The joyous sounds of kids kicking around soccer balls are music to his ears. So is the laughter of youngsters crawling over playground equipment and light-hearted trash talk by teens after scoring a basket.
It tugs at his heart and soul when he sees 8,000 crosses lined up Memorial Day weekend in tribute to the fallen.
To him, the place where these sights and sounds come from is a magical place. It is where kids can be kids, families gather, couples stroll, neighbors jog, and the community gathers.
Woodward Park is just one of the things Jack Snyder’s leadership over the years — including 25 years as a member of the Manteca City Council with 16 years as mayor — has helped bring to Manteca today that we take for granted.
A short list of his impact on Manteca is stunning: Securing the 120 Bypass, the launching and leadership of Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police, Woodward Park, the formation and long-term support of the Boys & Girls Club. Those are four endeavors where he was in the driver’s seat. The long list of endeavors where he wasn’t along for the ride but was an active player would fill this page and more. They range from helping Manteca secure surface water to establishing the current Civic Center.
Snyder’s 25 years of council service makes him the marathon man of municipal politics. What he did with those 25 years is make a significant difference in the lives of people that have never even heard of his name.
Snyder will be the first to tell you none of it was a one-man show. He’ll tell you others invested blood, sweat, and tears from city workers to community volunteers. But it was Snyder without the doubt whose sheer determination, never wavering vision, and willingness to put honest-to-goodness elbow grease into projects that made them a reality.
Back in the 1980s Snyder came up with a vision — a 52-acre park in the middle of what then was an almond orchard south of the 120 Bypass and almost a mile from the nearest house built in the city. No one at city hall thought the idea had much traction given the city lacked the money to buy the site that was valued at the time was close to $4 million, let alone develop it.
Snyder went to work. He found that developer Mike Atherton shared the dream. That allowed Snyder to broker the sweetest deal in Manteca municipal history that saw the city pay $1 for 52 acres. There wasn’t horse trading involved. There was no break on park fees, no sales tax sharing, and no preferential treatment.
Snyder gets credit for pushing the slowly grinding machine known as city government to deliver on the promise that Woodward Park offered. Today it is not just the most extensively used park in Manteca, but people throughout the region flock to it for everything from youth soccer tournaments to Memorial Day ceremonies.
Given he financial history of the past 30 years, without Snyder, “the deal”, and his subsequent perseverance Woodward Park or a similar endeavor would not exist today.
The 120 Bypass traffic used to funnel through Manteca on Yosemite Avenue. From Friday afternoon to Sunday night traffic would be backed up for miles trying to snake through Manteca. A common complaint for Manteca residents was often waiting 10 minutes or more for a break in the traffic to cross Yosemite Avenue.
The state made it clear the bypass wouldn’t be built for years, if not decades. Most local leaders said you can’t take on the state. Not Snyder.
Snyder led the charge to launch an orchestrated media blitz in the Bay Area as well as dutifully handing out leaflets to backed up travelers at traffic lights in Manteca during the Friday through Sunday jam. The effort got newspapers and radio stations west of the Altamont Pass to start editorializing for the need for the 120 Bypass. Snyder & Co. also pressured state leaders in the valley.
They managed to accomplish what everyone thought was impossible — state funding to build the 120 Bypass.
The state, though, did it in the cheap by employing a three-lane design with two lanes that fed back into one and then back to two in each direction. Thirty-four people were killed in 37 months and countless scores injured in brutal head-on collisions where the suicide lanes squeezed back down to one lane in a single direction.
Snyder again rallied the troops. The state said it would be years before the bypass would have freeway status. But Snyder kept the pressure on. Caltrans finally relented and invested on concrete barriers that were placed down the center line. The carnage slowed down to a trickle.
Then Police Chief Willie Weatherford came to Snyder with a proposal to borrow an idea from a Southern California community and launch a senior citizens volunteer corps to assist police. Snyder, in his usual fashion, didn’t just say he’d help but he took the idea, embraced it and ran with it. Today SHARP is one of the most effective volunteer groups assisting law enforcement in all of California.
The Boys & Girls Club is another example of a vintage Snyder collaboration. There was a need for kids. Snyder put together a group and then made the rounds of community leaders from home builders to labor unions. When the dust settled, Manteca had a Boys & Girls Club. He then came up with, implemented, and for years chaired the club’s signature fundraising project — the annual telethon.
When all is said and done, Manteca is a better place because Jack Snyder didn’t talk big but because he made things happen.