of six all together – from the former Speaker of the Assembly that had original signatures because he was irked about columns I’d written. The others had mechanical signatures. A real signature on a letter from Brown meant that you had really ticked him off.

Of course, given what’s happened in Sacramento since he left you kind of wished Willie Brown was back in power running the Assembly but that’s another story.

Las Vegas was a dream job – or at least I thought. Not only was the Las Vegas Sun one of the most controversial papers back in the 1990s but it was just a few hours from my favorite retreat  - Death Valley.

That didn’t matter too much, though, after my first visit to Manteca.

The late Darrel Phillips had interviewed me in a luxury box prior to a Sacramento Kings game that I was covering as a stringer for the Associated Press. After that interview he made some calls and a week later offered me the job in Manteca.

I told him I didn’t want to take the job without first visiting the Manteca Bulletin. He set up a meeting with himself and the general manager.

I got into Manteca a few hours earlier so I could get a feel for the community.

I parked my car across the street from the Bulletin on Fremont and walked up Yosemite.

When I got to Ace Hardware, I stopped and went inside. Just as I walked through the door I was greeted by a man I’d later find out was Dale Bordenkircher.

It wasn’t a greeting like you’d get from sales folks who’ve been told to make nice by their bosses. It was genuine.

He asked if he could help me and I explained I was considering moving to Manteca and was just walking through downtown.

We chatted for the next three minutes. Looking back at the time, I thought I was enthralled because my father had owned a hardware store as well. But to be honest it was the fact Dale was completely genuine in his enthusiasm for people and Manteca itself.

The man was an incredible advocate for Manteca’s quality of life and its future.

I continued walking up the street and came across an elderly gentleman sitting on the porch of what I eventually came to know as the old Cottrell House.

 He waved and said “hi” and I did the same.

By the time I got to the Bulletin I was ready to do the hard sell.

On the way down I had pretty much decided Las Vegas made more sense for me. But after meeting Dale and other people who were complete strangers at the time, I decided to go for the Full Monty quizzing Darrel about the growth cap politics, the bypass, development issues, the ruckus over BATS (Bay Area Transplants) and other issues that I researched in the prior week so I could leave a good impression.

He again offered me the job and I accepted on the spot.

Nineteen years ago Friday I walked into the door of the Manteca Bulletin for the first time as an employee.

But I really didn’t see it that way. I was walking into the Bulletin as a Manteca resident.

It is the feeling you get when you know you’ve finally come home.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail