I admit that I didn’t know Fred Millner all that well.
But over the last few years, it seemed like every time I showed up at a meeting or a brainstorming session or a political gathering of one form or another, Fred was always there – a permanent fixture at Manteca City Council meetings, informational events and even the get-togethers of the now defunct Manteca Tea Party Patriots.
After whatever function we were both attending broke up for the evening, there was always the brief window of conversation that without fail involved letting him know whether I had seen the last letter that he dropped off to be ran in the paper, and if I knew when my boss was going to print it.
Oddly enough, I always looked forward to chatting with him, even for short periods of time, because he always had something interesting to say.
I found out recently that he was found in the carport of his Manteca home last week, dead of initially unidentified, presumably natural, causes.
And it cast a pall over what had up until that point been a pretty decent day.
After confirming the report with a Manteca City Councilman that I’ve known for many years, we began chatting about the man who never shied away from voicing his opinion on matters close to his heart – meaning anything having to do with Manteca – and never thought twice about saying exactly what he was thinking in a given situation.
Fred Millner was a straight shooter, the last of a dying breed. And while it’s not uncommon to find people who are passionate about topics and not afraid to let their opinions be known, Fred set himself apart from the standard rabble-rousers in a very important way.
He showed up.
In the age of social media and hashtag activism, anybody with an Internet connection can instantly become an expert on just about anything, even if it’s only in their own mind, and do so without ever having to get up off of their couch.
Fred Millner could have watched the Manteca City Council meetings from the comfort of his own living room, but yet he was there – every other week – with his cowboy boots and his creased jeans and the steely gaze that could be tremendously intimidating if you weren’t able to work up the courage to go and talk to him.
I remember not long after giving him my business card and telling him to call me if he ever needed anything, I got a call one afternoon from a voice I instantly recognized.
“Have you seen that pipe they have over there at Lincoln Elementary School,” he asked.
“No Fred, I haven’t – tell me about it.”
And tell me about it he did. For the next 30-minutes, he explained to me about something recently added by the Manteca Unified School District that he deemed both an eyesore and a safety hazard. It came to a point where I swore to him I would call somebody who knows more about it and get some answers for him.
By the time I did get in touch with Aaron Bowers, who is in charge of construction for the district, he laughed when I told him what I was calling about – mentioning that Fred had already called him and laid out the same spiel just moments before.
That’s the kind of guy that he was – somebody willing to do what it took to do what he thought was right, whether that meant birddogging reporters and district officials or showing up at informational brainstorming sessions completely unrelated to his concern so he could gather as much information as possible.
When I saw him one night at Manteca High School, a campus that was near and dear to his heart, for a meeting to come up with ways to help the district’s original high school transition into a new era, he admitted to me that he only had two concerns – one was that the bell tower would be a part of any future plans for expansion, and the other that he would find somebody he could talk to about that pipe at Lincoln Elementary School.
To an outsider he might have been considered a gadfly, but I respected him in more ways than one for being his authentic self and standing up for what he thought was right – regardless of whether that meant ruffling a few feathers with a letter to the editor or not.
You will be missed Fred.
Pigskin Pickin’ towards the finish line
After a 3-1 showing last week it’s pretty much set in stone that I will repeat as the champion this year in our ragtag group.
But we do currently have a tie for last place and only one game separating second and third or fourth – meaning that we had to come up with a way to extend this by another week just to see if Chris Teicheira really is going to be in store for a unique haircut very soon.
So, here’s what we’re going to do.
With the Buffaloes hosting American Canyon this week and Ripon traveling to Grass Valley to take on Bear River, we’re going to pick both of those games as well as the Raiders against the Patriots and the Cowboys against the Eagles.
One last hurrah – one last chance to be bold and try to make moves that will inch you up that ladder for a better perch.
So, without further ado, here’s what we’re collectively thinking will happen:
uMyself, Wohle and Condit – The three of us are all taking Manteca, Bear River, New England and Philadelphia – meaning that no matter what I retain my crown, and Condit can’t finish any lower than a tie for second place. Currently I’m 32-11 while Condit is 30-13 and Wohle and Teicheira are tied at 28-14. We all picked independently, so there’s no room for Russia-level collusion charges from the bottom dwellers among us, even though they might not be there for very long. That brings us to…
uChris Teicheira – The man who has been making bold pick after bold pick all season long is doing it again to try and jump up into a tie for second place this week. The biggest Manteca fan I know is obviously taking the Buffaloes, and is picking against Ripon even though he would be in much better shape if he listened to me the last three weeks and went with the Indians. But he’s breaking ranks and picking his Raiders to shock the Patriots, and the Cowboys to somehow beat the Eagles. Stranger things have happened, and I like that he’s keeping that bold streak alive. After all, he doesn’t want to lose that “good Portuguese hair” and it shows in his picks this week.
I can’t necessarily say “until next week” because unless both Manteca and Ripon make it through to the next round, we’ll have wrapped up our season after this weekend. Look for a few reflections and maybe some comments from the “gentlemen of the threat” themselves next week.
And always, stay tuned.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.